Reflections on the Daily Readings

February 19 - 25, 2017
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Seventh Week.
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week III.

Sunday 19:          The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 102; 1Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Today’s first reading from the Book of Leviticus (one of the books of the Torah) and the gospel speak of love and how we should love one another. The first reading is brief but contains the key points or commands for living life as God wants us to live, and it tells us the things which should be avoided where our neighbour is concerned: hatred, vengeance, and grudges. Instead we are to love others in the same way that we love ourselves and, in this way, avoid sin even if it is caused by our neighbour.
In the gospel, we have a two-piece passage in which the Lord tells us how we should behave in relating to others. The first part tells us that the old way of ‘an eye for an eye’ has no place in the kingdom and will not lead to peace. The purpose of this law was to ensure that the punishment for a crime was no greater than the crime itself. However, at times even the punishment itself is not to be promoted and so the Lord is proposing a new way of punishing or of ensuring justice. The Lord also talks about not offering resistance to those who come against us, but in this he is not suggesting that we lie down and let them walk all over us. He is suggesting that we give peaceful moral resistance, which is more disarming that the physical kind, and can teach greater lessons. In the second part of the passage the Lord extols the command to love others. He tells us that we must love even our enemies if we are to be his disciples and so bring lasting peace to the world. This love is to be extended to those outside of our own circle of friends and is to be given to all if we are to inherit eternal life in the Kingdom.
St Paul tells the Corinthians in the second reading that they are temples of the Holy Spirit and so they must do all they can to protect and strengthen that temple. In that temple dwells God’s Holy Spirit and so, individually and collectively, they are a sacred people, just as the great Temple in Jerusalem was sacred because God dwelt within it. Paul writes again of the wisdom which has been given by God but which can only be understood with the eyes of faith. Paul tells the people that they should learn to be fools and in this he is telling the people that they need to fully accept the Cross and the idea that Jesus Christ died at human hands, remembering that he rose from the dead, and that salvation comes through him alone.

Monday 20:         Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10; Psalm 92; Mark 9:14-29
Today we turn to the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiasticus or the writings of Ben Sirach who lived in the second century before Christ and whose Greek text was translated about the year 132 BC. Sirach was a respected teacher of wisdom who had a school in Jerusalem and who also taught knowledge of the scriptures. In our first reading today we are told that all wisdom is from the Lord, it is he who created her. No matter what mortal man may do he will never comprehend all wisdom because only one person is truly wise – the Lord. In our Gospel today we see Jesus casting out a spirit because his disciples have not faith strong enough to do so. He rebukes them, not because their faith is small but because they haven’t worked hard enough to understand what he has taught them and to truly trust in him. He also tells us that a key thing for us is prayer because this helps to strengthen our faith.

Tuesday 21:         Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11; Psalm 36; Mark 9:30-37
Our first reading tells us that if we aspire to serve the Lord then we must be ready for an ordeal because those who serve the Lord are not always welcome in society – either in Old Testament times or in our own day. To serve the Lord, as we are called to do, means a radical change in our lives and this confronts others who should also change their lives. Ben Sirach, the author of this book, also tells us to trust in God for he will help us. In our Gospel passage we see Jesus telling the disciples of his impending death and resurrection though they fail to understand what he is saying. He goes on to tell them that those who wish to serve him must make themselves the servants of others in order to show their true faith and action and must welcome others in Christ’s name.

Wednesday 22:   Feast of the Chair of St Peter, Apostle
1Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 22; Matthew 16:13-19
In his first letter, St Peter tells us how he himself exercised his authority through a pastoral letter to those who were responsible for looking after the faithful. In the passage Peter speaks of his being a witness to the sufferings of Jesus – reminding his readers that he was present with the Lord and knew the human Christ. This letter also tells us how he implores all elders to be true shepherds to those entrusted to them by the Lord and to be perfect examples of living witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All is to be done with humility and for the love of God rather than for earthly praise. As Peter was the chief shepherd of the flock after Jesus Christ, the Psalm for today reminds us that the Lord is the true Shepherd.
The gospel passage from St Matthew shows Peter being appointed as leader of Christ’s Church following his great proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ. When the question is put to the group it is Peter who speaks up and answers on their behalf – even before the Lord appoints him as leader Peter has been the spokesman for the group. As he was leader of the fledgling group, Peter is also a powerful symbol of unity for the Church which continues right down to this day.

Thursday 23:       Memorial of St Polycarp, Bishop & Martyr*
Ecclesiasticus 5:1-8; Psalm 1; Mark 9:41-50
We are reminded in the first reading to remain steadfast and on the right path towards God. The author also tells us that we should not presume that our sins are forgiven and therefore make the mistake of adding more sins to our slate. We should always strive to do what is right and to remain close to the Lord making sure that our slate is clean at all times. He also condemns the false sense of power and security which comes from an abundance of wealth. The Gospel continues this theme and we are told to always do what is right by Christ and to always welcome our fellow Christians. Even this little act of welcome will bring us closer to attaining our place in heaven. But if we prove to be an obstacle to others and block their path to heaven then we will lose our place in the kingdom and – it is Christ who says it – we will find ourselves cast in to hell.

Friday 24:            Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17; Psalm 118; Mark 10:1-12
In the first reading from the writings of Ben Sirach we find an instruction about finding a faithful friend. The faithful friend is one who stands by us no matter what and is called a “rare treasure.” We all know one person who can fill that role perfectly and that is Christ because if we trust in him and pray to him daily then he will walk with us wherever we walk and he will comfort us in our sorrows and show us the way when we are troubled. In the Gospel we have Jesus’ teaching on marriage in which he clearly forbids divorce and any remarriage which follows it and tells the people that it was because of their stubbornness that Moses allowed divorce in the first place but that it was not in keeping with God’s will.

Saturday 25:        Of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiasticus 17:1-15; Psalm 102; Mark 10:13-16
The first reading today tells us that men and women are made in the image of God. To these creatures he gave knowledge and understanding and placed them over all other creatures and established a covenant with them. But he warned them not to fall into wrong-doing because all that they do is seen by him. The Psalm takes up some of the ideas of the first reading and repeats them saying that “the love of the Lord is everlasting upon those who hold him in fear” or awe. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that we must welcome the kingdom of God into our hearts and lives as little children welcome something that has been given to them. Only if we are open to the Lord like little children will we attain the promise made to us at creation and repeated by Christ. A childlike friendship with God is one which is humble, obedient and trusting.

Memorials this Week:
February 22:        The Feast of the Chair of St Peter
This feast has been observed in Rome since the fourth century. It celebrates the unity of the Church under the papacy and the readings recall Christ’s choice of Peter as the rock on which he would build the Church.

February 23:        Memorial of St Polycarp, Bishop & Martyr
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was a disciple of John the Evangelist and is regarded as one of the greatest of the Apostolic Fathers. He wrote a number of letters similar to St Paul and these were read publicly for many years. He was martyred at the request of the people by being burnt at the stake probably in 155.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011
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.

Direct from the publishers: Columba Press

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