Reflections on the Daily Readings

January 26 - February 1, 2020
The Third Week in Orindary Time
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle II.
Divine Office - Psalter Week III.

Sunday 26:          The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Psalm 26; 1Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23.
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah refers to a time after the northern kingdoms of Zebulun and Naphtali had been overrun by the Assyrians. The people lived under the yoke, bar and rod of the oppressor but a new leader would arise who would remove these from the people and restore their freedom. Isaiah speaks of joy, gladness and rejoicing and of how a great light has shone on the land that was shrouded in darkness. This is what Jesus Christ came to bring to the people of God who believe in him: liberation from that which oppressed them.
Today we begin the cycle of readings from St Matthew’s Gospel which will continue throughout the Sundays of Ordinary Time for this year. In today’s passage we see that John the Baptist has been arrested and which will lead to his execution. Jesus now begins his preaching in earnest and we are reminded that John had said that he would decline while the one to come after him would increase. Jesus also settles in Capernaum – a place which was both Jewish and Gentile in population – probably because it was further away from the centre of Roman rule and would allow the Lord more time and opportunity to gather his followers and preach his message. For Matthew, this fulfils the text of the prophet Isaiah which we read in the first reading. Jesus is the light of the peoples and, in settling in Capernaum, the light for Jew and Gentile alike. In the second half of the passage we see Jesus calling his first disciples: Peter and Andrew, James and John. All four are fishermen and all four are working with nets. Jesus calls them and immediately they leave everything and follow him which suggests that perhaps they had known him already and may have heard his preaching. In any case, their response is a radical one and causes a major change in their lives. We too are called to make a radical change in our lives because of our faith in Jesus Christ and for the sake of our future in the Kingdom. The nets the men were mending could refer to the entanglements of life, those things which make life difficult for ourselves and others. Their leaving their nets and following Jesus could refer, therefore, to their new way of living, of living a better way of life in keeping with the Gospel of Life. In our day, too, the Lord brings liberation from all that oppresses us and keeps us separated from the love of God, which knows no bounds.
In the second reading from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we see Paul admonishing the people for their lack of unity. It appears that the community has divided into different groups who each declare themselves for a different preacher, demonstrating that they prefer certain styles or messages. Paul is clear that there is only one Christ and one Gospel and that they must remain one in their faith and practice. There may be many great orators to show us the way but it is not them that we are to follow but the Christ about whom they preach.

Monday 27:         Of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10; Psalm 88; Mark 3:22-30.
On Saturday, we read of the death of King Saul and of David’s grief. Today we see the tribes coming to David and asking him to take up the kingship and to lead the country. This he does and reclaims the city of Jerusalem as it stands on the border between the two halves of the kingdom and which stood as an impenetrable fortress. We are told that in all he did, the Lord was with David, a theme which is continued in the Psalm. In the Gospel passage, Jesus has been accused of being Beelzebul and that this is how he can cast out unclean spirits. In reply he tells the people that a kingdom which is divided cannot stand for very long. The kingdom of God is here with us but if Christians do not stand together in unity and peace then that kingdom too will be in trouble in our time. We have a duty to help build up, in our own small way, the kingdom of God.

Tuesday 28:         Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church*
2 Samuel 6:12-15, 17-19; Psalm 23; Mark: 3:31-35.
In our first reading we see that David has now established himself in Jerusalem – the Citadel of David – and to complete the victory has brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city. The Ark was received there with great praise and rejoicing. This also served to unite the northern and southern kingdoms as both held the Ark in great reverence and so Jerusalem became, not just the political capital, but the focal point of all worship. In our Gospel text for today we are told that Jesus’ mother and family have come to get him, which we read of last Saturday. When told this he asks his listeners who the members of his family are. In answer to his own question he tells us that those who do God’s will are his mother, and brothers and sisters. We must ask ourselves each day if we live our lives well enough to merit being called his brothers and sisters.

Wednesday 29:    Of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 7:4-17; Psalm 88; Mark 4:1-20.
Having now regained Jerusalem in our first reading, and having brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, David now wants to build a solid house for the Ark. Through the prophet Nathan, David is told that God’s favour rests on him and he will have great fame. As David wants to build a house for the Ark so God intends to make a royal family of David’s line which will last for ever. The Psalm repeats this. The parable recounted in the Gospel for today is the Parable of the Sower, a very familiar parable to us. The question we must ask ourselves today is this: ‘Which of the seed in the parable do I belong to?’

Thursday 30:       Of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29; Psalm 131; Mark 4:21-25.
In our reading today from the second book of Samuel, Nathan has told David that his house is to be blessed for ever and David goes and sits before the Lord in prayer in a quiet room in which is kept the Ark of the Covenant. David makes a hymn of praise to God for the gifts which God has bestowed upon him. St Mark in his Gospel today, recounts some of the short sayings of Christ. One line from the passage says that what we give is what we will receive. If we show mercy and help to others then we in our turn will also receive mercy and help. In other words, if we do not reach out to others as Christians then we cannot expect anything when our time comes.

Friday 31:            Memorial of St John Bosco, Priest*
2 Samuel 11:1-10, 13-17; Psalm 50; Mark 4:26-34.
Today we have the beginning of the downfall of David. Having been promised great blessings by the Lord, David now breaks one of the commandments and commits adultery and leaves the wife of one of his generals expecting his child. He brings home Uriah the general – the woman’s husband – to make it look like the child was conceived by him, but when this fails he sends Uriah into battle and ensures that he dies there so that he may have the woman for himself on a permanent basis. The Psalm is a song of lament by those who have sinned. Two more parables are recounted in the Gospel from St Mark today. They are reminders that all we have and do and are come from God. There is also a reminder that the kingdom of God is secretly growing in the world.

Saturday 1:          Feast of St Brigid, Virgin, Secondary Patron of Ireland*
Romans 12:3-13; Psalm 148; Mark 3:31-35 or Luke 11:27-28.
St Paul reminds us in the letter to the Romans that each of us has been given a different grace or gift and that we should not boast about them but should use them to the very best of our ability, for the good of the whole community and the building up of the Kingdom. As the various parts of the body must work as one whole and without any one part being any better than another, so too the Christian community must work together as one for the good of the Kingdom. The Psalm reminds us to praise God.
The gospel text from St Mark is quite appropriate for the feast of St Brigid which we celebrate today for it tells us that those who do the will of God are truly the brothers and sisters of Jesus. This was clearly seen in the life of St Brigid in that she always did the will of God and placed Jesus Christ and others before her own needs, and in particular those in need of charity.
The alternative gospel passage from St Luke carries the same message and tells us that they are happy who hear God’s word and keep it.

Memorials this Week:
January 28:         Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Thomas was born in 1225 and was educated by the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino on the western coast of Italy between Rome and Naples, before joining the Dominican Order (the Order of Preachers) in 1244, and continuing his studies in Paris, France, and Cologne, Germany. He spent his life teaching and writing in France and Italy and his two major works – the ‘Summa Contra Gentiles’ and the ‘Summa Theologica’ – are still studied today for the significance and depth of their theology and philosophy. He died at the age of 49 while on his way to the second Oecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274. He is the patron saint of universities and schools.

January 31:         Memorial of St John Bosco, Priest
Don Bosco was born in 1815 to a peasant family in Piedmont, in north-western Italy. After being ordained he established several boys’ clubs and schools in Turin which very quickly flourished. He was also well known for his preaching and fundraising skills and he built several churches. In 1854, he founded what became the Salesian Congregation (Salesians of Don Bosco) to educate and look after boys, and, with St Mary Mazzarello, he founded the Daughters of Our Lady Help of Christians in 1872 to educate and look after girls. He died in 1888.

February 1:         Feast of St Brigid, Virgin & Secondary Patron of Ireland
Brigid was born at Faughart, near Dundalk, Co Louth, about the middle of the fifth century. She became a nun and founded a monastery in Kildare (for both men and women) and became known for her love of justice, for her compassion for the poor, and for the many miracles she worked. She was the spiritual mother of Irish nuns for many centuries and is often referred to as ‘Mary of the Gael’ (Mary of the Irish). She died about the year 525 with her principle relics being found in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, and Lumiar, Portugal.

© 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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