Reflections on the Daily Readings

August 24 - 30, 2014.
The Season of Ordinary Time - Twenty-first Week.
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week I.

Sunday 24:          The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 137; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20
Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah sees the Lord removing the key of the House of David from Shebna and giving it to Eliakim because the former had been a poor keeper of the key and servant of God. Eliakim is given full authority and whatever he closes will remain closed and whatever he opens will remain open. A similar scene is found in the gospel text from St Matthew in that, following his great profession of faith, St Peter is given the keys of the kingdom by Christ. The Lord tells Peter and his successors that whatever he binds on earth will be considered bound in heaven and whatever he should loose on earth will be considered loosed in heaven. Peter is also made the rock on which the Church is to be built.
In the second reading from St Paul to the Romans, Paul tells us that everything that exists comes from God, everything is by God and everything is for God. Our passage concludes with Paul telling us that it is to God that we should give glory for ever.

Monday 25:         Of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
2 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Psalm 95; Matthew 23:13-22
This week we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament and today begin reading from St Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians – a community Paul had brought the Good News to about twenty years after the Ascension, between 50 and 51 AD. We read in today’s text how this young community was an example to other local churches because of their zeal for God. Paul also tells them that God judges them so that they may be found worthy to live with him in the kingdom of heaven. In our Gospel text for today, Christ is rebuking the scribes and Pharisees for reducing the significance of the Temple and its altars and for giving greater importance to the materials from which they are made. The place where we gather for worship and the altar on which the sacrifice is offered is far more important than their material make-up.

Tuesday 26:         Of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 14-17; Psalm 95; Matthew 23:23-26
Today, St Paul exhorts his readers in Thessalonica to remain faithful to Christ’s message and not allow themselves to be led astray by false prophets or by those who proclaim that ‘the end is nigh.’ This was in answer to the idea that the Second Coming of Christ was about to happen very soon but Paul warns the people not to be deceived by false prophecies about this event but to remain faithful to the faith which he gave them. In our Gospel, Jesus continues to rebuke the scribes and Pharisees. He tells them that they have been more concerned with the measure of things than with justice, mercy and good faith. He also tells them that what is in their hearts is of far more importance than their outward appearances. We too should be more concerned with our inner disposition than with how we dress and appear to others and we must make justice and mercy priorities in our whole life while building up our faith.

Wednesday 27:   Memorial of St Monica*
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18; Psalm 127; Matthew 23:27-32
St Paul tells us in the first reading from his second letter to the Thessalonians that we must earn the bread we eat. This was because some in the community had believed that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and had stopped working and begun to sponge off others. None of us should take advantage of the generosity of others but should earn what we get. Likewise, we should not presume that we will automatically get into heaven but should earn our place in the kingdom. Again today the scribes and Pharisees are admonished by Christ in the Gospel for their hypocrisy. They give the outward appearance of holy men but inside are more interested in themselves than in the kingdom. There is no point in any of us giving an outward show of piety when we are dark and poisoned on the inside with self-conceit and pride.

Thursday 28:       Memorial of St Augustine, Bishop & Doctor of the Church*
1 Corinthians 1:1-9; Psalm 144; Matthew 24:42-51
Today we turn to St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians which was written by Paul between 55 and 57 AD, about five years after he had left the port town in southern Greece. In today’s passage Paul tells us that we have been enriched with so many graces by God. If we put our faith and trust in Christ then he will keep us on the right path towards heaven. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we do not know the day or the hour when he will return, or indeed when we will be called to give an account of our life. Therefore, we must always be ready and must be living a Christian life at every moment by being faithful to Christ and to his Gospel.

Friday 29:            Memorial of the Beheading of St John the Baptist*
Jeremiah 1:17-19; Psalm 70; Mark 6:17-29
The first reading sees the Lord telling Jeremiah not to be afraid but to stand up before the people and to preach as he has been commanded to by the Lord. The reading is also a good description of John the Baptist and his fearless belief in Christ who also stood before a king and gave him warning of how to act righteously before God. Both Jeremiah and John suffered violent deaths. The gospel passage recalls the martyrdom of John and how he died for the faith as a result of a promise vainly made to a lovely girl by Herod.

Saturday 30:        Of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Psalm 32; Matthew 25:14-30
There are those who consider Christians to be foolish because they believe in someone who was so weak that he was executed in a most demeaning way. But St Paul tells us in the first reading that God uses what appears to be weak to confound the mighty and to show his great power. It is only by placing our trust in the Wisdom of God that we will understand what it is the Lord wants of us and so enter heaven. In our Gospel text we have the parable of the talents. We have all been given gifts and talents which we must use for the sake of the kingdom and the good of others. One such talent is our faith which was given to us at baptism. It is not simply enough to say that we believe in God but we must actively strengthen our faith and put it into practice in our daily lives through prayer and good works.

Memorials this Week:
August 27:           Memorial of St Monica
Born in North Africa to a Christian family in 332, Monica married a pagan, Patricius, who was converted due to her gentle ways. She then spent her energies in converting her eldest son – Augustine – to the faith. She followed him to Milan where she enlisted the help of St Ambrose, then Bishop of Milan, and in time Augustine was converted and became one of the greatest teachers in the Church. She died in Ostia in 387 while Augustine was taking her home to North Africa. Her last words, recorded in Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ were – “Lay this body wherever it may be. Let no care of it disturb you: this only I ask of you that you should remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be” (Confessions Book 9, Chapter 11).

August 28:           Memorial of St Augustine, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Augustine was born in Thagaste in North Africa in 354, one of four children of St Monica. He studied law and spent several years of his life following the ways of Manichaeism and fathered a child with his mistress. He was converted through the prayers of his mother, St Monica, with the help of St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who baptised him in 387. He returned to Africa and was made Bishop of Hippo in 396 where he established communities of priests and nuns. His Rule for religious institutes is the basis for many Congregations and Institutes of Apostolic Life today. He became the greatest of the Latin Fathers of the Church and spent much of his energies fighting heresies. His two best known works are ‘The Confessions’ and ‘De Civitate Dei’ (‘City of God’) which are still influential today. He died in 430.

August 29:           Memorial of the Beheading of St John the Baptist
As the name of this memorial suggests, today recalls the martyrdom of St John the Baptist, his last and greatest act of witness for Christ.

© 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.

And direct from the publishers: Columba Press, Dublin.

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