Reflections on the Daily Readings

August 2 - 8, 2020
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Eighteenth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week II.

Sunday 2:            The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 144; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21
In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord calls all those who are hungry or thirsty to come to him and he will feed them. In the Lord alone is true and lasting food to be found, food that will nourish our souls for the journey. The everlasting covenant spoken of is not one that begins now and goes into the future, but one which looks to the past, one which fulfils the promises of the past and leads us into the future.
In the gospel, we see Jesus feeding the multitude with five loaves and two fish. The passage opens with Jesus hearing of the death of John the Baptist and, at this news, he withdraws to a lonely place, presumably to mourn his cousin and herald. But the people followed him and, placing others before himself, and out of his compassion for them, he taught the people and healed their sick. In the evening, the disciples wanted to send the people away to get food but the Lord fed them himself from the meagre resources found among the throng of people. The five loaves and two fish are freely given and shared for the good of all those present. In keeping with Jewish tradition, Jesus took the food, said the blessing, broke the bread and shared it among the multitude. There are strong reminders in this miracle of the feeding of Israel in the desert and of the Last Supper. The twelve baskets of scraps represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles. We are told at the end that there were five thousand men as well women and children, and so the actual number could be in the tens of thousands, demonstrating the scale of the miracle, but also the incredible number of people who came to hear Jesus and to receive his healing touch. The food the people ate was fleeting, only sustaining them through the evening, but the true bread is Jesus Christ himself which he gave us on Holy Thursday and it is the only nourishment we need in order to reach the Kingdom, but only if we believe in it.
St Paul tells the Christians of Rome in the second reading that nothing can come between them and the love of God. They will meet with difficulties and persecutions in life, and various spirits might try and tempt them, but the love of God, made visible in Jesus Christ, will always be there for his people. If the people remain faithful to God, then they will be triumphant in any trial they might face. In truth, the only things which can separate us from God are the barriers we ourselves create or by our own rejection of the love of God.

Monday 3:           Of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 28:1-17; Psalm 118; Matthew 14:22-36
We read in the first reading today how the prophet Hananiah gave a prophecy in the Temple which was false but which the people accepted and believed. Hananiah even takes on Jeremiah in front of the people but God assures Jeremiah that Jeremiah is the true prophet. For leading the people astray, Hananiah died. In the Gospel, we see that Jesus has just heard of the death of his cousin, John, and goes away to be on his own. When he returns to the lakeside the disciples are having trouble fishing in their boats but he calls out to them and calls to Peter to walk across the water to him. St Peter starts out but soon his faith fails and he begins to sink. The text reminds us that we must trust the Lord at all times even when it is difficult to do so and our perceptions lead us astray.

Tuesday 4:           Memorial of St John Mary Vianney, Priest*
Jeremiah 31:1-2, 12-15, 18-22; Psalm 101; Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14
We read in the first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah that despite the sins and transgressions of the people, which the Lord had punished them for, he is now going to restore the fortunes of Jerusalem and rebuild the city. This comes at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, about the year 539 BC, and at a time when the people were disheartened at the restoration work which lay ahead of them. In the Gospel, we see Jesus answering the questions of the scribes and Pharisees about ritual cleansing. He reminds them that what goes into a man is not what makes him unclean but what comes from within him. This was seen as an attack on the Laws concerning cleanliness from the Book of Deuteronomy and would not have gone down well with some of his listeners. However, the message is correct – what we have within us, and the choices we make along with the things we say and do, are the things which determine whether or not we are worthy enough to be in the Lord’s presence.

Wednesday 5:      Of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 31:1-7; Psalm – Jeremiah 31; Matthew 15:21-28
The Lord reminds us in our first reading that he has always loved his people with an everlasting love. And out of his love he is now going to restore the fortunes of his people. Again, this is following the end of the Babylonian Captivity and Jeremiah is painting a wonderful picture for the people of the New Jerusalem when all its people will come to it when the exiles are over. It is his way of encouraging the people to get on with the task of rebuilding the Temple and their dedication to the covenants with God. We read in the Gospel of the cure of a young girl because of her mother’s great faith and because she refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. Even though she was a Canaanite and not of the House of Israel, she had faith greater than some who had heard the Good News for themselves. With faith, we too can overcome the trials which afflict us throughout our life.

Thursday 6:         Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord*
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 96; 2Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9
This feast recalls the day when Jesus was on top of Mount Tabor with a few of his disciples and, in their sight, he was transfigured. The glory with which he stood before them is the glory which awaits us on the last day when we shall enter the Kingdom of heaven and be counted among the elect. The first reading from the book of Daniel speaks of the glory of God and describes the court of heaven. The passage comes from a section of the book where God is taking his seat to judge and condemn the evil one. The son of man clearly comes from above while the unnamed beast comes from below. The text also mentions white robes – the clothes of God.
The second reading from St Peter (a witness to the transfiguration) also speaks of the glory of Jesus Christ and speaks directly of the transfiguration. Peter recalls the voice from heaven affirming Jesus to be the Son of God.
The gospel text from St Matthew recounts the transfiguration of the Lord on the mountain in the presence of Peter, James and John. While the disciples look on, Jesus is changed and his clothes appear as white as light while he speaks with Elijah and Moses, showing that his work and teachings are in keeping with the Old Testament and the Torah. The disciples are instructed by God to listen to Jesus because his teaching – though new and radical – comes from God and is not to be dismissed. Peter’s suggestion of building three tents is his attempt to prolong the moment. In the transfiguration, we are reminded of the glory which awaits us as sons and daughter of God but only if we listen to the Word of God and live that out in our daily lives.

Friday 7:              Of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Nahum 2:1, 3, 3:1-3, 6-7; Psalm – Deuteronomy 32; Matthew 16:24-28
The first reading today comes from the Prophet Nahum in which we see the Lord restoring the fortunes of Israel and Judah but with a word of caution. Nahum was prophet at the time of the fall of Nineveh (in 612 BC) which was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians had previously subdued the northern kingdoms of Israel but had failed to take Judah. In the Gospel we are told that if we want to be a true follower of Christ then we must take up our cross – take up whatever it is that troubles us – and follow him. By offering up our sufferings to him he will strengthen us and we will be able to attain the promise of immortality which Christ has gained for us.

In Carmelite churches:
August 7:           Feast of St Albert of Trapani, Carmelite Priest
Isaiah 58:6-12; Psalm 1; 2Corinthians 4:1-6; Mark 10:17-30
Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah exhorts us to live a life of integrity and to be a light that leads people out of darkness towards the light of Jesus Christ. The text speaks very much about the life of Albert of Trapani for he did give his bread to the hungry, he did clothe the poor, he was a man of great integrity and the people came to him to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ from his lips.
The second reading from St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians reminds us to be faithful to Jesus Christ and to the full message which he preached: we are not to shy away from proclaiming ourselves to be his disciples and we are not to water down the message to make it acceptable to those who are unhappy with parts of it. Albert fulfilled the second reading by preaching about Jesus Christ throughout his life.
The gospel from St Mark sees a rich young man asking Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and Jesus tells him that he must keep the commandments, give to the poor from his abundant wealth, and follow him. The young man was able do two of the three but, for eternal life, all three are required. This is a reminder that there are obstacles which we place between ourselves and God and which we must overcome if we are to be his true disciples. Albert is an example for us for he was able to live out all three showing that it is possible.

Saturday 8:          Memorial of St Dominic, Priest*
Habakkuk 1:12-2:4; Psalm 9; Matthew 17:14-20
We are told in the first reading, this time from Habakkuk (written between 605 and 597 BC), that if we live by faith then we will not flag like those who do not live at rights with God. We must not worry about how others live or how successful they appear to be but must look at how we ourselves live in the eyes of God. In our Gospel text, the disciples have been unable to cure a boy and when they ask Jesus why this is he tells them that it is because of their lack of faith. While they believe in him they have doubts and uncertainties and this holds them back. Like the disciples, we too must have total trust and confidence in God no matter what.

Memorials this Week:
August 4:            Memorial of St John Mary Vianney, Priest
John Mary Vianney, commonly known as the ‘Curé d’Ars’, was born in Dardilly, central France, in 1786. Due to his educational difficulties, he was almost refused ordination but was eventually ordained priest in 1815, being appointed curate in the town of Ars near Lyons and Dardilly in 1818, where he was to minister for the rest of his life. Nothing in life mattered to him except matters spiritual with the result that his clothes were in a poor state and were falling apart, his food was insufficient, and he hardly slept. Yet he attracted thousands to his little church where many benefited from his wisdom and gift of healing. It is said that over 1,000 people a week came to him in the twelve months before he died in 1859. He was canonized in 1925 and named patron saint of parish clergy four years later.

August 6:            Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
This feast commemorates the day when Jesus, in the company of Peter, James and John, was transformed before their eyes on a mountain top. It reminds us of the various occasions in the Old Testament when people, such as Moses, met with God on mountains and spoke with him there. In the Transfiguration, God is heard to speak from heaven which re-enforces who Jesus Christ is for the Apostles who were with him.

August 7:           Feast of St Albert of Trapani, Carmelite Priest
Albert was born in Trapani, Sicily, in the 1240s. He joined the Carmelite Order and was ordained priest, becoming Provincial in Sicily in 1296. Due to his piety and holiness many came to hear him preach and to be cured of their illnesses. He took part in missionary journeys. During the Siege of Messina in 1301 the authorities asked Albert and his companions to pray for an end to the siege. The story is told that as Albert finished Mass some ships ran the blockade with food for the people and soon after the siege was lifted. He died at Messina in 1306/1307.

August 8:            Memorial of St Dominic, Priest
Born in Calereuga (Castile-Leon) in northern Spain about the year 1170, Dominic first became an Augustinian Canon Regular. Throughout this time the Albigensian heresy was prevalent across southern France due to a lack of proper teaching and preaching. As a result, Dominic founded the Friars Preachers (Order of Preachers – O.P.), more commonly known as the Dominicans, for the purpose of preaching the true faith and, in particular, to combat Albigensianism. He died in 1221.

© 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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