2nd Sunday in Lent, March 5

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A

The greatest compliment one could receive in the time of Jesus was to be called a descendant of Abraham. Remember, that’s what Jesus calls Zacchaeus, the tax collector, when the two have dinner together and people are scandalized.
What makes Abraham such a heroic figure in the bible? That will be answered partially at least in our first reading.
Abraham is in the background of our gospel story of the Transfiguration, along with so many additional biblical references. All this biblical imagery in the gospel story is exquisitely organized to point us in one basic direction toward the future. What will happen to Jesus in the gospel and what happens to us in life.
The second reading is a stunningly beautiful summary of how we are transformed by the grace of Christ.  It puts in formal Christian language what the gospel story suggests in biblical imagery.  But this second reading echoes the gospel, too, when it speaks of the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, February 19

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

We modern day Americans think of “law” as regulations imposed by the state based on a legal constitution. The law has nothing to do with religion, which is entirely a matter of private conscience.
But in ancient Israel there was no such distinction. People believed that the law came from God. Obeying the law is what made them a nation and civilized their society.
In our first reading, we get a very small snippet of this Jewish law. One of the great triumphs of the human spirit is the Jewish law that originates at the very beginning of recorded human history.

In the gospel, we continue reading through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus reflects on this great tradition of Jewish law. He takes the law a step further by internalizing it. The law involves not just external conformity and legal compliance. According to Jesus, it applies to what his deepest within us, our motivations and real intentions. Ultimately, Jesus will argue for the law based not on obedience alone, but on love.
In the middle reading, Paul turns from his own identification, which has occupied him so far in the letter, to remind his listeners who they are, their true nature. Imagine someone in Paul’s audience living in a world that denigrates the dignity of the average citizen. Such a person lives in a city with fine buildings that serve as temples to the pagan gods, gods that have no regard for people and need to be constantly placated to avoid their wrath. But all of a sudden, he hears the pronouncement from Paul’s lips: “You are a temple of God.” How life transforming such a description of the human person those words can be if we can accept such a profound truth.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, February 5

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

In last week’s gospel, we heard the list of Beatitudes which make up the opening verses of Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew, the so-called Sermon on the Mount. We will continue reflecting on Jesus’ first sermon over the next couple of weeks. 
There are so many suitable texts from the Old Testament to choose from as our first reading, to introduce the gospel readings. So many of Jesus’ statements echo similar verses in the biblical prophets. Today is a classic example.
As we move through the Sermon, Jesus will at times take exception to some Old Testament sentiments. But that doesn’t happen this week. Both readings are totally complementary. Jesus challenges his followers to proclaim the gospel by virtuous deeds. And then in the first reading, Isaiah describes the classic praiseworthy behaviors that the people of Israel are to observe. Both readings appeal to the imagery of bringing light into a darkened world.
In the middle reading, we have hardly advanced beyond the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul introduced himself as both humble and boastful. He admits his weaknesses and human limitations. But at the same time, he claims that “Spirit and power” are on his side. Both of these self-descriptions, seemingly contradictory, follow from Paul’s deep spirituality and his vocation as a proclaimer of the gospel.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 22

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 22

The first reading and the gospel will be extensively discussed in this week’s reflection, so no need here for an introductory commentary. But turn your attention to today’s responsorial psalm. As is so often the case, the psalm puts the readings directly into a prayer context. We know that Jesus himself prayed the psalms. They inspired his preaching and even more the actions of his ministry.
Perhaps this is precisely the psalm Jesus prayed over as he brought the light to a land of darkness at the very beginning of his ministry.
For our second reading, all you have to do is change some of the proper names mentioned in Paul’s letter in order to address the letter to today’s Catholic Church, or to the  political and social world in which we live. In Paul’s day, as is true today, people divided themselves into camps under titles like “Paul,” “Apollos,” “Cephas,” even “Christ.” It all seems quite ridiculous. Paul resisted that kind of partisanship in the Church because he could see how it weakens the cause of Christ. Something for us to attend to in our own day.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.