Reflections on the Daily Readings

May 31 - June 6, 2020
The Solemnity of Pentecost/Season of Ordinary Time - The Ninth Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week I.

Sunday 31:          Solemnity of Pentecost
Vigil Mass
Genesis 11:1-9 or Exodus 19:3-8, 16-20 or Ezekiel 37:1-14 or Joel 3:1-5; Psalm 103; Romans 8:22-27; John 7:37-39
If an extended Vigil is celebrated, all four Old Testament readings with proper Psalms and Collects are used and are followed by the New Testament reading and Gospel.
The first reading from the Book of Genesis contains the story of the Tower of Babel which was a story of human rebellion against the divine will. God had intended that the people should spread across the face of the earth but they did not follow his will, preferring instead to gather together in one place. In their pride they decided to build a heaven-touching tower and so make a great name for themselves. God destroyed the tower and so the people were scattered and the confusion of their languages would mean that they would not gather together and try to replace God again.
In the reading from the book of Exodus, we have one of the great theophanies between God and his people. In the opening section God reminds the people that he was the one who freed them from slavery in Egypt and now they must choose whether or not they wish to be his people. They reply that they will be his people and so Moses brought them out of the camp to meet God at the foot of the mountain, an event which takes place in a storm of smoke, fire and trumpet and in which God came down to his people.
In the reading from the prophet Ezekiel, the prophet has been given a vision in which there is a contrast between a dead Israel and one which has life. Ezekiel had been sent to preach to the House of Israel and to bring them back to the right path and this is ultimately achieved by the presence of the Spirit of God, which Ezekiel is told to summon and give to the people. Without the Spirit the people are like dead people but with the Spirit they have life.
In the reading from the prophet Joel, the Lord says that he will pour out his Spirit on all people, slave as well as free. This comes at the end of various plagues which have befallen the House of Israel for their lack of faithfulness to God. But those who have been faithful will be vindicated and will receive the Spirit which will give them strength and protection.
The Psalm asks the Lord to once again send his Spirit and renew the world.
In the second reading, St Paul reminds the Romans that the whole of creation has been waiting and hoping for salvation. This salvation has come through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is given to each person to help them to live the life God wants them to live, to help them to please God. The true Christian does so through prayer and living out the faith and this happens through the gift of the Holy Spirit if each person cooperates with the Spirit.
In the gospel we see Jesus attending one of the festivals in the Temple in Jerusalem in which water was a key symbol. Jesus says that he has water for those who believe in him but the evangelist makes it clear that the water Jesus is referring to is the Holy Spirit which the Lord grants to his followers after the resurrection. The connection, therefore, is that without the Holy Spirit working in our lives we cannot have true life, a life which is eternal and will see us enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Mass during the Day
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 103; 1Corinthians 12:3-7, 13-12; John 20:19-23
Our first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ and of the effect it had on them. The Apostles were in one room together when the Holy Spirit came down upon them and, as a result, they were able to speak in different languages. They went out into the streets and began to teach about the risen Jesus and all those who were in the city were able to understand what was being said. This is the birth of the Church, the day its mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ began. The Psalm asks the Lord to once again send his Spirit and renew the world.
In our second reading, St Paul reminds the Corinthians that through the Holy Spirit all those who profess Jesus to be the Lord are of one family. For Paul, only those with the Spirit in them could profess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit does not recognise differences in terms of nation or colour or language but bestows membership on all peoples. The Spirit also grants gifts to people but not all people have the same gifts. In the passage Paul is making clear that there is unity even in the greatest diversity and the unifying principle is the Holy Spirit.
The gospel sees Jesus meeting with his followers soon after the resurrection and his demonstration that he is very much alive, that the Jewish authorities have not taken his body and hidden it somewhere as was the rumour. In the meeting the Lord commissions the disciples to continue his work and to achieve this he grants them the Holy Spirit. As heirs of the Apostles we too have received the Holy Spirit, most notably at Baptism and Confirmation, and it is up to us to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to give praise and glory to God by the lives we lead. We should also follow the example of the Apostles on Pentecost Day and spread the Good News about the Kingdom of God.

The Season of Easter now ends and we return to the Season of Ordinary Time, to the Ninth Week.

Monday 1:          O Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church*
Genesis 3:9-15, 20; or Acts 1:12-14; Psalm 86; John 19:25-34
Our first reading for this memorial comes from the Book of Genesis and reminds us of how sin entered the world through our first parents. As a result of their sin, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden and a barrier was placed between humans and God. Mary stands in contrast to Adam and Eve and is often seen as the ‘New Eve’, as the woman who was to bring into the world the One who would restore eternal life to us.
In the alternative reading, we see the Apostles and several others gathered with Mary in the Upper Room in Jerusalem between the Ascension and Pentecost, and quite often this scene is depicted in paintings and icons with Mary in the middle of the image surrounded by the Apostles. This reminds us that Mary was still central for the fledgling group as she was the one who gave birth to the Saviour and she was still a living connection to him. The group was gathered together in prayer.
In the gospel passage from St John we are presented with the harrowing scene on Calvary where Mary witnessed the death of her Son. Even at that moment of anguish and death, Jesus was mindful of his mother and placed her in the care of one of the Twelve, with the instruction that she was now his mother. That disciple represents all of us and we too are told that Mary is our mother and so we look to her for comfort, guidance and support as we would the woman who gave birth to us.

Tuesday 2:           Of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
2 Peter 3:11-15, 17-18; Psalm 89; Mark 12:13-17
In our first reading, St Peter is telling us that we must be living lives worthy of God while waiting for his Day to come. Even though we have been redeemed we must still live lives worthy of that redemption. The author also warns against listening to those false preachers who may preach in such a way so as to delay or prevent our entry into the kingdom. In the Gospel, the scribes and elders are trying to catch Jesus out and ask him about paying tax to Caesar. He tells them that they should pay money to Caesar because his head is on the coin, but they must give to God what belongs to him – faith and praise – for everything we have is his and from his bounty.

Wednesday 3:      Memorial of St Kevin, Abbot*
2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12; Psalm 122; Mark 12:18-27
St Paul is writing to St Timothy in today’s first reading to strengthen Timothy in the faith and to encourage him to build up the faith he has already received. He is also telling him that the Spirit he has received is not to be kept quiet, but is to speak out through him and proclaim Christ and his message. At the time he was writing the letter, Paul was in prison in Rome and was unable to proclaim the Good News and so had to encourage others like Timothy to continue the work in his place. In the Gospel text, Christ is telling his listeners that God is the God of the living and that those who have died – such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – are alive with God. This is the great promise which awaits us. We have a duty to tell the world of this promise so that more people may become worthy of it and receive the promise themselves.

Thursday 4:         Memorial of St Charles Lwanga & Companions, Martyrs*
2 Timothy 2:8-15; Psalm 24; Mark 12:28-34
Again today, St Paul is encouraging St Timothy (his successor in Ephesus) in the faith and helping to strengthen him by explaining some of the mysteries about Christ and about our redemption. Though a prisoner in Rome, Paul is aware that he can still live out his vocation as a messenger of the Gospel by encouraging others, like Timothy, by providing them with inspiration through his writings and by explaining key passages in the life of Christ and of the Christian. In the Gospel, Christ gives us the great commandment to love one another, which is second only to the commandment to love God above all else. These are still the greatest commandments for us today and from them all other commandments and precepts for living flow.

Friday 5:              Memorial of St Boniface, Bishop & Martyr
2 Timothy 3:10-17; Psalm 118; Mark 12:35-37
St Paul continues to teach St Timothy about the faith in today’s first reading. He tells him that all of scripture is inspired by God and, therefore, we can trust it and draw closer to Christ by reading it carefully. Paul also talks about the persecutions he faced while on his missionary work as an inspiration for those who are being persecuted for the faith to continue on for the prize which is unmatched by humans. Our Gospel text today is a rather difficult one. The scribes seem to have a very narrow definition of ‘Messiah’ and the cornerstone of that definition was that the Messiah would be a son of David. In our text, Christ is pointing out that this alone is not adequate and that the definition of Messiah is greater than they were used to. It is easy for us to understand because we know that he is the Messiah, though not the Messiah that the scribes wanted.

Saturday 6:          Of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
2 Timothy 4:1-8; Psalm 70; Mark 12:38-44
In today’s first reading and final passage from his second letter to St Timothy, St Paul is encouraging Timothy to go out and preach about Christ and to make that his life’s work. He also speaks about his impending death and says that he is happy to die for the faith. In the Gospel, Christ warns about being too ‘showy’ in our religious practice. Instead, we must give all that we can but quietly and without attracting the wrong sort of attention. He uses the image of a poor widow giving all she has as the image we should try to emulate.

Memorials this Week:
June 1:                Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church
During the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI formally bestowed the title ‘Mother of the Church’ on the Blessed Virgin Mary and it was observed as a votive Mass thereafter. In 2018, on the one hundred and sixtieth anniversary of the Apparitions at Lourdes, Pope Francis raised it to an Obligatory Memorial to be observed throughout the Church. The idea of Mary as Mother of the Church relates to the fact that Mary is the Mother of Jesus whose body is the Church, and so the connection to Mary being Mother of the Church is easily understood. This idea goes back at least to St Augustine and to Pope St Leo the Great in the fifth century.

June 3:                Memorial of St Kevin, Abbot
Kevin (Coemgenus) was one of the great sixth century Irish saints. He grew up in Kilnamanagh, Dublin, and later went to Glendalough, Co Wicklow, to become a hermit, where he settled by the upper lake at Disert Caoimhghin. In time, several other hermits joined him and soon the great monastic settlement of Glendalough grew up by the lakes and continued to spread after his death in 618.

June 4:                Memorial of St Charles Lwanga & Companions, Martyrs
Charles Lwanga was in charge of the servant boys of King Mwanga II of the Kingdom of Buganda in central Uganda. The king opposed both Christians and Muslims which led to an attempt by the British to remove him from power. During one persecution, the king ordered his Christian servants to be executed. Some of the boys were quite young and only preparing for baptism at the time but, despite the pleas of their families to obey the orders of the king, they remained faithful to Jesus Christ. They were martyred by being burned to death at Namugongo in 1886. They were canonized in 1964.

June 5:                Memorial of St Boniface, Bishop & Martyr
Known as the ‘Apostle of Germany’, Boniface was born in Devon, south-west England, about the year 675 and christened Winifrid. He became a monk and left England in 716 to preach the Gospel in Germany, and was given the name Boniface by Pope Gregory II. He travelled throughout Germany and established monasteries and dioceses before carrying out an ecclesiastical reform in Gaul (roughly present-day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and northern Italy). He was consecrated bishop in 722 and was later Primate of Germany. In his seventies, he retired as bishop and travelled about the country again. He was martyred for the faith in Friesland, in northern Holland, in 754.

© 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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