Reflections on the Daily Readings

July 12 - 27, 2019
The Season of  Ordinary Time - The Sixteenth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week IV.

Sunday 21:          The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 18:1-10; Psalm 14; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42
Our Old Testament reading today begins a doublet from the Book of Genesis which will be completed next week and which is linked by three travellers visiting Abraham and then the town of Sodom, where his nephew, Lot, lives. In today’s passage we see Abraham resting in the heat of the day when three men stop by his tent at the Oak of Mamre. He recognises them as friends and invites them to break their journey for some refreshments with him, before hurrying off to prepare a lavish meal for them. They ask after Sarah and tell Abraham that when they pass again the following year, Sarah will have given birth. We know in fact, that Sarah was well on in years but that the promise made was fulfilled in the birth of Isaac.
In the gospel we see Jesus visiting the home of his friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha, though Lazarus is not mentioned in this passage. Mary sits down to listen to the Lord while Martha fusses over the hospitality. When Martha points this out to Jesus he tells her to follow Mary’s example because, while Mary is not being impolite about looking after her guest, she has recognised the importance of spending time with her Lord and listening to him as he speaks directly to her. In the context of the time there are other things to note here too: Jesus is alone with the women; though he is the guest, he teaches the hosts; it is a woman who is serving Jesus; and a woman sits at his feet. All of this suggests discipleship because the true disciple welcomes Jesus into their home, they listen to his teaching and they serve him in others.
In the letter to the Christians of Colossae, the author, writing in St Paul’s name, begins by saying that he is happy to suffer for Jesus, not that the Lord’s suffering was insufficient, but that suffering is part of the Christian way and which is done for the sake of Christ. The author then contrasts the mystery which God revealed in Jesus Christ with some of the cults present in Israel of the time: within the cults the mysteries were only revealed to very select few, whereas in the Christian faith, God wants all people to know the mysteries and so Paul was commissioned to teach the mysteries to all who would listen and believe. If we are to see and understand this message then we must make time for the Lord when he passes our way, to prepare a place of welcome for him as did Abraham, and to listen attentively to him as did Mary.

Monday 22:           Feast of St Mary Magdalene*
Songs 3:1-4 or 2Corinthians 5:14-17; Psalm 62; John 20:1-2, 11-18
The first reading from the Song of Songs tells of a person seeking the one whom they love and we can easily see this as Mary Magdalene seeking the Lord after she had discovered the empty tomb. Soon after encountering the watchmen – the angel at the tomb – Mary encounters the Lord himself.
In the alternative reading from St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Paul is speaking about the importance of not judging others because those who truly believe in Jesus Christ are a new creation. Mary Magdalene is often believed to have had a bad reputation even though this is not fully supported in scripture. Yet she was the first to see the Risen Lord which tells us that the Lord judges by standards different to our own and this is what the message of the text. It also tells us that we can all change and become new people in Jesus Christ.
In the gospel from St John we see Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb and being greeted by Jesus himself, now raised from the dead. As with so many post-resurrection appearances, the Lord is not immediately recognised by his followers and it is only when he addresses her in the way she is familiar with, and hears his voice, that Mary recognises him and her sorrow can begin to turn to joy. For her faithfulness to him she has been rewarded by being the first person to see the Lord after his resurrection and also by being the one to proclaim that news to the apostles.

Tuesday 23:         Feast of St Bridget of Sweden, Patroness of Europe*
Galatians 2:19-20; Psalm 33; John 15:1-8
The first reading from St Paul to the Galatians speaks very much of Jesus Christ living in the person who believes in him and so the person lives the life of Christ. This is appropriate for St Bridget of Sweden because she gave what she had in the service of the poor and of Christ and the life she lived was not hers but Jesus Christ’s. The Psalm is a hymn of praise for God.
The gospel speaks of the vine whose branches bear much fruit if they remain pure and part of the vine tree. But if they separate themselves from the vine, as we might do from Christ, then they wither and have no life and are only good for the fire. If we remain close to Jesus Christ then all that we do will be done for the right reason and will be to the benefit of all, and will bring blessings on others as well as ourselves. We are called to be like Bridget and to give of what we have in the service of the Lord and of his people. If we do so then we will produce much fruit for the Kingdom.

Wednesday 24:    Of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15; Psalm 77; Matthew 13:1-9
In our first reading from Exodus we see the people again complaining about how good it was back in Egypt where they had all the food they could eat. The Lord hears their complaints and gives them food – meat in the evening and bread in the morning. The text is a reminder that we all have a little ‘Egypt’ in us – we all have a comfort zone which we do not want to relinquish even for the sake of eternal life. However, we must give it up and if we make the effort to do so then the Lord will be with us to help us achieve perfection. St Matthew presents us with the parable of the sower in our Gospel and it is a story which we are all familiar with. The seed is, of course, the Word of God and the ground represents each of us. The seed is useless if it finds no nourishment just as the Word of God will be dead in us if we make no effort to practice the faith or to live out the Gospel values. We are called to renew ourselves daily and to nourish the faith which was given to us at baptism.

In Carmelite churches:
July 24:                Memorial of Blessed John Soreth, Carmelite Priest*

Thursday 25:       Feast of St James the Apostle*
2Corinthians 4:7-15; Psalm 125; Matthew 20:20-28
In our passage from the second letter to the Corinthians, St Paul tells us that, because he believes and proclaims the word of God, he will be raised to life with Christ. The death and the life of Jesus Christ are at work in him in a very powerful way. There is also a reminder that there will be trials in witnessing for the Lord but that through them all the Lord is with us and never deserts us. The God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us for our faithfulness to him.
In the gospel, we see Zebedee’s wife coming to Jesus to ask that her sons (James and John) sit at his right and left in heaven. Jesus can grant them places in heaven but only if they suffer for him through the spread of the Gospel, and they reply that they are willing to suffer for his sake. The other apostles are furious with their two companions but the lord tells them that as he came to serve they too must serve and not seek high places in the eyes of others, emphasising that humble service is an important characteristic of the Kingdom. We too are called to live lives worthy of the Kingdom no matter what trials may come our way. We are to carry our cross every day for Jesus Christ and to proclaim the Gospel by the example of how we live, as did St James.

Friday 26:            Memorial of Sts Joachim & Anne, Parents of Our Lady*
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 18; Matthew 13:18-23
In our first reading from the Book of Exodus we see Moses with the Lord on Mount Sinai and there the Lord gives him the Ten Commandments. These are the most basic instructions on which our Christian moral code is founded. The Psalm tells us that these instructions are perfect and to be trusted. In our Gospel text for today, Jesus explains the parable of the sower to the disciples. He explains the different types of people in the world: those who do not understand Christ; those who initially receive the Word but do nothing about it; those who receive it but who worry about the things of this world; and those who receive the Word and live it out in their lives. The question for each of us today is – which one am I? If we are honest about the answer what are we going to do to make the Word grow even more in and through us?

Saturday 27:        Of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 49; Matthew 13:24-30
In today’s text from Exodus we see Moses presenting the Ten Commandments to the people and the people affirm that they will “observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.” This is a further covenant with the people through Moses for if the people keep their word then they will inherit life. In our Gospel we have St Matthew’s version of the parable of the weeds growing with the good seed. The farmer’s servants are scandalized to see the weeds but he tells them to do nothing but to have patience and wait, for at harvest time – at the last judgement – the good will be separated from the bad and the bad will be thrown on the fire. This is a parable regarding the kingdom which has a mixture on earth of saints and sinners who will be sifted at the last judgement. Again we are challenged to ask ourselves on which side of the divide we lie and what are we going to do to ensure that we are among those found worthy to enter the Father’s kingdom.

In Carmelite churches:
July 27:                Memorial of Blessed Titus Brandsma, Carmelite Priest & Martyr*

Memorials this Week:
July 22:                Feast of St Mary Magdalene
Mary of Magdala was one of the followers of Jesus Christ and one who is mentioned in all four Gospels. Historically she has had a poor reputation and yet the gospel texts do not bear this out. Along with his mother and a small few others, Mary stood by the cross on Calvary as Jesus was dying and took note of where he was buried. She returned to the grave early on the Sunday morning to carry out the Jewish custom of washing and anointing the body which she was unable to do because he died just as Sabbath was beginning. She was, therefore, the first to see the empty tomb and the first to see the risen Lord. Because she was the one who told the apostles that the Lord had risen, she is often referred to as ‘the apostle to the apostles’.

July 23:                Feast of St Bridget of Sweden, Patroness of Europe
Bridget was born between 1302 and 1304 in Sweden and in 1316 was married to Ulf Gudmarsson and together they had eight children. She became the chief lady-in-waiting at the royal court of King Magnus II in 1335, possibly due to her father’s post as a provincial governor. She was widowed in 1344 and from then on devoted her life to the poor and destitute. She travelled to Rome for the Jubilee Year in 1350 and spent the rest of her life there. She also established the Bridgettines though it never received official approval in her lifetime. She died in Rome in 1373 and her remains were returned to her native Sweden, to the Bridgettine monastery she had founded. Catherine – her fourth child – followed her mother and dedicated her life to the poor and to the strengthening of the Bridgettines. She too was widowed at a young age and she too was canonized.

July 24:                Memorial of Blessed John Soreth, Carmelite Priest
John Soreth was born at Caen in Normandy and entered Carmel as a young man. He studied at Paris and pre-dated Teresa of Avila in his attempts to reform the Order. He was Prior General from 1451 until 1471. He was responsible for the Constitutions of 1462 and he introduced nuns into the Order in the Netherlands in the early 1450s. He also promoted the Third Order. He died in 1471.

July 25:                Feast of St James the Apostle
Also known as James the Greater, he was the brother of St John the Apostle and Evangelist. Not much is known about him other than what is to be found in the Gospels where he has a special place among the Twelve with Peter and John. In Spain it is believed that he preached the Gospel in the Iberian Peninsula and that his relics were buried at Santiago de Compostela, but this is not maintained outside of Spain. He was the first of the apostles to die having been martyred by Herod Agrippa between 42 and 44 AD, possibly by being beheaded.

July 26:                Memorial of Sts Joachim & Anne, Parents of Our Lady
These are the names traditionally given to the parents of Our Lady, though nothing is known about them. Anne is the Patron Saint of Canada, women in labour, miners, cabinet-makers and home-makers.

July 27:                Memorial of Blessed Titus Brandsma, Carmelite Priest & Martyr
Anno Sjoerd Brandsma was born at Bolsward, The Netherlands, in 1881, He joined the Carmelite Order in 1898 taking the name ‘Titus’ and was ordained in 1905. Following studies in Rome he lectured in philosophy at the Catholic University of Nijmegen from 1023 to 1942 and where he also served as professor and as Rector Magnificus. He was also a journalist and was involved in a number of publications and in 1935 he was appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. During the 1930's he visited Ireland and stayed in Kinsale with the Carmelite Community there to improve his English before giving a series of lectures in the United States. Throughout the 1930s Nazi propaganda was on the rise but Fr Titus refused to support or print anything in support of the Nazi regime and he worked to maintain the freedom of Catholic education and press in the Netherlands. By 1942 it was required that the press in the Netherlands print articles in favour of the Nazi regime but, continuing to refuse, Titus was arrested by the Gestapo on January 19, 1942, and imprisoned in his native country before being sent to the concentration camp at Dachau where he brought comfort and peace to his fellow prisoners. In Dachau he was experimented on in the medical wing and was finally put to death by lethal injection on July 26, 1942.

© 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.

Related pages....