Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time (Cycle I)

Monday 1 July
Genesis 18.16-33 Psalm 103 [102JB]:1-4, 8-11 Matthew 8.18-22

The desire of the two aspiring disciples to follow Jesus is at one level laudable but once they hear the conditions, we suspect that their response was ‘No thanks!’ In both cases the condition for discipleship is insecurity. The second man’s condition appears somewhat callous but the man wanted to have his bread and eat it. Jesus tells him to leave burial matters for those for whom material things such as money and wealth matter more than spiritual matters. Elsewhere Jesus expresses this choice in the words ‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Mt 6.33 NRSV). This may well explain the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah in the first reading where Abraham engages God in bargaining for the salvation of their inhabitants. Crass though the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah may sound to the modern reader it is worth remembering that God’s final word is forgiveness as the Psalmist tells us, ‘The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’

Tuesday 2 July
Genesis 19.15-29
Psalm 26 [25 JB] 2-3, 9-12 Matthew 8.23-27

The Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament both contain rich images to describe the Church, images such as the flock of God, the vineyard of the Lord, the body of Christ to name but a few. Today’s Gospel comes up with another one, the boat which takes the reader right back to Noah’s Ark. The incident described in Matthew’s Gospel can be read on three levels: that of Jesus and his disciples, that of the disciples and evangelists in the early Church and that of today’s disciples. In all three cases the immediate knee-jerk reaction to life’s turbulences is fear: ‘Save us, Lord, we are going down!’ Jesus rebukes the wind as he rebuked the demons. The first reading brings yesterday’s story to its denouement and a very unsavoury one at that but if we are to rescue anything positive out of it, it is that those who trust in God – those ‘who walk the path of perfection’ of the Psalmist – can be sure of rescue in time of trial and tribulation. The phrase translated as ‘walk the path of perfection’ in the Psalm (JB) is better translated as ‘comport oneself with integrity.’

Wednesday 3 July
St Thomas, Apostle
Ephesians 2.19-22
Psalm 117 [116 JB]
John 20.24-29

 

Today’s readings highlight two aspects: apostleship and doubt. The Gospel reading tackles doubt – associated with the apostle Thomas. Although Jesus commands him ‘Doubt no longer but believe’ we have to admit that for most of us our spiritual journey is one of faith mixed with doubt and the doubt is often not in the object of belief or unbelief but of our own epistemological inadequacy. But Thomas redeems himself quite well with the response ‘My Lord and my God.’ Elsewhere the Gospel of Mark puts matters in a manner that reflects most of us when the father of a boy suffering with a dumb spirit responds to Jesus ‘I believe, help my unbelief’ (Mk 9.24). The first reading puts apostleship alongside prophetic office as the foundation stone. And the image of the Church used there is that of a ‘Holy Temple’ – of those he destined ‘for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved’ (Eph 5.5b-6).

Thursday 4 July
Genesis 22.1-19
Psalm 115 [114 JB]: 1-6, 8-9
Matthew 9.1-8

There is no evident link between today’s first reading and the Gospel apart from the typological relationship between Isaac-Jesus and the role of faith. The first reading probably qualifies as one of Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘dark passages’ (Verbum Domini par 42). The near sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 can be seen as designed to prohibit child sacrifice which would have been prevalent in Abraham’s time and beyond. Abraham is given as a paradigm of theocentric faith – to the point of being prepared to sacrifice his son and therefore put in jeopardy God’s promise of progeny to Abraham being numbered as the stars of the heavens and the sand on the seashore (Gen 12.1-3). The issue of faith is picked up in the Gospel in the faith of the community who pull their spiritual resources together to bring a paralytic to Jesus for healing. Something of this community aspect of faith was captured in the old English translation of the Credo’s first line as ‘We believe.’

Friday 5 July
Genesis 23.1-4, 19, 24.1-8, 62-67
Psalm 106 [105 JB]: 1-5
Matthew 9.9-13

The Gospel recounts the call of Matthew – whose Hebrew name Matiyahu means ‘gift of God’ – and Jesus’ later dining with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ – two of the most loathed classes of people in first century Palestine. Tax collectors were hated because they symbolised the power of imperial Rome. Apart from being representatives of the colonisers they were also suspected of fraudulent and exorbitant taxes designed to line up their pockets with the difference after the required taxes had been retired. The sinners in this context are not an ethical or moral term but one of describing certain classes of marginalised people, such as shepherds – the subaltern or dalits. We live in a stratified society with upper, middle and lower classes. Jesus’ conviviality with tax collectors and sinners put paid to such distinctions. On Holy Thursday this year Pope Francis urged Catholic priests to go out among their flock and know the people they serve like ‘shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.’ Priests should ‘anoint’ their people by going out of themselves and particularly be with those who suffer or are marginalised.

Saturday 6 July
Genesis 27.1-5, 15-29
Psalm 135 [134 JB]: 1-6
Matthew 9.14-17

Today’s Gospel continues the account of Jesus’ conviviality with tax collectors and sinners but focuses on the issue of fasting – here associated with times of great sadness and repentance accompanied by wearing of sackcloth. Jesus admits that such times may be necessary and indeed will come but not now, in his presence, this is not the time. As the late Belgian Dominican scholar Edward Schillebeeckx once put it, the fact that Jesus’ disciples did not fast witnessed to the ‘existential impossibility of being sad in the company of Jesus.’ Fasting was a sign of sadness and sorrow. For this reason the poor and the oppressed, not too hung up on ‘respectability,’ found Jesus’ company exhilarating. And joy is the overriding emotion of the Psalmist as he invites his friends to ‘Praise the name of the Lord, praise him servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord in the courts of the house of our God.’ In the most unsavoury manner, clearly not meant for our emulation, Isaac obtains the joy of his father’s blessing by usurping his brother’s primogeniture in the first reading.

Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday 8 July
Genesis 28.10-22
Psalm 91 [90 JB]: 1-4, 14-15 Matthew 9.18-26

Today’s Gospel is a summary of two miracle stories taken from Mk 5.21-43 using the so-called ‘sandwich’ technique in which one story is sandwiched between the two ends of another. While the most accepted translation is that the woman had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, the original Greek lacks the preposition ‘for.’ In the light of the other story which mentions a twelve year old girl raised from the dead my suggestion is that we read it as ‘a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage since she was twelve.’ The point of the sandwich stories is then that one woman, for all intents and purposes has been dead since she was twelve – the age of puberty – and the other dies at the age of twelve. Jesus is therefore seen as the one who gives life to both. In the first reading Jacob acknowledges God as his source of life in the covenant formula ‘the Lord shall be my God’ and as the Psalmist says, ‘It is he who will free me from the snare.’

Tuesday 9 July
Genesis 32.23-33
Psalm 71 [16 JB]: 1-3, 6-8
Matthew 9.32-38

Today’s Gospel raises a challenge to lay pastoral leadership, particularly in the Catholic Church: How much do most Catholic dioceses invest in preparing lay leaders to take up the baton of labouring in the vineyard? Perhaps part of the answer lies in Jesus’ response when he saw the crowds; we are told that ‘he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.’ The translation ‘he felt sorry for them’ does not quite capture the Greek which means to be moved as if in one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and compassion). This is the message we reflected on 5 July when we cited Pope Francis urging Catholic priests to go out among their flock and know the people they serve like ‘shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.’ Priests should ‘anoint’ their people by going out of themselves and particularly be with those who suffer or are marginalised, Pope Francis has reminded pastoral leaders. The engine that drives this pastoral compassion is a face-to-face experience of God such as the one Jacob experienced in the first reading.

Wednesday 10 July
Genesis 41.55-57, 42.5-7, 17-24
Psalm 33 [32 JB]: 2-3, 10-11, 18-19
Matthew 10.1-7

The language of ‘authority over unclean spirits’ in today’s Gospel strikes the modern reader as archaic but the reality of mental illness cannot be doubted. Perhaps today we need to speak of ‘authority over mental illnesses.’ We may have to admit that all of us are mentally ill-at-ease and it is not a question of whether but of the extent of such mental illness. In looking at the list of those given ‘authority over unclean spirits’ it does not surprise us that they were all male. This male-centred view of discipleship does not completely mask the probability that Jesus would also have appointed female disciples as Luke 8.1-3 more than hints at. It is also not surprising that strategically the mission of ‘the Twelve’ is to ‘the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ The first reading for today has more thematic links with yesterday’s Gospel than it does today’s – compassion.

Thursday 11 July
Genesis 44.18-21, 23-29, 45.1-5
Psalm 105 [104 JB]: 16-25 Matthew 10.7-15

Today’s Gospel continues the commissioning of the Twelve began in yesterday’s account. Of the four commands given to the disciples by Jesus to ‘cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out devils’ one of them is bound to jar – raising the dead. I suspect that one way to deal with this is by spiritualising it – that Jesus meant raising the spiritually dead but I much prefer the literal meaning. Given the state of medical knowledge I think this is within our power to do. Think of the public cardiopulmonary resuscitation of the football player Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest during the first half of a match in March 2012. He received lengthy attention on the pitch from medics – including a consultant cardiologist who was at the game as a fan – and was taken to the specialist coronary care unit at the London Chest Hospital. But while the medics have received all the plaudits for saving his life, clearly we must factor in the prayers of all those who were watching the match, both at the stadium and on television, willing him on to be raised from the dead.

Friday 12 July
Genesis 46.1-7, 28-30; Psalm 37
[36 JB]:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40
Matthew 10.16-23

Today’s Gospel continues the instructions to the Twelve. There is a post-Jesus and apocalyptic feel to the warning to beware of persecution, which is best understood in the context of the early Church. It is important to remember that while in this country we are unlikely to be brought before governors and kings for speaking in the name of Jesus, there are still countries where this is an ever present danger – countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Cambodia and China. Our challenge therefore is to find practical ways we can be in solidarity with those for whom Christianity is still a dangerous undertaking. For those under such repressive regimes, ever in fear for their lives, they can take solace from the words of the Psalmist: ‘The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.’

Saturday 13 July
Genesis 49.29-33, 50.15-26
Psalm 105 [104 JB]: 1-4. 6-7 Matthew 10.24-33

Matthew continues Jesus’ locutions to the Twelve by spelling out the dangers of discipleship – which include physical death. That is an unusual way of recruiting your personnel by assuring them that they might actually be killed in the line of duty. There is a parallel between the first reading and the Gospel in that both deal with instruction; in one case a father to his sons and in the other a Rabbi to his disciples. The responsorial Psalm picks up the assurance of Jesus, ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul’ in the prayer ‘Seek the Lord, you who are poor and your hearts will revive.’ The translation of the Greek is likely to give rise to inadequate conceptions of Hebrew anthropology. The Jews did not see the soul as imprisoned in a body as did the Greeks. The Hebrew Nephesh is really the essence of being and it is this essence along with a transformed body that lives beyond the grave. It is obviously difficult to imagine what a transformed body would look like. St Paul refers to it as a ‘spiritual body’ (1 Cor 15.44). For Paul therefore it is the whole person who will be transformed.

Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday 15 July
Exodus 1.8-14, 22
Psalm 124 [123 JB]
Matthew 10.34-11.1

Matthew brings to a conclusion Jesus’ commissioning of the Twelve, opening with a troubling locution: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: It is not peace that I have come to bring, but a sword.’ One way out of this troubling passage is to interpret the sword as a metaphor for ideological conflict. That this is a problematic passage can be seen by the Lucan parallel avoiding sword and replacing it with division (Lk 12.51). The Book of Kells replaces glaudium (sword) with gaudium (joy). My interpretation is to read the two infinitives as result clauses rather than purpose clauses. The clauses therefore indicate that following Jesus in the first century Mediterranean was a dangerous undertaking sometimes resulting in family break up, division and persecution – situations not too dissimilar to contemporary persecuted Christians in Pakistan, Nigeria, Cambodia and China, whose lives, in the words of the Psalmist, are under ‘the snare of the fowler’ but always believing that the snare will be broken. Such was the snare under which the people of Israel lived according to the first reading.

Tuesday 16 July
Exodus 2.1-15
Psalm 69 [68 JB]: 3, 14,
30-31, 33-34
Matthew 11.20-24

The first reading and the Gospel today are united by the warning not to miss the opportunity to repent. But as the Psalmist says ‘The poor when they see it [God’s help] will be glad and God-seeking hearts will revive.’ The Egyptians miss the opportunity in not recognising anything special in Moses as do the inhabitants of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum in not recognising anything special in Jesus. The result is to ‘be thrown down to hell.’ This is probably not the place or the time to debate hell but suffice it to mention that here, as in many passages of scripture, hell is a metaphor for separation or alienation from God.

Wednesday 17 July
Exodus 3.1-6, 9-12
Psalm 103 [102 JB]: 1-4, 6-7 Matthew 11.25-27

Recent Gift-theories in the work of the British biblical scholar John Barclay and the Danish biblical exegete Troels Engberg-Pedersen remind us of the importance of understanding faith as gift, particularly in Paul. Paul’s notion of charis – gift is that God’s gift (2 Cor 6.1) is incongruous and is not given according to social status or in expectation of reciprocity as in the principle do ut des [I give so that you might give] of Roman religion. But there is a pre-requisite for one to recognise this gift – awe and wonder, described in today’s Gospel as the attitude of ‘mere children’ or in the first reading as a recognition that we are standing on holy ground. This recognition requires taking off our shoes – all that encumbers us from awe and wonder.

Thursday 18 July
Exodus 3.13-20; Psalm 105
[104 JB]: 1, 5, 8-9, 24-27
Matthew 11.28-30

Unlike the editors of the weekday lectionary who chose the tagline for today’s Gospel ‘I am gentle and humble of heart’ I am drawn to the invitation ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’ These words link me to the God of the first reading who reveals himself as ‘I am who I am.’ But in my case I paraphrase Ex 3.14 as ‘I will be [with you] how [I choose] to be [with you],’ contra the NRSV’s or the JB’s ‘I AM WHO I AM’ which indicate an attempt at auto-divine ontology on the part of the Hebrew God. However this text is understood, it must be borne in mind that divine being in the Hebrew Bible is defined by praxis and not by ontology. It is about the God who is and will be there for us in all our labours and our being overburdened – and who of us does not labour and is not overburdened?

Friday 19 July
Exodus 11.10-12.14; Psalm 116
[115 JB]: 12-13, 15-18;
Matthew 12.1-8

Today’s first reading must also qualify as one of Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘dark passages’ (Verbum Domini 42). It is objectionable at least on two grounds: cruelty to animals and human beings, and divine gratuitous violence. But rather than focus on the violence of God we might be better off reading this as our own human projections on God or even an ideological view of the Israelite God being greater than the Egyptian’s. In some sense the Gospel chosen for today is a critique of such a view and of religious ritual and sacrifice. ‘What I want is mercy, not sacrifice’ Jesus reminds us. It is ever so easy to think that once we have ticked all the boxes of religious ritual – such as the obligation to attend Mass – we are right with God. Perhaps this is the meaning of St Paul’s justification by faith – recognition that it is not what we do but how we stand before God that puts us in the right frame with God, as Pope John Paul II constantly reminded us operari sequitur esse [action follows being].

Saturday 20 July
Exodus 12.37-42; Psalm 136
[135 JB]: 1.10-15, 23-24;
Matthew 12.14-21

It is no surprise, in the light of Jesus’ claim that ‘Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple’ in yesterday’s Gospel, that the Pharisees in today’s Gospel began to plot against him. Matthew quotes the first [Is 42.1-7] of the servant- of -YHWH songs to show that Jesus is the suffering servant. The first reading gives an account of the liberation of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, an event in Christian hermeneutics that foreshadows the redemptive act of Jesus, the servant of YHWH. This celebration of liberation is somewhat spoiled by the Psalmist’s Halleluiah that ‘The first-born of the Egyptians he smote.’ This is yet another example of Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘dark passages’ (Verbum Domini 42).

Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday 22 July
Exodus 14.5-18; Exodus 15.1-6
Matthew 12.38-42

Memorial of St Mary Magdalene: Song of Songs 3.1-4; Psalm [62]:2-6. 8-9; John 20.1-2. 11-18

In the light of centuries’ vilification of Mary Magdalene and of the silence of women in Scripture it might be a good idea today to focus on the readings for the memorial of St Mary Magdalene. The first reading from the Song of Songs – which probably only made it into the Canon on account of allegorising the love described as the love between God and Israel – must be read, as John Paul II’s catechesis on the Theology of the Body did, as a celebration of both conjugal and celibate love. This is the kind of love displayed by Mary Magdalene in the Gospel. The kind of love immortalised in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s song ‘Don’t know how to love him’ in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar when Mary Magdalene agonises:

• I don’t know how to love him

• What to do, how to move him

• I’ve been changed, yes really changed

• In these past few days, when I’ve seen myself

• I seem like someone else

It is the kind of love that transforms – the kind of love that drove Mary to the tomb of Jesus and to become the first witness of the resurrection and its first herald: ‘Go and find the brothers [and sisters] and tell them [the good news].’ The reciprocity of this love is captured in Jesus’ call ‘Mary!’ and her response ‘Rabbuni!’

Tuesday 23 July
Exodus 14.21-15.1
Exodus 15.8-10, 12, 17
Matthew 12.46-50

Jesus’ action and words in today’s Gospel are nothing short of being callous. Jesus is portrayed as dismissing his mother and brothers with the questions, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ The point of the story is ‘Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and my sister and my brother.’ What shocks us is perhaps the suspicion that Jesus refused to give his mother and siblings the time of day but we do not know that. For all we know he might have gone on to spend the whole day with them, explaining to them what his mission was about – preaching the good news of God’s mighty acts. The first reading, supported by the responsorial psalm, is about celebrating and recognising these mighty acts of God. It is this same recognition that Jesus calls for in today’s Gospel.

Wednesday 24 July
Exodus 16.1-5, 9-15
Psalm 78 [77 JB]: 18-19, 23-28 Matthew 13.1-9

Matthew 13 is an anthology of parables on the Kingdom of God – a vignette into what the Kingdom of God is like. The opening parable is the famous and self-explanatory Parable of the Sower. The challenge is how to actualise what has been heard. As the prologue to the Book of Revelation promises: ‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near’ (Rev 1.3 NRSV). The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples is essentially a prayer for the coming of the Kingdom and as we await the fulfilment of the Kingdom we also pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ The first reading gives us an example of God as one who provides and sustains en route to the Kingdom in the story of God raining down bread from the heavens in the form of Manna, foreshadowing the Eucharist.

Thursday 25 July
Feast of St James the Apostle
2 Corinthians 4.7-15
Psalm 126 [125 JB]
Matthew 20.20-28

The mother of the saint whose feast day is celebrated today, James, and his brother John, does not exactly cover herself in glory in her rather politically motivated request of Jesus. But the request provides an opportunity for Jesus’ reply on servant leadership to the extent of giving one’s life as a ransom for others. In the first reading St Paul uses the metaphor of an earthenware jar to underscore the point that the true leader is simply one who allows him or herself to be used by God.

Friday 26 July
Exodus 20.1-17; Psalm 78
[18 JB]: 8-11; Matthew 13.18-23

Today’s Gospel is the conclusion to the Parable of the Sower in Wednesday’s Gospel. In today’s first reading we have an early guide for those entering into covenant relationship with God in the famous ‘ten words’ – the Ten Commandments. What is remarkable about the Decalogue is its vertical (Commandments 1-4) and horizontal (Commandments 6-10) dimensions and framed in terms of both the covenant and YHWH’s initiative of love. One commandment has a promise attached to it, the commandment to honour one’s parents – a rather patriarchal view as David Clines has observed1, which may encourage viewing children as a form of insurance or social security rather than a gift. But as we know, Jesus summed up the Decalogue in two great commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mt 22.38-39).

1 Clines, D.J.A., Interested Parties: The Ideology of Writers and Readers of the Hebrew Bible (2009) Sheffield Phoenix Press.

Saturday 27 July
Exodus 24.3-8
Psalm 50 [49 JB]: 1-2, 5-6, 14-15
Matthew 13.24-30

The parable of the wheat and the darnel or the wheat and the tares has a clear message – the symbiosis of good and evil is in for the long haul until the day of reckoning – and appears only in Matthew. There is something quite reassuring about this. The door to the Kingdom is always open for any one prepared to repent. The Gospel of Thomas from the Nag Hammadi Coptic Text has an abbreviated form of the parable in Saying 57. There are no significant differences between Matthew’s and Thomas’ version. The word translated as ‘darnel’ looks much like wheat in its early stages of growth – the kind of weed you would not want to sow in your worst enemy’s wheat field. As an Irish missionary bishop I knew once said ‘an analogy is always like and unlike.’ While the darnel has no chance of turning into wheat, evil doers can become good – thereby inserting themselves back into the covenant (1st reading) – and that is the good news of today’s Gospel.

Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday 29 July
Exodus 32.15-24, 30-34
Psalm 106 [105 JB]: 19-23
Matthew 13.31-35

Memorial of St Martha: 1 John 4.7-16 Psalm [33 JB]: 2-11; John 11.19-27

I have opted for the readings in honour of the memorial of St Martha for much the same reasons as I did for St Mary Magdalene on 22 July. Although the Gospel writers have edited women disciples out of the call narratives for disciples, there is emerging consensus among biblical scholars that Jesus had many female disciples, as Carla Ricci has persuasively argued1, Martha appears to have been one such follower. And in today’s Gospel she gives us the famous profession of faith: ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the son of the living God, the one who has come into the world’ not unlike the Petrine profession of faith: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16.16 NIV). The alternative Gospel reading from Lk 10.38-42 underscores Martha’s discipleship where Luke has her take the position of a disciple at the feet of Jesus when ‘she sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.’

1 Ricci, C., Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women who followed Jesus (1994, Burns & Oates, London)

Tuesday 30 July
Exodus 33.7-11, 34.5-9, 28
Psalm 103 [102 JB]: 6-13
Matthew 13.36-43

Today’s Gospel is the explanation for the parable of the wheat and the darnel of 27 July (Mt 13.24-30), so we can instead focus on one of the stories about Moses from today’s first reading. Moses is presented as a man of prayer. ‘The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.’ But this idyllic picture of Moses communing with God is spoiled by the image of God as one ‘who lets nothing go unchecked, punishing the father’s fault in the sons and in the grandsons to the fourth generation.’ Rather than interpret this as revealing who God is in his essence, this is a human portrayal and an inaccurate one at that. But it does point to what I can only describe as the communal aspect of both faith and unbelief. Both can be said to be passed on from one generation to another but the good news is that our faith is able to break the chain of unbelief which may be present in our families as long as we are ready to speak with God face to face.

Wednesday 31 July
Exodus 34.29-35
Psalm 99 [98 JB]: 5-7, 9
Matthew 13.44-46

St Ignatius of Loyola:
1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1
Psalm 34 [33 JB]: 2-11
Luke 14.25-33

St Ignatius of Loyola is clearly one of our spiritual giants. It is a pity that his feast day is a memorial. Today’s first reading for the memorial of St Ignatius must have been chosen by a Jesuit. It contains the verse ‘whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God’ which reminds us of the Jesuit motto ad majorem Dei gloriam (‘for the greater glory of God’). The full phrase attributed to St Ignatius is: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem (‘for the greater glory of God and salvation of humanity’). The Gospel for the memorial describes in the starkest manner possible the choice that faces the disciple: ‘If a man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.’ For some readers the expression ‘without hating’ grates, but if we understand it as an absolute way of presenting options and imperative to choose one, the phrase becomes understandable. And that is what St Ignatius did. Although coming from a wealthy background, like St Francis, he gave himself to the reformation of the Church from within.

Thursday 1 August
Exodus 40.16-21, 34-38
Psalm 84 [83 JB]: 3-6, 8, 11
Matthew 13.47-53

The dragnet in today’s Gospel parable is a weighted net dragged along the bottom of a body of water designed for maximum haul of an assortment of fish. This parable is similar to the parable of the wheat and the darnel we saw on 27 and 30 July and has a similar message. And as we noted there the good news is that between now and the day of reckoning the sinner has ample time to repent. It helps if, in the words of the Psalmist, one is ‘longing and yearning for the courts of the Lord.’ The courts of the Lord are described using the image of the portable Tabernacle that accompanied the people of Israel on their journey to the Land of Promise. It is a fitting metaphor that on life’s journey we are always accompanied by God.

Friday 2 August
Leviticus 23.1, 4-11, 15-16, 27
Psalm 81 [80 JB]: 3-6, 10-11 Matthew 13.54-58

The first reading introduces us to the rather neglected book of Leviticus. It appears to have been a manual for Temple personnel. The modern reader is likely to regard the rules and regulations as obsolete but that would be to miss the point: to remind that the secular and the religious are closely intertwined as the festivals introduced in today’s first reading attest. The genius of these feasts is their opportunity to transcend the ordinariness of everyday life, an opportunity missed by Jesus’ townspeople who are unable to see beyond the boy from next door in today’s Gospel.

Saturday 3 August
Leviticus 25.1, 8-17
Psalm 67 [66 JB]: 2-3, 5, 7-8 Matthew 14.1-2

There is something quite timeless about today’s first reading in its proclamation of the Jubilee year – an opportunity to give rest to the land and to renew covenant relations. In a utilitarian and capitalist culture all this may come across as loss of functionality and profit. This is evident in our consumerist culture and seven days a week shopping. Paradoxically it is Jubilee rest that ensures maximum profitability, both materially and spiritually. One person not interested in maximisation of spiritual profit is Herod the Tetrarch whose killing of John the Baptist for a song and dance is recounted in today’s Gospel.

Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday 5 August
Numbers 11.4b-15; Psalm 80.12-17
Matthew 14.22-36

Feast of St Mary Major; Revelation 21.1-5; Judith 13.18-19; Luke 11.27-8

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.

In the Ordinary readings and the readings associated with the Feast of St Mary Major, there is a common yearning – to find the nourishing place. In the ordinary readings there are complaints about the desert, the Sinai, bereft of cucumbers, leeks and garlic – the Israelites long for well-fed slavery rather than hungry freedom. Jesus, on the hillside, feeding the crowds in a lonely place, but despite the miracle of sharing it is still not home.

No, the Gospel of Luke tells us that it is the Word of God that is true soul food, with which even that most intimate nourishment, a mother’s milk, cannot compare.

Be with us Lord as we feast on your Word and Sacrament.

Tuesday 6 August
Transfiguration
Daniel 7.9-10,13-14; Psalm 96.1-9
Matthew 17.1-9

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of our human condition: ‘This jack, joke, poor potsherd is immortal diamond.’ (Nature’s Bonfire).

It is one of the delights of Christian revelation that while we acclaim the glorious Lord as Son of God, Jesus referred to himself as Son of Man. We set our clocks and calendars by his broken hands stretched upon the cross because beneath the evident mortality of the Son of Man or ‘Human One’ there is the shining power of creative grace. This truth, glimpsed briefly by his puzzled friends on the Mountain of Transfiguration, is the vision of our destiny unveiled, a hint of the resurrection which no disciple ever saw.

Was it a revelation of the Son as truly God or the Son as truly Man? Or both?

Lord, transfigure us and transfigure our disfigured world in the light of your l

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