Reflections on the Daily Readings

January 20 - 26, 2019
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Second Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 20:          The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 95; 1Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-11
A common theme in our readings today is that of marriage. In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah we see that the Lord will marry his people. As a result they will never be abandoned by him but he will always delight in them. In the gospel text from St John we have the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. It was Our Lady who noticed the potential embarrassment which the family were about to suffer and she asked her Son to intervene – one of only two occasions that are recorded when she interceded with her Son for anything. Despite the fact that Christ’s hour had not yet come he answered his mother’s request and, as a result, we are told that the apostles believed in him – they finally had proof that he was somebody great.
In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, St Paul tells us that we each have gifts and that these gifts have been given to us by the Holy Spirit. No matter what the gift is or who has been given it, the gift is always given “for a good purpose.” We come before the Lord today knowing that he is always with us and that he will answer our prayers and particularly the intercession which his Mother makes on our behalf.

Monday 21:         Memorial of St Agnes, Virgin & Martyr*
Hebrews 5:1-10; Psalm 110; Mark 2:18-22
In our first reading today, the author of the letter to the Hebrews continues to explain about the person of Christ. Today they are told that Christ is a priest like all other priests, except that he is perfect. As those who become priests are called by God so too Christ was called by God rather than opting for it himself. In this way he was like all other priests who are human and so knew our weaknesses. He also prayed to God for strength and support especially as he approached his own death. Again today we see the Pharisees objecting to the practises of Christ. While the Pharisees fasted publicly Jesus’ disciples did not fast at all. Christ tells them that this is because he is with them. When he is gone from them then they will fast. Christ, who was with us as one of us, knows our faults and our failings and is always ready to help us when we call to him. As he himself regularly prayed to the Father we too must follow that example and pray to the Father in good times as well as in times of need.

Tuesday 22:         Of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 6:10-20; Psalm 111; Mark 2:23-28
All that we do is remembered by God and never forgotten. The letter to the Hebrews uses the example of Abraham to show us that all that God promises will be fulfilled. God has promised us everlasting life and that promise will be fulfilled in the same way that Abraham became the father of a great nation. The Pharisees are unhappy with Jesus and his followers in today’s Gospel text because, unlike the Pharisees, they do not keep the Sabbath in the same way as the Pharisees do. The Pharisees and many others had an extremely strict ban on doing any sort of work on the Sabbath and picking corn was against the Law. Jesus tells them that the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around. In other words, the Sabbath is a day for remembering the goodness of God and giving thanks to him and while it does mean not working on the Sabbath day it does not mean that all physical exertion is banned.

Wednesday 23:    Of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17; Psalm 110; Mark 3:1-6
The King of Salem was also Melchizedek, the priest of God. We often hear the phrase – “You are a priest for ever, a priest like Melchizedek of old.” The author of today’s first reading tells us that Christ is the high priest of this order and that, like Melchizedek, he is a priest for ever. But Christ’s priesthood is not because of any law regarding his lineage, but because of his power over death and his immortality. Today’s Gospel has the same theme as yesterday’s text – the Sabbath rest. Today we see Jesus in the synagogue where he cures a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees are not happy because, as far as they were concerned, nothing could be done on the Sabbath day. But Christ heals the man because it is a good thing to do and the right thing to do.

Thursday 24:       Memorial of St Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church*
Hebrews 7:25-8:6; Psalm 40; Mark 3:7-12
The theme of Christ’s priesthood continues in the reading from the Hebrews. The text lays down the ideal of what a high priest should be and then goes on to say that Christ does fulfil this ideal perfectly. Therefore we can be certain of Christ’s help when we call to him. In the Gospel Jesus is being pursued by the people because of the miracles and cures he has worked. The people are coming from near and far just to see and hear him. As he casts out unclean spirits, these spirits recognise him for who he really  is – the Son of God – but he warns them to keep quiet so as not to aggravate the authorities further.

Friday 25:            Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle*
Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Psalm 116; Mark 16:15-18
Today we celebrate the conversion of one of the greatest persecutors of the early Christian Church and the two texts from the Acts of the Apostles recount the moment when the Lord himself appeared to Saul. The first account is told by Paul himself and he begins by reminding the people that he was a faithful Jew, and a Pharisee, who persecuted the early Christians.
The second account is told from a historical perspective. It was not unusual for the Jews of the time to have a traditional Jewish name and a Roman equivalent and so we have Saul and the Roman name of Paul. What is key is that the Apostle to the Gentiles now goes by his Roman name showing that he has left his old way of life behind and has devoted himself completely to the Christian Way. The Psalm takes up the instruction found in our gospel for today.
Our gospel text is a post-resurrection encounter between Jesus and the Eleven and in the passage he tells them to ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation’. He gives them power and authority and the gift of tongues so that the message may be spread far and wide. That same instruction is given to us in our own day but we will only be effective in that duty if we are converted daily to the gospel. As the Lord called Saul to conversion he is calling us also, though not necessarily as obviously as he called Saul.

Saturday 26:        Memorial of Sts Timothy and Titus, Bishops
2Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5; Psalm 95; Luke 10:1-9
In our first reading today from the second letter to Timothy, we see the author describe Timothy as someone who was sincere in the faith, and he traces the faith in Timothy’s family. The author is writing to him to encourage him to work to increase his faith, to ‘fan into a flame the gift which God gave’ him. That gift was something powerful with which to spread the faith and may at times have to endure hardship for the sake of the Good News.
In the alternative reading from his letter to Titus, we see the author saying that St Paul himself (in whose name he writes the letter) had been commissioned by God to spread the Good News, a message which contains the assurance of eternal life promised by God. In his turn, Paul commissioned Titus to organise the new religion on the island of Crete. The Psalm is a reminder to the two saints to ‘Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples’.
Our gospel text from St Luke sees Jesus sending out the seventy-two to preach in his name and to bring his healing power to others. He gives them instructions about what they are to do and say, and he reminds them that there will be difficulties as he is sending them out ‘like lambs among wolves’. There is also the reminder that the harvest is rich but the labourers are few and still today that is very true, and so the example of Timothy and Titus is placed before us as an encouragement to follow their example and the example of the Apostles, and so go out in our own way and spread the Good News.

Memorials this Week:
January 21:          Memorial of St Agnes, Virgin & Martyr
Agnes was a girl of about 14 or 15 years of age when she was martyred and buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome during the final years of the persecutions by the Emperor Diocletian (early fourth century). Near her grave a basilica was erected and a series of large catacombs excavated and which can still be visited today. Nothing definite is known about her martyrdom other than the fact that she died for believing in Christ. On this day lambs are blessed, whose wool is used to make the palliums for new metropolitan archbishops.

January 24:          Memorial of St Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Francis was born in Savoy in 1567 to a noble family. Having studied law at Padua he gave up the legal profession and was ordained priest in 1593. He was made a bishop only six years later and was Archbishop of Geneva by 1602 – home of John Calvin (who broke from the Roman Catholic Church in 1530 and founded Calvinism). He founded the Visitation Nuns with St Jane Frances de Chantal and was noted for the great way he preached which brought many people back to the Catholic Church following the Reformation. He died at the age of 56 in 1622. He is the patron saint of journalists and other writers.

January 25:          Feast of the Conversion of St Paul the Apostle
Paul (also known by his Jewish name Saul) was born in Tarsus in Cilicia in modern-day Turkey. He was educated and was a Pharisee which meant that he was well acquainted with both the Law and the Scriptures which is evident in his writings. As a faithful Jew he persecuted the early Christians until he was struck down on his way to Damascus to arrest some Christians. In this incident, the Risen Lord appeared to Paul and from then on Paul becomes the greatest champion of the faith and is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. He met with St Peter and the other Apostles in Jerusalem on a number of occasions and undertook three great missionary journeys to spread the faith. These journeys took him through Palestine but also through Syria, Turkey, Crete, Greece and Malta. During some of these journeys he funded himself through his work as a tent maker. Eventually Paul ends up in Rome where, even under house arrest, he spreads the faith and writes some of the letters found in the New Testament to the churches he had founded on his travels and also to individuals to bolster their faith. These letters also contain Paul’s understanding of who Jesus Christ is and the importance of the death and resurrection of Christ. He was beheaded during the persecutions in the reign of Emperor Nero.

January 26:          Memorial of Sts Timothy & Titus, Bishops
Very little is known about these two saints who were companions and disciples of St Paul who is said to have written three letters to them and which are part of the canon of sacred scripture. Timothy was made bishop of Ephesus while still very young and is said to have been beaten and stoned to death in 97AD for fighting against heathen worship. Titus was made bishop of Crete though he still went on missions for Paul from time to time but always returned to Crete where he eventually died.

© 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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