"Without any understanding of man's deep-seated urge to self-transcend, of his very reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one side of his personality, we cannot hope to make sense of our own particular period of history or indeed of history in general, of life as it was lived in the past and as it is lived today. For this reason I propose to discuss some of the more common Grace-substitutes, into which and by means of which men and women have tried to escape from the tormenting consciousness of being merely themselves. .... human beings have felt the radical inadequacy of their personal existence, the misery of being their insulated selves and not something else, something wider, something in Wordsworthian phrase, 'far more deeply interfused'." (Aldous
Huxley, "Appendix" from The Devils of Loudun, Penguin Books, 1971, 313f.)

Gospel Notes

Gospel for the Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (20 September 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JVineyard Owner and Laborers Parable Codex Aureus Epternacensis f76f Detail
  Vineyard Owner and Laborers - Codex Aureus Epternacensis

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager,

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Gospel for the Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (13 September 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JForgiveness

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (6 September 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JREconciliation

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (30 August 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
Jtake up your cross
 By Esther Campbell

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.” (Matthew 16:21–27 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (23 August 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM

          Symbols of Peter, John Piper
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-20).

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Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (16 August 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JGospel

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21-28 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

General

Matthew is dependent on Mark 7:24–30 for this story, though Matthew has made some interesting changes. He has changed Mark’s “the woman was a Gentile (literally Hellenis – a Greek), of Syrophoenician origin” to “a Canaanite (Chananaios) woman”; he has the woman cry out and address Jesus with the Messianic title: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon” whereas Mark does not have this address; Jesus’ initial silence and the request of the disciples are omitted by Mark; after the woman’s retort, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”, Matthew has Jesus heal the woman’s daughter because of her “great faith” while Mark says it is simply because of what she said.

For a map of Palestine in early 1st century showing where Tyre and Sidon are click here.

The scenario unfolds as a conversation. The woman addresses Jesus three times and Jesus responds twice. The disciples also address Jesus and he replies to them. This conversation grounds the event and makes it accessible to us. It is very immediate and concrete. We are drawn into the conversation.

Specific

a Canaanite woman: By saying the woman is “a Canaanite” Matthew calls to mind the ancient inhabitants of this land. This is a dramatic encounter. Jesus is here dealing with one of the traditional enemies of Israel. He not only performs the miracle for her, he acclaims her for her “great faith”. We should not underestimate the symbolic power of this action, radically expanding the Messianic vision beyond the boundaries of Israel – even to Israel’s enemies. One scholar also notes: “It is significant that this narrative immediately follows the discussion of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ in both Matthew and (Mark 7:24–30), because the woman is Canaanite and therefore ‘unclean’ from the Jewish perspective. The story solemnly declares that though she is a Gentile, her faith is sufficient to confirm her as ‘clean’ and therefore acceptable in God’s sight.” (B M Newman & P C Stine, A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, United Bible Societies, 1992, 492.) “Canaanite is found numerous times in the Old Testament, though it is used only here in the New Testament. The problem is that there was no longer a political country called ‘Canaan’ in New Testament times. Some scholars are of the opinion that this was the Semitic manner of referring to the people of Phoenicia at the time that Matthew’s Gospel was written.” (B M Newman & P C Stine, op cit, 492-493.)

Son of David: This is a messianic title. It is very significant that Matthew has the Gentile woman address Jesus with that title. This seems to confirm that Jesus himself is “radically expanding the Messianic vision beyond the boundaries of Israel” and the people beyond those boundaries are responding in “faith”. They in fact see what the religious authorities of Israel do not – or refuse to – believe.

I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel: This is unique to Matthew. It repeats Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 10:5-6 when he sends the disciples out: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Scholars are uncertain as to whether this statement is addressed to the woman or to the disciples.

she came and knelt: The Greek verb proskyneō – here translated as “knelt” – “is the verb most frequently used in the New Testament of worship in general, and it is found first in this Gospel in 2:2. The root meaning is ‘approach in dog-like fashion’, and it describes the manner in which a subject might approach a king or some other holy person or object. Consequently the meaning may be either ‘fall down and worship’ or ‘worship’. The present context suggests that the woman is either kneeling or, more likely, prostrating herself on the ground, pleading with Jesus to heal her child.” (B M Newman & P C Stine, op cit, 496.) It is entirely possible that all this happened while Jesus and the disciples were moving along. If so, it is not hard to imagine it being more than a little chaotic!

It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs: This is a statement of priority rather than a statement about Gentiles – the children of the household are fed before the pets. One scholar writes: “Commentators generally note the sayings of certain Jewish teachers who referred to Gentiles as dogs, but this does not support the argument that all Jews felt this way toward them. And there is no evidence from other New Testament sources that Jesus himself ever spoke of Gentiles in this manner. In fact, it is most probable that the saying is not intended to make a derogatory remark about Gentiles, but rather to differentiate order of priority: children (symbolizing the Jews) are fed before the household pets (dogs symbolizing the Gentiles). In a Palestinian household, which had children and household dogs, the children would be fed first, after which the dogs would be given the scraps from the table. The woman must have understood Jesus’ remark in this way, as her response in verse 27 intimates.” (B M Newman & P C Stine, op cit, 497.)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28 – we see a concrete example of Jesus giving expression to a principle that pervades his whole ministry: Laws, rituals and customs are not ends in themselves but means that are there to enable and protect and even heal people and relationships. This principle is perhaps best summed up in an incident near the beginning of Mark’s Gospel: The Sabbath is made for us, we are not made for the Sabbath – see Mark 2:27.

This can seem just a little challenging at first, maybe even scandalous. The understanding and application of the principle requires some maturity, even wisdom. There are complexities, paradoxes and subtleties here that may trap the immature and the unwise. For example, it may be necessary to bring the law to bear against individuals and groups at times, in order to serve the common good. Jesus was not an anarchist or even a revolutionary. This perhaps needs to be emphasized today when individualism has gained an ascendancy and emphasis on “my right” can be destructive of the common good.

St Thomas Aquinas speaks of a virtue not much discussed these days. It is known by its Greek name: epikeia. Epikeia – or epieikeia – was known to the ancient Greek philosophers. It means “the becoming” or “the reasonable”. Thus equity can be brought to bear in an instance not envisaged by the law. And so Aquinas teaches that there are occasions when “it is bad to follow the law, and it is good to set aside the letter of the law, and to follow the dictates of justice and the common good. This is the object of epikeia which we call equity. Therefore, it is evident that epikeia is a virtue”. Aquinas adds that “epikeia does not set aside that which is just in itself, but that which is just as established by law” (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 120, Art. 1).

The Founder of the Marist Fathers – Jean Claude Colin (7 August 1790 – 15 November 1875) – said that, on a visit to Rome, he heard a saying that appealed very much to him: “If I cannot save them with the law, I will save them without it”. A belief in God’s mercy surely demands as much? As does the parable of the Prodigal Son? And the Cross? “Rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).

I have always found it puzzling that it took Jesus so long to affirm the Canaanite woman and agree to her request. I continue to ponder that. Is it possible that Jesus is momentarily distracted by his own Jewish upbringing, with its particular laws, rituals and customs? This woman is a Gentile. She is also aggressive in seeking a response from him. Is it then possible that it suddenly hit Jesus: The source of this lady’s aggression is a combination of her pain and her belief in him? That he then does what common sense – rather than the law – demands?

A video presentation of the Reflection may be found on YouTube via https://stpatschurchhill.org/

Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (9 August 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JPeter drowning

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2 August 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JBread and Fish

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children (Matthew 14:13-21) – NRSV).

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Gospel for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (26 July 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JTreasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-45 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

General

These two parables are unique to Matthew. They form part of the so-called “day of parables” found in Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel. These parables – and the parable of the dragnet which follows – is not so much concerned with those who reject Jesus but the nature of the kingdom and what happens in the lives of those who embrace it.

Daniel Harrington writes: “Again the kingdom is compared to the whole picture that follows. The two parables (the treasure and the pearl) probably circulated as a pair. They were included in Matthew’s ‘day of parables’ on the catchword basis of the term ‘field’ in the first parable. Political conditions in Palestine and the continuing threat of invasion made the burial of one’s valuables a common way of protecting them. The implication here seems to be that the present owner had no knowledge of what was hidden in the field. The rabbis debated precisely this point—whether the buyer of the field is entitled to any treasure found in it (Lachs, 229). The parable assumes that he was.” (Daniel J Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, Liturgical Press, 2007, 207.)

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Gospel for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (19 July 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JWheat  Tares
    By Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (12 July 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JThe Sower
  van Gogh - The Sower

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

The rest of the Gospel text below is optional:

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered,

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Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (5 July 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JNoon rest from work - Van Gogh

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:25-30).

Introductory notes

General

Luke has a similar account of Jesus’ cry of gratitude in 10:21-22. In Luke it follows immediately after the announcement of woes to the unrepentant cities in Luke 10:13-16 – see also Matthew 11:20-24 – and the return of the seventy in 10:17-20.

“In the midst of a section (Matthew 11–13) largely devoted to the rejection of Jesus and his message, Matthew presents a group of sayings that highlight the revelation that Jesus brings and the kinds of people who accept it. The revelation concerns Jesus and his Father, and those who accept it are the ‘infants’ (nēpioi) rather than the professionally wise.” (Daniel J Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, Liturgical Press, 2007, 168.)

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Gospel for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (28 June 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JWelcome2

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward (Matthew 10:37-42 – NRSV).

Introductory notes

General

Today’s Gospel has specific literary and historical contexts.

The text is part of the “Apostolic Discourse” in which the challenges of the disciples’ mission are emphasized. It follows immediately upon the following text: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36 – NRSV).

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Gospel for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (21 June 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JSparrow Giovanni Da Udine

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:26-33 – NRSV).

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Gospel for the Feast of Corpus Christi (14 June 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JManna Van Gogh

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51-58 – NRSV)

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Gospel for Trinity Sunday (7 June 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JSagrada Familia nave roof detail2
  Photograph by SBA73 from Sabadell, Catalunya 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

General

This text is part of a dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, “a leading Jew who came to Jesus by night” – see John 3:1-21. Jesus has spoken to Nicodemus about being “born from above”. He goes on to teach the teacher of Israel: “I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:5-6).

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Gospel for the Feast of Pentecost (31 May 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JPentecost art-1878184 960 720

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19–23 – NRSV).

Introductory notes

General

This text follows immediately on the encounter between Mary of Magdala and the Risen Lord – see John 20:11-18: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her” (20:18). We can assume it is the same “disciples” who are huddled in a locked room “for fear of the Jews”. Did they not believe Mary? Had the truth not yet been able to penetrate through the traumatizing effects of Friday?

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Gospel for the Feast of the Ascension (24 May 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JAscension2

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

General

The ending is also the beginning. The Christian community is a missionary community:

“In his concluding paragraph (which is peculiar to this Evangelist) Matthew tells of Jesus’ meeting his disciples in Galilee and of the charge he gave them to make disciples of all the nations and to baptize them in the name of the Trinity. Many scholars have raised doubts over parts of this section, particularly over the use of the Trinitarian formula for baptism. But the arguments are all subjective: there is nothing else with which to compare the passage, and textually it is well attested. And it is very important.

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Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (17 May 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JHoly Spirit 2

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (John 14:15-21 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

General

Today’s Gospel brings together three essential themes in John’s Gospel: “Love” and “obedience” and the power of the “Advocate” to ensure the possibility of both. This is not an appeal to will power – “Get out there and love people!” and “Do as you are told!” – but rather an invitation to accept the graciousness of God, abundantly available in Jesus Christ.

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Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (10 May 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JJesus as the way

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:1-12 – NRSV)

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