11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Today’s readings remind us that the Kingdom of God has already been sown by Our Lord and continues to grow with us or without us, because it grows due to God’s power, just like nature does. It can grow in and through us too if we cultivate it in our hearts.

In today’s First Reading Ezekiel describes the Messiah as a tender shoot taken off the main tree—the royal stock of David. The Messiah will be established on the heights but will also grow to be tall and sheltering for all those who can reach those heights. Other kings and their lines will look upon the Messiah’s prosperity and realize that it is the Lord who blesses them or lets their lineage fade away, fruitless. Many “birds” will find shelter in this tree, but they must fly very high.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that the way we use this dying mortal body will determine what it grows into in eternity. Our mortal bodies grow old and die whether we are good or evil, but our eternal life depends on what we do with our earthly life. The seed of eternal life is sown in us through Baptism. We can nurture it and water it with the grace of a holy life, or we can neglect it and focus so much on pleasing a dying earthly body that our eternal life is at risk. Our Lord wants our earthly life to flourish and blossom into something wonderful. We truly grow to the degree that we work with Our Lord’s grace in us.

When Our Lord begins his public ministry the core of his message is that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and conversion and faith in the Gospel are needed. In today’s Gospel he gives us two parables to understand what the Kingdom of God is: the sowing and reaping of grain and the growth of a mustard seed. By teaching in parables he is trying to explain deeper spiritual realities using the everyday realities understood by his listeners.

The Kingdom of God reflects this profundity: it is reflected in the Church and her work, but it also the whole work of salvation, of God conquering hearts, one by one, throughout the centuries, until his reign of love endures forever in the hearts of those who welcomed it. The example of the grain shows us that this requires cultivation, waiting for the right time to reap the spiritual harvest of our labors, but also that God does the heavy lifting. The growth that is quiet, slow, and unseen, at times even when we’re not doing anything, comes from him and from his grace working in our souls and in the souls of others.

The example of the mustard seed shows that it starts small: in Jesus’ earthly ministry it went from him, to twelve disciples, then to thousands by the time narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, and to the whole world and throughout history. The Kingdom doesn’t just represent something small that has an incredible capacity for growth and expansion; like the cool shade of the mustard plant it makes room for everyone to find rest and consolation, because God wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that Our Lord gave more explanations in private to the disciples: deeper spiritual realities are understood more fully through parables and explanations, but since they ultimately refer back to the deepest mystery–God–they’re never completely fathomable. If a mustard seed, wheat, or cedar can help us fathom the mysteries of God, what other everyday things that we take for granted have the same power? Spend some time this week admiring nature and asking yourself, “what does this creation teach me about its Creator?”

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22–24; Psalm 92:2–3, 13–16; 2 Corinthians 5:6–10; Mark 4:26–34.

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Today’s readings remind us that if circumstances make us choose between God’s will and our family, as painful as it may be, we have to choose God’s will.

In today’s First Reading Adam is busted. He put more trust in Eve than in God and Fell. Sacred Scripture does not say Eve duped Adam. She offered him the forbidden fruit and he let doubt about the Lord enter into his heart and sinned. When Adam says it was the woman “whom you put here with me” it’s almost as if he’s accusing the Lord himself of putting him into this situation. Eve tries to pin all the blame on the serpent, but she is an adult, responsible for her own actions. Sin may appear at times as the way to salvage or consolidate a relationship, but it always drives us wedge between us and between us and God. Today’s First Reading shows us that those cracks may not appear at first, but they’re not long in coming.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us God’s will is not that we should choose between him and our family, but that our family should be united in faith. The Lord wants us to do his will because it is good and because it will be a source of abundant blessings for all people of good will. As believers we’re called to share one spirit of faith in Our Lord and in his promise of eternal life. Our Lord acts for our benefit, not against it, and he wants his grace to fill us so much that it “spills out” into grace for more and more people. When we’re faced with the difficulties, frailties, and uncertainty of a Fallen world we must not lose our trust in the Lord and in his promises. Ultimately that spirit of faith is our openness and collaboration with the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord encourages us to focus on doing his Father’s will as something good. If we question the motives of God’s actions—Father, Son, or Holy Spirit—trouble awaits. Today’s Gospel invites us to imagine what was going through the mind of Our Lord’s family when news began to reach them of everything happening in his ministry: healings, people mobbing him from all over Palestine, non-stop work that didn’t even leave him time to eat, and an escape by boat as the only way to keep the crowds from flocking around him and following him constantly.

Today’s Gospel says simply that he “came home”; it’s not clear whether he’d come to his house or not, but the mention of the family’s reaction might infer it, although the Gospel only says they heard of what he was doing. The reaction of Our Lord’s family serves to underscore the apparent insanity of the situation, so much that they’re wondering whether Jesus himself is insane. The reaction on the part of the people may seem disproportionate, but it also shows how lost and in need of truth and healing humanity was since the Fall. Since Adam and Eve, all the way to the coming of Our Lord, all generations were lost, and now, in the crazy world that resulted, Our Lord has come to find the lost.

Today’s Gospel is also a strong admonition regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. An unforgivable sin should give pause to anyone, but in this case Saint Mark explains what the Lord is condemning: calling the Holy Spirit an “unclean spirit.” Jesus works his miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, but the scribes claim the demon Beelzebub is powering his works. A clearer blasphemy is not possible. If we see God’s will as bad, we see him as bad, and that’s not good. That is a sin, just like Adam and Eve at the start of salvation history, and we must reconcile with God and reconcile with his will for us and for all those we love.

Don’t shift the blame to Our Lord this week for anything in your life that is not going as you’d like. Adam and Eve tried to shift the blame for their faults to others. If we accept the blame for what we’ve done the path to reconciliation and peace is opened. The worst tactic is pinning the blame on Our Lord for our sins or the sins of others that have affected us. Our Lord detests sin as much as we do and more. Let’s put the blame where blame is due: on sin.

Readings: Genesis 3:9–15; Psalm 130:1–8; 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1; Mark 3:20–35.

9th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

Today’s First Reading invites us to hasten the end of the world as we know it. Why would we want the world to end? It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. As believers the Lord has promised us, as St. Peter reminds us, “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” If we do want this new world to come St. Peter today also answers the question of, “why wait?”

In the face of so much struggle and evil in the world, why not just end it all? Because of the people who’d be left out. The Lord’s waiting for us, and for others, to welcome the Gospel. The patience of Our Lord is always for the purpose of salvation.

We “hasten” that day by sharing the Gospel and working for the conversion of sinners. Let’s help spread the Gospel so that the Lord’s righteousness reigns.

Readings: 2 Peter 3:12–15a, 17–18; Psalm 90:2–4, 10, 14, 16; Mark 12:13–17. See also 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle B

Today we celebrate not only the gift of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Our Lord, but the covenant sealed through Our Lord’s Precious Blood.

In today’s First Reading the old covenant that the Lord established with the people of Israel is sealed with the blood of a sacrifice. The old covenant involved the shedding and sprinkling of blood. The altar represented God, and by sprinkling the blood on it and the people a communion of life was established that would be maintained for as long as they followed the precepts stipulated. The Lord didn’t need to do it, but, after the sins of humanity, the people of Israel did. That covenant was renewed repeatedly in Jewish worship through the sacrifice of animals and the shedding of their blood, with the hope of atoning for having transgressed the covenant. This covenant and the sacrificed blood that sealed were just a foreshadowing of the covenant to come.

When God became man he chose to become that sacrifice, to shed his own blood in order to establish a new and everlasting covenant. If the blood of animals produced a spiritual benefit for those who were offering it, today’s Second Reading reminds us how much more spiritual benefit comes from the blood of Christ, who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world. Moses in the First Reading ratified the covenant with the blood of bulls; the Second Reading reminds us that Jesus has ratified the new covenant with his own blood. It’s one thing to sacrifice something of value and make amends; it’s a whole other level to sacrifice your very self, body and blood. In ancient religions sacrifices were made and then partaken of, eating the food or animal sacrificed, to express a communion with the deity to which the sacrifice was being made.

In today’s Gospel we see Our Lord in the Last Supper establishing a new and eternal covenant that would be sealed with his sacrifice on the Cross. Our Lord established the sacrament of his Eucharist in an unbloody way, at the Last Supper, enabling his disciples to partake of his body and blood sacramentally so that they wouldn’t have to physically. However, that didn’t preclude Our Lord from physically sacrificing himself on the Cross. We celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ because they are now the one sacrifice to restore and maintain our communion with God. We offer and receive this sacrifice in an unbloody manner, under the appearance of bread and wine, in part because Our Lord didn’t want our squeamishness to keep us from coming to him as the Bread of Life. We remember today that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ so that we never forget that a sacrifice has been made once and for all the forgiveness of sins: our sins, not his.

Our Lord has always been faithful to the covenant. Some people try “cut a deal” with Our Lord when they really want something: “Lord, give/do this and I’ll give/do that.” The covenant Our Lord sealed with his Precious Blood is meant to keep us happy, holy, and secure. We break that covenant when we sin, but Our Lord doesn’t back out of the deal. Let’s keep up our end of the bargain.

Readings: Exodus 24:3–8; Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16, 17–18; Hebrews 9:11–15; Mark 14:12–16, 22–26. See also Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle B

We always start our prayers by making the Sign of the Cross to remind us of the greatest mystery of our faith: the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. It’s not a mystery as seen on TV where CSI checks a crime scene, fingerprints and DNA evidence, witnesses: it’s something so big that it doesn’t fit into our head. We couldn’t have ever figured out on our own that God was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God revealed himself to us as the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus came and said he was God’s Son, and that meant God was his Father. And Jesus promised to send his Spirit after he ascended into Heaven, so the Holy Spirit was God as well. This is something so mysterious that we believe it because Our Lord taught it to us and we believe in him.

Moses in today’s First Reading reminds the Israelites, as he reminds us, that this great mystery of faith is totally God’s initiative. God chose to reveal himself to us as he is: the one true God. At the time of the Israelites, every nation had its god, and they all believed along with the big wars of nations there were always big wars between the gods as well, big gods and little gods: a whole pantheon of gods. God revealed himself to the Israelites as the one and only God, and he showed it by going into Egypt, that had, according to the Egyptians, the most powerful gods, and he took Israel out of Egypt showing his power and made them into a nation with him as their God.

The nation of Israel showed the world that not only was their God the most powerful God, he was the One and Only God. That revelation was a preparation so that one day God would send his Son and reveal to us that not only was there One God alone, which was what the Israelites believed, but that God is the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s the greatest mystery of our faith.

In today’s Second Reading Paul describes what happens to us at Baptism. On the day you were baptized, a minister poured water on your head (or immersed you in the water) three times, and each time he poured it he said “I baptize you in the name of the Father … and of the Son … and of the Holy Spirit.” In that moment you received the Holy Spirit, who made you into an adopted son of God. God became your Father. Jesus became more than your best friends: he became your big brother. The Holy Spirit was poured into your heart so you’d call God Abba—“Daddy!” Whenever we start our prayers, we remember this day of our baptism by making the Sign of the Cross and remembering the Holy Trinity and how God came into our hearts through our baptism.

Near the end of today’s Gospel Our Lord tells the disciples to go out and baptize everyone in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, but it also says the disciples “doubted.” “Doubted” is translated from a Greek word used only one other time in the Bible: when Our Lord pulls Peter out of the water into which he was sinking: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Peter stepped out onto the water with the faith he could muster but was overwhelmed. The Eleven in this moment of “doubt” are about to witness the Risen Lord’s Ascension; they don’t know what’s going to happen next. In other accounts of the Ascension from their questions they think what we call today the Second Coming was going to happen then and there.

The mystery of God is what we believe, and it is what we, as believers, share. We may not completely understand the Most Holy Trinity, but we believe. Everything we do as believers we do in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Lord reminded the Eleven, and he reminds us, that it is in the power of the Most Holy Trinity and counting on his presence that we spread the Gospel and baptize. There’s no reason to doubt.

Thank each Person of the Most Holy Trinity this week. Thank God the Father for creating us and revealing himself to Israel as the One True God. Thank God the Son for obeying his Father in Heaven and coming down and becoming man to show us that God was Our Father and enabling us to become his adopted children. Thank the Holy Spirit for transforming us into God’s adopted children and for bringing the Holy Trinity into our hearts and helping us to understand and live this great mystery of our faith.

Readings: Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40; Psalm 33:4–6, 9, 18–20, 22; Romans 8:14–17; Matthew 28:16–20. See also Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

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