Reflections on the Daily Readings

August 13 - 19, 2017
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Nineteenth Week.
Readings: Sunday Cycle C; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week III.

Sunday 13:          The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1Kings 19:9, 11-13; Psalm 84; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33
The power of God is a common thread in our readings today. In the first reading we see that Elijah has triumphed over the prophets of the false god, Baal, and has fled for his life. He arrives at Horeb, the mountain where Moses had encountered God. As he sheltered in the cave he was told to come out and meet God who was passing by. Elijah realised that God was to be found, not in the mighty forces of nature, but in the gentle breeze, and so he covered his face before God.
In the gospel, we see Jesus demonstrating his power over the physical forces of nature by calming the wind and walking on water. He had sent the disciples ahead of him in the boat while he took time on his own to converse with the Father. When he came to the lake the boat was making slow progress due to the wind and so he walked to them on the water and this took them by surprise so that they thought they were seeing a ghost. Peter, initially with a certain bravado, begins to walk on the water but he starts to doubt and so sinks into the lake. When the Lord gets into the boat the wind dies down and the disciples bow down before him acknowledging that he is the Son of God, a profession which Peter would make on behalf of the group at a later date. In the tradition of the time, seas represented chaos and the fight of evil against good and so the episode shows that Jesus triumphs over chaos and evil. The Church is often represented by a boat – the barque of Peter – and so the wind represents those things which assail the Church. In this case, Peter stepping into the water shows a certain bravery, but one which is only truly successful if it is built on a solid foundation of faith and which has Jesus Christ at the centre of its vision. The Lord is always with us whether it be in mighty power or in gentle breeze. While God is the Creator of all that is, he doesn’t always makes his presence known in a great show of power but is also to be seen and felt even in the quietest and most still moments in life.
In the second reading, St Paul tells the Romans of his sorrow that his fellow Israelites have not accepted Jesus as the true Messiah (though he is now a Christian, Paul still has regard for the Jewish faith in which he was brought up). He says that the Israelites were adopted by God as his own sons and that he made covenants with them, and still they have not believed. If it would have brought the Israelites to Christ, Paul himself would have undergone separation from Christ in order for this to happen. We too are called on to believe in Jesus Christ and his presence even though we cannot see him. We are asked to take to heart his words in today’s gospel: ‘Do not be afraid’.

Monday 14:         Memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe, Priest & Martyr*
Deuteronomy 10:12-22; Psalm 147; Matthew 17:22-27
In our first reading today we see Moses calling the people together and reminding them of the importance of looking after the neediest people in their society – the poor, the orphaned, the widowed. He reminds them also of God’s love for them and urges them not just to have faith but to let that faith be seen in how they live their lives. In our Gospel text we see Jesus predicting his coming death at the hands of men but also his resurrection. The disciples are saddened to hear of his coming death but the prospect of his resurrection has little impact on them for they still did not fully understand all his teaching. We are reminded today to be faithful to God and to give thanks to him for all that we have received from his bounty and to let others see that faith at work in our lives.

Tuesday 15:         Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven*
At the Vigil Mass
1Chronicles 15:3-4, 15-16, 16:1-2; Psalm 131; 1Corinthians 15:54-57; Luke 11:27-28
In our first reading from the first book of the Chronicles we see the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the tent which David had prepared for it and the ritual is accompanied by music and rejoicing. The ark was the vessel which carried the Lord’s commandments for his people as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Mary too was an ark for she carried the Son of God for nine months and brought him into the world. The rejoicing of David and the people echoes the rejoicing of the heavenly host as Mary is carried to heaven. In the second reading St Paul reminds us that we are victorious over death because of Jesus Christ. As the woman who gave birth to Jesus, Mary’s soul didn’t simply triumph over death but her body too was preserved from the corruptibility of death.
In the very short gospel we see a woman praising Jesus’ mother and while acknowledges that she can be happy at being his mother, happier still are those who follow her example of discipleship. The example is of someone who heard God’s word and lived it out it in her own as Mary did even to the cross.

At Mass during the Day
Apocalypse (Revelations) 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 44; 1Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
The Book of the Apocalypse is not always easy to understand and there are several interpretations for various passages. Our text today opens with mention of the ark and so suggests that the passage is about our Lady who, as Queen of Heaven, is robed in splendour and majesty. She gives birth to one of great importance who is taken directly to the throne of God, whose Son he is, while the Virgin flees to a special place – reminding us of her special place in heaven. In the second reading, St Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is the first-fruit and the first to rise from the dead. Those who belong to him will also triumph over death and in a particular way this was true of Our Lady who didn’t simply overcome death in her soul but in her body as well.
The gospel from St Luke contains the Magnificat – Mary’s beautiful hymn which she said upon meeting her cousin Elizabeth shortly after the Annunciation. It may seem a little unusual for this celebration but it is a hymn of praise suitable as much in heaven as on earth and continues to speak of the wonderful things which God did for her. Today’s solemnity commemorates our Lady’s entry into glory, a glory which awaits us and which was prefigured on August 6 in the celebration of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Wednesday 16:   Of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 65; Matthew 18:15-20
Today we read of the death of Moses and how Joshua, son of Nun and military commander, led the people to the Promised Land. Before he dies, Moses ascends to the top of Mount Nebo close to the Dead Sea where he has a good view of the land the Chosen People are now about to enter. In preparing Joshua for this moment, we are told that Moses laid his hands on Joshua, a ritual which is still part of the Ordination Rite to this day. Our Psalm is a hymn of praise for all the Lord has done. In the Gospel, we see Jesus giving instructions for sorting out legal problems. It may seem odd that he would tell his followers to treat people like pagans and tax collectors if they did not listen but then we must remember that the tax collectors he had with him were those who demonstrated their faith in him and so were welcomed into his flock. In the last part of the passage he tells us that where two or three are gathered in his name that he is there among them. This is not simply confined to prayer and the Church but could be any gathering for prayer, business, etc., and which should begin with a prayer to the Lord for guidance.

Thursday 17:       Memorial of Our Lady of Knock*
Joshua 3:7-11, 13-17; Psalm 113A; Matthew 18:21-19:1
In the reading from the Book of Joshua we see that the Ark of the Lord leads the people on dry ground across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The Ark reminds us of the cloud which guided the people out of Egypt, and the crossing of the River Jordan reminds us of the crossing through the Red Sea. The journey which began so long ago has now reached its conclusion and fulfilment. The Psalm summarises some of the events which have taken place since the Passover in Egypt. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the importance of forgiveness. We are forgiven by God for what we have done wrong when we go to confession but the sacrament is negated if we ourselves do not forgive those who have hurt us or sinned against us. Jesus uses a story to illustrate this for his listeners. It is not always easy to forgive others but it is something which we must be prepared to do because it would be hypocritical of us to expect forgiveness for what we have done while we withhold forgiveness from others.

Friday 18:            Of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Joshua 24:1-13; Psalm 135; Matthew 19:3-12
In our first reading today from the Book of Joshua, the Lord speaks through Joshua and reminds the people of all that he has done for them – how he freed them from slavery in Egypt, fought battles on their behalf and gave them a land that they never worked and towns that they never built. The Psalm is a hymn of praise for all this. Our Gospel text today is not an easy one for many people for it deals with marriage and in it Christ is quite clear that marriage is indissoluble regardless of the circumstances. The Jews were allowed to divorce and so Christ was very much out of step with the tradition within which he had grown up but he tells the people that they only have divorce because they were stubborn people. However, he, as God, tells us that divorce is not in keeping with the Divine plan and so is not acceptable.

Saturday 19:        Of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Joshua 24:14-29; Psalm 15; Matthew 19:13-15
Our reading from the Book of Joshua sees Joshua asking the people which god they wish to serve – the true God or the gods of the land they have just entered. They wish to serve the true God and Joshua reminds them that if they go astray they will be cast off by the God they have sworn to serve. Joshua renews the covenant that was made on Mount Sinai and then divides the land among the tribes of Israel. Again today we see Jesus welcoming children and reminding his listeners to be like children in their faith. Too often we try to rationalise things or explain them scientifically and so miss the mysterious and the divine at work in our world. But a child trusts their parents implicitly and this is what we too must do. Only by trusting God completely can we inherit eternal life.

Memorials this Week:
August 14:          Memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe, Priest & Martyr
Maximilian was born near Lodz, in central Poland in 1894 (then part of Russia). He became a Franciscan in 1910 and both his parents also entered religious orders. He also founded a community in Japan in 1930 and returned to Europe in 1936. With the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 he and his community gave shelter to Poles and Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazi regime. For this he was imprisoned in the Auschwitz Concentration, Camp in southern Poland, where he ministered to his fellow prisoners. In reprisal for an escape by some prisoners, the camp authorities took ten men to be starved to death, one of which came from Maximilian’s bunker. Maximilian volunteered to take the man’s place and so was deprived of food for two weeks. He was eventually put to death by lethal injection on August 14, 1941. He was canonized by his fellow countryman, Pope John Paul II, in 1982. Among those at the canonization was the man whose life he had saved by his heroic act in 1941.

August 15:          Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven
This solemnity celebrates the fact that at the end of Mary’s life, her body was assumed into heaven rather than undergo decay in the earth. Though maintained by the faithful for centuries, it was only proclaimed a dogma of the faith by Pope Pius XII in 1950.

August 17:           Memorial of Our Lady of Knock
Readings of the Day or from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
At about 8.00pm on August 21, 1879, a wet evening, fifteen people in a remote part of Co Mayo, western Ireland, witnessed an apparition on the gable wall of the parish church in Knock. In the apparition were Our Lady, St Joseph her spouse, St John the Evangelist, an altar and cross, angels, and a lamb. Everything was in white and nothing was said. The apparition lasted about two hours and over the years several inquiries were held – even as late as 1936 with the remaining survivors, some of whom were then living abroad. Today, Knock Shrine is the most important Marian shrine in Ireland and draws many pilgrims from around the world. In 1979, John Paul II, on his Apostolic Visit to Ireland, prayed at the site of the apparition.

© 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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