Sunday of the Word of God

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16–17)

The Sunday of the Word of God in the Catholic Church takes place on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time – tomorrow Sunday, January 23rd. It was established in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio (of his own initiative), Aperuit illis, “to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.” The title of the papal document, “Aperuit illis“, is taken from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24, the “Road to Emmaus” narrative. Continue reading

Fulfilled in your hearing

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time in which Jesus speaks in the synagogue in Nazareth after having read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is important to note that this mission is specifically directed at the needs of people: poor, captive, blind, oppressed. Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. Mary’s prayer (1:52-52; the Magnificat) praises the Lord for lifting up the lowly and sending the rich away empty. Later, Jesus announces God’s blessing on the poor (6:20) and then refers to the fulfillment of the charge to bring good news to the poor in his response to John (7:22). The poor also figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (14:13, 21; 16:20, 22; 18:22; 21:3). Continue reading

Messaging: Mark 3:7-12

In today’s gospel we encounter Jesus by the sea shore with large crowds approaching and a demonic presence. Up to this point in his gospel narrative, Mark has shown his skills as a storyteller. Mark does not write with the high style of Luke, with the religious insight of Matthew, or the soaring prose of John. His writing style is sparse. Yet, he has begun to reveal the human side of Jesus’ character by certain details that Matthew and Luke leave out of their accounts.  For example, only Mark describes Jesus’ grief and anger during the cure of the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:5). Continue reading

In the power

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. A key phrase in this Gospel is “In the power of the Spirit.” As noted, this passage begins with a reference to Jesus being “in the power of the Spirit.” While there are no doubt some implicit Trinitarian ideas here, the OT should serve as the means of understanding the direction of Luke’s narrative. The OT metaphors of wind (Heb: ruach – breath, wind, spirit), smoke, and cloud, as well as fire, were ways of talking about the active presence of God in the world. Even though the single Hebrew term is translated in various ways even when used of God, this idea became a way to talk about God in terms of his immediate activity in the world. The idea behind the Hebrew term ruach expressed the immanence of God in the world and encompassed his willingness and power to act in human history. This idea carried over into most of the NT since the equivalent term in Greek (pneuma) carries the same varied meaning.  As well, this “power of the Spirit” also points to a commissioning of prophets and enabling leaders to carry out their mission. Continue reading

Controversy: Mark 3:1-6

In today’s gospel we encounter Jesus healing on the Sabbath: “There was a man there who had a withered hand” (Mark 3:1). It is a familiar setting: the synagogue, often the central building in the village – not only in location and architecture, but in the life of the people. Again Jesus’s action stirred up controversy. And the Pharisee were on alert: “They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.” (v.2) This narrative follows immediately after Jesus’ statement that the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath (Mark 2:28) and forms the last of this first series of five conflict narratives and demonstrates his Lordship. The high point of the incident lies less in the act of healing than in the conflict between Jesus and his adversaries, in which they are left silent before his sovereign word. Continue reading

The Spirit of the Lord

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time at the opening of the public ministry as told in the Gospel of Luke. It strikes me as supremely appropriate that the first record of public ministry is the very living Word made flesh sharing the Word of God. Luke records these first spoken words of Jesus’ ministry:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

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Lord of the Sabbath

The Pharisees are again making inquiries about this religious figure who is garnering attention from the people. As many scholars have noted, Jesus is more akin to than Pharisees that the other religious groups of the day – scribes, zealots, Sadducees, and others. And yet he continues to surprise/shock them as he claims the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7), eats with sinners, eats when he (apparently) should be fasting (v.18). Observant Jews were expected to fast twice each week. Observant Jews were also expected to keep holy the Sabbath and not work. Continue reading

The Expectations Build

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time and we continue our study of the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus at the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read 17 and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Gospel of Mark has a similar account but records it later in Jesus’ public ministry near the end of the ministry in Galilee (Mark 6:1-6a). Luke reports the account at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In doing so, Luke highlights the initial admiration (Luke 4:22) and subsequent rejection of Jesus (Luke 4:28-29) and presents it as a foreshadowing of the whole future ministry of Jesus. Continue reading

The Beginning of Public Ministry

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, in Lectionary Cycle C, the Year of the Gospel of Luke as the primary source of our Sunday gospels. We begin with the opening verses of the Gospel according to Luke. It’s inclusion with the main body of the Sunday Gospel, is not for biblical scholarship or context, but it serves to emphasize the certainty of the story that follows (from Chapter 4). While many scholars note that it flawlessly follows the conventional form of prologues, it is surprising how little we are actually told. Unlike other gospels, it does not mention Jesus by name or title, gives no indication of the subject matter of the writing, does not name its sources, nor describe the scope of the writing. That being said, Luke’s concerns are more than historical (orderly sequence; more specifically, historical rhetoric). It promises to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us that has been passed from the eyewitnesses from the beginning and the ministers of the word that handed the accounts onto Luke’s generation (ca. 85 CE).

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Love and Faith

While there is continuity in all the daily Mass readings (for the most part), it is easier for us to recall the continuing narrative of the Gospel exactly because it is a narrative. Today’s first reading continues the readings from the two previous day’s Mass from the First Letter of St. John. I think it is natural and proper to give priority to the Gospels, the epistles are also the Word of God and God speaks to us through them. Continue reading