Reflections on the Daily Readings

May 20 - 26, 2018
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Seventh Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week III.

Sunday 20:          Solemnity of Pentecost
Vigil Mass
Genesis 11:1-9 or Exodus 19:3-8, 16-20 or Ezekiel 37:1-14 or Joel 3:1-5; Psalm 103; Romans 8:22-27; John 7:37-39
If an extended Vigil is celebrated, all four Old Testament readings with proper Psalms and Collects are used and are followed by the New Testament reading and Gospel.
The first reading from the Book of Genesis contains the story of the Tower of Babel which was a story of human rebellion against the divine will. God had intended that the people should spread across the face of the earth but they did not follow his will, preferring instead to gather together in one place. In their pride they decided to build a heaven-touching tower and so make a great name for themselves. God destroyed the tower and so the people were scattered and the confusion of their languages would mean that they would not gather together and try to replace God again.
In the reading from the book of Exodus, we have one of the great theophanies between God and his people. In the opening section God reminds the people that he was the one who freed them from slavery in Egypt and now they must choose whether or not they wish to be his people. They reply that they will be his people and so Moses brought them out of the camp to meet God at the foot of the mountain, an event which takes place in a storm of smoke, fire and trumpet and in which God came down to his people.
In the reading from the prophet Ezekiel, the prophet has been given a vision in which there is a contrast between a dead Israel and one which has life. Ezekiel had been sent to preach to the House of Israel and to bring them back to the right path and this is ultimately achieved by the presence of the Spirit of God, which Ezekiel is told to summon and give to the people. Without the Spirit the people are like dead people but with the Spirit they have life.
In the reading from the prophet Joel, the Lord says that he will pour out his Spirit on all people, slave as well as free. This comes at the end of various plagues which have befallen the House of Israel for their lack of faithfulness to God. But those who have been faithful will be vindicated and will receive the Spirit which will give them strength and protection.
The Psalm asks the Lord to once again send his Spirit and renew the world.
In the second reading, St Paul reminds the Romans that the whole of creation has been waiting and hoping for salvation. This salvation has come through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is given to each person to help them to live the life God wants them to live, to help them to please God. The true Christian does so through prayer and living out the faith and this happens through the gift of the Holy Spirit if each person cooperates with the Spirit.
In the gospel we see Jesus attending one of the festivals in the Temple in Jerusalem in which water was a key symbol. Jesus says that he has water for those who believe in him but the evangelist makes it clear that the water Jesus is referring to is the Holy Spirit which the Lord grants to his followers after the resurrection. The connection, therefore, is that without the Holy Spirit working in our lives we cannot have true life, a life which is eternal and will see us enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Mass During the Day
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 103; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
In our first reading we read of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles who were in a room together rather than being out in public with the rest of those gathered for the festival of Pentecost. As soon as they received the Holy Spirit they went out and began preaching to the assembled people about the Risen Lord. Not only did they preach but they were able to do so in many languages so that everyone who heard them that day could understand what they were saying, such was the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them. The Jewish people were scattered over many nations and the list of nations is a reminder that the message of Jesus Christ was to be preached to the whole House of Israel – it was not only for those living permanently in Palestine. The Psalm asks the Lord to once again send his Spirit and renew our world.
St Paul urges the Galatians in the second reading to live by the Holy Spirit because if they don’t then they cannot inherit the Kingdom which has been promised by the Lord. Paul contrasts virtues and vices in the life of humankind: the vices are those negative things which are often found in men and women who do not live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, while the virtues are those positive things which make the world a much better place to live in and which are the fruits of a life lived in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
In the gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that he will send them the Holy Spirit to be their Advocate. There is a suggestion in the wider context of the Gospel that the followers of Jesus Christ will undergo persecution for believing in him but the Holy Spirit will help them to witness to him. The Spirit will also teach them the truth: the Lord had only been teaching them for three years and in that time they did not fully understand his message but, with the Spirit to guide them, they will come to full understanding and be able to pass on his message to others. The text is a reminder that we are the successors to the Apostles and that the message is not universally accepted in our own time. Having received the gift of the Holy Spirit we too are called on to witness to the Lord and to proclaim his truth in all places and situations.

Monday 21:         Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church*
Genesis 3:9-15, 20; or Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 86; John 19:25-34
Our first reading for this memorial comes from the Book of Genesis and reminds us of how sin entered the world through our first parents. Because of their sin, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and a barrier was placed between humans and God. Mary stands in contrast to Adam and Eve and is often seen as the ‘New Eve’, as the woman who was to bring into the world the One who would restore eternal life to us. In the alternative reading, we see the apostles and a number of others gathered with Mary in the Upper Room in Jerusalem between the Ascension and Pentecost, and quite often this scene is depicted in paintings and icons with Mary in the middle of the image surrounded by the apostles. This reminds us that Mary was still central for the fledgling group as she was the one who gave birth to the Saviour and she was still a living connection to him. The group is gathered together in prayer.
In the gospel passage comes from St John we are presented with the harrowing scene on Calvary where Mary witnesses the death of her Son. Even at this moment of anguish and death, Jesus is mindful of his mother and places her in the care of one of the Twelve with the instruction that she is now his mother. That disciple represents all of us and we too are told that Mary is our mother and we look to her for comfort, guidance and support as we would the woman who gave birth to us.

Tuesday 22:         Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
James 4:1-10; Psalm 54; Mark 9:30-37
St James is warning us in the first reading to make God our sole object and master – not this world and its contents. He paints a picture of people who are looking for things from God but not for the right motives; he talks of people who are not happy with what they have or who quarrel or who are willing to commit other wrongs in order to get what they want. By making God our sole master then such evils will not be found in us. If we place anything before God we cannot be God’s followers and friends. In the Gospel, Christ tells his followers that they must become as simple as little children and not seek after high office.  Such things do not worry the minds of children and they trust those who are older than them for all that they need. Only by following the ‘little way’ of a child can they truly be his followers.

Wednesday 23:   Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
James 4:13-17; Psalm 48; Mark 9:38-40
In today’s excerpt from the letter of St James we are reminded that everything we do is subject to the will of God and that this should always be kept in mind when making promises about the future. We should be more concerned with attaining eternal life than with what we will do a year from now. In the Gospel, Jesus tells John that those who work miracles in his name are not enemies. Even if one is not of the same church as us, that does not mean they are wrong if what is preached is in keeping with the teaching of Christ.

Thursday 24:       Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
James 5:1-6; Psalm 48; Mark 9:41-50
In today’s first reading St James the Apostle is warning the wealthy to be mindful of the poor and the suffering for it is at the expense of the poor that many rich people have acquired their wealth. There is a reminder here that those with wealth must use it to help alleviate the plight of the poor. All are equal in the eyes of God and God is very much aware of those who use their wealth to help others. The Psalm continues this warning to the rich. Christ warns us in the Gospel to be always pure of heart and intention and to remain faithful to his teaching. He tells us that if our actions cause another to sin then it would be better for us “to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around [our] neck. Our actions have an impact on others and all that we do should direct others towards the kingdom of God and not away from it.

Friday 25:            Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
James 5:9-12; Psalm 102; Mark 10:1-12
Again today, St James is warning us about living lives faithful to the Gospel and not swearing falsely about ourselves or others. He also reminds the people to remain faithful to God even in the midst of affliction and pain. Today’s Gospel passage sees Christ being asked about divorce. He tells us that divorce is wrong in the eyes of God and that is the ideal which we must always keep before us. However, we are not given licence to condemn those who have divorced or whose marriages have broken down. The marriage bond is sacred and may not be broken in the eyes of God.

In Carmelite Churches:
May 25:              Feast of St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin*
Songs 5:4b, 8:6-7; Psalm 17; Luke 10:38-42
The first reading for today from the Old Testament Song of Songs speaks about love and the fact that love is as strong as death. The image is of a deeply powerful and abiding love which can never be purchased for it is genuine and everlasting rather than transient.
In the gospel we have the familiar story of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary. As we know, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he had to say while Martha fussed over the small details of hospitality. The Lord tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part because she gives time to the Lord and listens to his word – hospitality is not dismissed but it does not replace time spent with the Lord and listening to his word. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi’s love for Jesus Christ was a love which could not be quenched and for which she underwent many acts of penance and purification. With the example of this Carmelite saint before us we are challenged to look at our own lives and to see if we truly love Christ even unto death.

Saturday 26:        Memorial of St Philip Neri, Priest*
James 5:13-20; Psalm 140; Mark 10:13-16
St James in the first reading tells us of the importance of prayer both in good times and in bad. He also tells us of the importance of leading people back to the Church when they have gone astray, and of the importance of confession and anointing the sick. In all things God is ready to listen and to help his people. In the Gospel, Christ tells us that if we do not welcome God’s kingdom we will have no hope of entering it. He again uses the trust of a child to show us the approach we should have towards God – one of complete trust and confidence in an ever-loving and benign Father.

Memorials this Week
Monday after Pentecost:         Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church
During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI formally bestowed the title ‘Mother of the Church’ on the Blessed Virgin Mary and it was observed as a votive Mass thereafter. In 2018, on the 160th anniversary of the Apparitions at Lourdes, Pope Francis raised it to an Obligatory Memorial to be observed throughout the Church. The idea of Mary as Mother of the Church relates to the fact that Mary is the Mother of Jesus whose body is the Church and so the connection to Mary being Mother of the Church is easily understood. This idea goes back at least to St Augustine and to Pope St Leo the Great.

May 25:              Feast of St Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin
Mary Magdalene was born in 1566 to the famous Tuscan noble family Pazzi who were influential bankers in Florence throughout the fifteenth century. She entered the Carmelites in Florence in at the age of sixteen and held various offices within the convent. Throughout her religious life she was devoted to prayer and experienced many visions which were recorded by others in the convent. She died in 1607 and was canonized in 1669.

May 26:               Memorial of St Philip Neri, Priest
Philip was born in 1515 in Florence, in the Tuscany region to the northeast central Italy, and spent most of his life in Rome. He became known as ‘the second apostle of Rome’ because of his untiring work for all those in the city whether they be Pope or servant boy. After his ordination (1551) he founded the Congregation of the Oratory and was particularly well known for his ministry in the confessional and for this devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He died in 1595.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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