4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Jer 1:4–5, 17–19:
A word of Yahweh came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”
But you, get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence!
See, I will make you a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze, against all the nations, against the kings and princes of Judah, against the priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you – it is Yahweh who speaks.”
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 12:31—13:13 (or 1 Cor 13:4–13):
Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.
If I could speak all the human and angelic tongues, but had no love, I would only be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, knowing secret things with all kinds of knowledge, and had faith great enough to remove mountains, but had no love, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I had to the poor, and even give up my body to be burned, if I am without love, it would be of no value to me.
Love is patient, kind, without envy. It is not boastful or arrogant. It is not ill-mannered nor does it seek its own interest. Love overcomes anger and forgets offenses. It does not take delight in wrong, but rejoices in truth. Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love will never end. Prophecies may cease, tongues be silent and knowledge disappear. For knowledge grasps something of the truth and prophecy as well. And when what is perfect comes, everything imperfect will pass away. When I was a child I thought and reasoned like a child, but when I grew up, I gave up childish ways. Likewise, at present we see dimly as in a mirror, but then it shall be face to face. Now we know in part, but then I will know as I am known. Now we have faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
Gospel: Lk 4:21–30:
Jesus said to the people of Nazareth, “Today these prophetic words come true even as you listen.”
All agreed with him and were lost in wonder, while he kept on speaking of the grace of God. Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s son?” So he said, “Doubtless you will quote me the saying: Doctor, heal yourself! Do here in your town what they say you did in Capernaum.”
Jesus added, “No prophet is honored in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet, and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”
On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw him down the cliff. But he passed through their midst and went his way.
Having announced his Mission (see last Sunday’s gospel), Jesus declares that in him God’s promise has been fulfilled. This promise is a promise of inclusive love that reaches out to everyone, including social outcasts like widows and lepers. Have I set my heart on the most precious of gifts—love? Does my love have the traits Paul describes? Is my love inclusive enough that looking at my love, Jesus can say, “Today the prophetic words have come true”? Genuine love is not easy. Pray for the grace to receive the highest spiritual gift—to love as God loves; to be His instrument for the fulfillment of His promises to people.
Let God’s love bathe you: “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you.” Reach out to someone who is a social outcast and do an act of loving kindness to her.
4th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Heb 11:32–40:
Brothers and sisters: “Do I need to say more?” There is not enough time to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, as well as Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they fought and conquered nations, established justice, saw the fulfillment of God’s promises, shut the mouths of lions, …they were weak people who were given strength to be brave in battle and repulse foreign invaders.
Some women recovered their dead by resurrection but there were others—persecuted and tortured believers—who, for the sake of a better resurrection, refused to do what would have saved them. Others suffered chains and prison. …However, although all of them were praised because of their faith, they did not enjoy the promise because God had us in mind and saw beyond. …
Gospel: Mk 5:1–20:
Jesus and his disciples arrived on the other side of the lake in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than he was met by a man with evil spirits who had come from the tombs. …When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at his feet and cried with a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? For God’s sake I beg you, do not torment me.” He said this because Jesus had commanded, “Come out of the man, evil spirit.” And when Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” he replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” …
Now, a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, “Send us to the pigs and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the herd rushed down the cliff and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled and reported this in the town… They were afraid. And when those who had seen it told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood.
When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed begged to stay with him. Jesus would not let him and said, “Go home to your people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.”
Upon seeing Jesus, the man living amidst the tombs runs toward him, only to beg him not to torment him. Thus we find a double internal movement: a movement toward God as well as away from God. This man is not alone in this experience, though. Most of us experience a similar double movement. Our hearts are made for God and we long for Him. Yet, when we are before God, we recoil and shy away, not wanting God to touch us and upset out familiar and comfortable ways of living, even when we know that those ways are less than wholesome. Thus we too feel like a legion, pulled apart by many conflicting movements within us.
Presumably, the townsfolk in today’s gospel felt the conflicting movement as well. They resolved the conflict by choosing their pigs and their familiar ways of life and asking Jesus to leave. The man amidst the tomb was braver and more blessed: he chose to be healed and became a missionary witnessing to what God could do to human lives. Let us pray for courage like that of the man amidst the tomb.
4th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Heb 12:1–4:
Brothers and sisters: “What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us!” So let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us. Let us look to Jesus the founder of our faith, who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary. Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?
Gospel: Mk 5:21–43*:
… Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and seeing Je¬sus, threw himself at his feet and asked him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her so that she may get well and live.” Jesus went with him and many peo¬ple followed,… Among the crowd was a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. … This woman came up behind him and touched his cloak think¬ing, “If I just touch his clothing, I shall get well.” Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint.
But Jesus was conscious that heal¬ing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”… Then the wo¬man, aware of what had happened, came forward trembling and afraid. She knelt before him and told him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daugh¬¬ter, your faith has saved you; go in peace and be free of this illness.”
… Some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead…” But Jesus ignored what they said and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” … When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion with people weep¬¬¬ing and wailing loudly. ¬Jesus entered and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at him. But Jesus sent them outside and went with the child’s father and mother and his companions into the room where the child lay. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha kumi!” which means: “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around…
Two days ago we heard that true love rejoices in truth (1 Cor 13:6). In today’s gospel we hear that the woman who touched Jesus’s cloak “knelt before him and told him the whole truth [emphasis added].” Her faith was so great that she dared to touch Jesus and lay bare her soul before him. Jesus rejoiced in her faith and declared her healed. Though an official of the synagogue, Jairus too was willing to reveal his need for Jesus publicly and received his reward.
When was the last time we told God the “whole truth” about ourselves, without reservations? We may be eager to present before God and the world the commendable parts of the truth of our lives. But there are parts of the truth that are not so flattering that we might be tempted to keep them from others, God, and even from ourselves. Such hidden truth keeps us sick. Like the woman in today’s gospel, let us dare to kneel before God in the nakedness of our souls so that He can heal us. He knows our inner secrets anyway.
4th Week in Ordinary Time
St. Paul Miki and Companions
1st Reading: Heb 12:4–7, 11–15:
Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?
Do not forget the comforting words that Wisdom addresses to you as children: My son, pay attention when the Lord corrects you and do not be discouraged when he punishes you. For the Lord corrects those he loves and chastises everyone he accepts as a son.
What you endure is in order to correct you. God treats you like sons and what son is not corrected by his father?
All correction is painful at the moment, rather than pleasant; later it brings the fruit of peace, that is, holiness to those who have been trained by it.
Lift up, then, your drooping hands, and strengthen your trembling knees; make level the ways for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but healed.
Gospel: Mk 6:1–6:
Jesus returned to his own country, and his disciples followed him. When the Sabbath came, he began teaching in the synagogue, and most of those who heard him were astonished. They commented, “How did this come to him? What kind of wisdom has been given to him that he also performs such miracles? Who is he but the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joset and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offense at him.
And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives and in their own family.” And he could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people by laying his hands on them. Jesus himself was astounded at their unbelief. Jesus then went around the villages teaching.
Mark uses a strong, expressive verb to capture the initial reaction of Jesus’s own villagers, as they listened to him in the synagogue: They were truly “astonished.” Astonishment captures an emotional reaction when one is taken by surprise by something totally unexpected. Generally, astonishment carries a positive emotional tone. Thus, Jesus’s own people were pleasantly surprised by his wisdom, eloquence, and miraculous powers. However, no sooner had they experienced astonishment than they dismissed it, and leveled Jesus off, by recalling his humble origins and pigeonholing him into familiar categories. Perhaps it was hard for them to accept that one of them was special, which left everyone else less than. Their refusal to follow up on the astonishment with openness was so great that they took offense at him, and Jesus was now left “astounded” by the intensity of their rejection.
Do I have the freshness of sight to recognize goodness in the ordinary people around me, and the generosity of heart to be receptive to it and rejoice with them?
1st Reading: Heb 12:18–19, 21–24:
What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: nor heat of a blazing fire, darkness and gloom and storms, blasts of trumpets or such a voice that the people pleaded that no further word be spoken.
The sight was so terrifying that Moses said: I tremble with fear.
But you came near to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem with its innumerable angels. You have come to the solemn feast, the assembly of the firstborn of God, whose names are written in heaven. There is God, Judge of all, with the spirits of the upright brought to perfection. There is Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, with the sprinkled blood that cries out more effectively than Abel’s.
Gospel: Mk 6:7–13:
Jesus called the Twelve to him and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over evil spirits. And he ordered them to take nothing for the journey except a staff; no food, no bag, no money in their belts. They were to wear sandals and were not to take an extra tunic.
And he added, “In whatever house you are welcomed, stay there until you leave the place. If any place doesn’t receive you and the people refuse to listen to you, leave after shaking the dust off your feet. It will be a testimony against them.”
So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent. They drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them.
One of the most fundamental virtues—perhaps the most fundamental virtue—necessary in following Christ is trust—absolute and radical trust. Perhaps it is this lesson that Jesus wanted the disciples to learn when he sent them out on this missionary journey, instructing them not to take anything for their own needs. Their needs will be provided for. I still remember a piece from a homily I heard at one particularly low moment in my journey in religious life when I was confused by its several unexpected detours: “Providence doesn’t take you where Grace cannot sustain you.” Looking back, I gratefully recognize its truth. If only we could remind ourselves of this truth and trust God more radically! For, as St. Paul reminds us, “He who called you is faithful and will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).
4th Week in Ordinary Time
Sts. Jerome Emiliani / Josephine Bakhita
1st Reading: Heb 13:1–8:
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to offer hospitality; you know that some people have entertained angels without know¬¬ing it. Remember prisoners as if you were with them in chains, and the same for those who are suffering. Remember that you also have a body. Marriage must be respected by all and husband and wife faithful to each other. God will punish the immoral and the adulterous.
Do not depend on money. Be content with having enough for today for God has said: I will never forsake you or abandon you, and we shall confidently answer: The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me? Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Consider their end and imitate their faith. Christ Jesus is the same today as yesterday and forever.
Gospel: Mk 6:14–29*:
King Herod also heard about Jesus because his name had become well-known. … He thought: “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”
For this is what had happened. Herod had ordered John to be arrested and had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him, but she could not because Herod respected John. …Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, … On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out to consult her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request: “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”
The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. …
Keeping one’s word is not always a virtue; rather, it could sometimes be a vice, especially when the “word” is false or its referent is evil. This is the mistake Herod made. He gave his word to the girl before the royal assembly; but when he knew what it entailed, he refused to change it, for he valued his credibility before human assembly. Instead, if he had valued credibility before God, he would not have committed the sin of murder.
Similarly, borrowed and unexamined ideas can be dangerous and lead to one’s soul-murder, as in the case of the daughter of Herodias. She copied the evil wish of her mother, without examining what it entailed, and thus shared in her mother’s sin.
Standing for truth may make us a minority and lead to loss of face before the world; but it surely wins us God’s favor and peace of mind.
4th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Heb 13:15–17, 20–21:
Let us, then, continually offer through Jesus a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips celebrating his name. Do not neglect good works and common life, for these are sacrifices pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are concerned for your souls and are accountable for them. Let this be a joy for them rather than a burden, which would be of no advantage for you.
May God give you peace, he who brought back from among the dead Jesus our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, whose blood seals the eternal covenant.
He will train you in every good work, that you may do his will, for it is he who works in us what pleases him, through Jesus Christ, to whom all glory be for ever and ever. Amen!
Gospel: Mk 6:30–34:
The apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, “Go off by yourselves to a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.
But people saw them leaving and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them.
As Jesus went ashore he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began a long teaching session with them.
The first reading of the day specifies three sacrifices pleasing to God: sacrifice of praise, sacrifice of good works, and sacrifice of common life. None of these is easy, hence they are sacrifices. Christian life begins and ends with praise and thanksgiving, for God is the beginning and the destiny of our lives. But praise and thanksgiving are not easy, especially when we are beset with life’s struggles and wounds. Doing good works is an expression of our love for God and neighbor, but they can be very challenging when our own needs demand attention. Life in community is integral to Christian life, but leading a common life with people of different backgrounds and personality traits can be frustrating, to say the least.
Today’s gospel shows how Jesus lived these sacrifices, especially those of common life and good works. His life was a continual praise and thanksgiving; he cares for the needs of his community of disciples, sets aside his own need for rest, and responds to people’s needs with compassion and understanding.