"The parables of Jesus seek to draw one into the Kingdom, and they challenge us to act and to live from the gift which is experienced therein. But we do not want parables. We want precepts and we want programs. We want good precepts and we want sensible programs. We are frightened by the lonely silences within the parables." [John Dominic Crossan, In Parables - The Challenge of the Historical Jesus, Harper and Row, 1973,82]

Gospel Notes

Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent (6 December 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JVoice in the wilderness

Click for a video presentation of the Homily

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

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Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent (29 November 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM

Jbe alert

Click for a video presentation of the Homily

Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake. (Mark 13:33-37 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Feast of Christ the King (22 November 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JI was hungry

Click for a video presentation of the Homily

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

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Gospel for the Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (15 November 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JParable of the Talents

 Click for a video presentation of the Homily

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’

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Gospel for the Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (8 November 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
Jparable ten virgins jorge cocco
 Jorge Cocco Santángelo

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

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:1-13 – NRSV).

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Gospel for the Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (1 November 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM

JBeatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (25 October 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JTwo Great Commandments
A video presentation of the Reflection may be found on YouTube via https://stpatschurchhill.org/

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 – NRSV)

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Gospel for the Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (18 October 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JTax Coin

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

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away (Matthew 22:15-21 – NRSV).

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Gospel for the Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (11 October 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JWedding Banquet

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

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Gospel for the Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (4 October 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JParable of the evil tenants Meister des Codex Aureus Epternacensis
  Meister_des_Codex_Aureus_Epternacensis

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

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Gospel for the Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (27 September 2020)

Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
JParable of two sons

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I will go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him (Matthew 21:28-32 – NRSV).

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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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