7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 20

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In recent months, we Americans have become sadly aware of what a problem it is to transfer power from one presidential administration to another. This is nothing inew in the world. Throughout history, conflicts and wars have plagued nation-states as they maneuver a change in leadership. The history of ancient Israel is no exception. The Bible is full of tragic stories of deposed kings and rulers imposed by foreign powers vying for power. The story of King Saul and David is perhaps the most classic conflict of politcal succession in the Bible.
By the end of his rule, Saul had become a totally corrupt leader, bent on doing anything he could to retain power. His goal was to kill David, his main competitor for the throne. In today’s first reading, David finally gains the upper hand and has Saul completely at this mercy. Finally, David can exact his vengeance for all the harm Saul has inflicted upon him. What does David do to retaliate against Saul?
This first reading is a good backdrop to the gospel reading. We are continuing the “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke’s gospel, the part where Jesus teaches how we should treat our enemies. David very much abided by the lesson that the gospel teaches us.
Our second reading is vintage St. Paul as he reflects upon the contrast and connection between our human nature and the gift of divine grace that so exalts us.
Walter Modrys SJ

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

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

I once heard a knowledgeable student of the Bible suggest that of all the characters we meet in the Bible, the one who most closely resembles Jesus is the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, we could say in very informal terms, “lets it all hang out.” 
He pours out his emotions, the negative feelings as well as his consolations. The verses from the very beginning of the book of Jeremiah that are quoted in our first reading hint at the turmoil and opposition Jeremiah will experience in his life. Jeremiah is to be a pillar of iron and a wall of brass against the kings and princes who will oppose him. It will be a fight, Jeremiah is told, but Jeremiah will prevail.
In today’s gospel, Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry will face that kind of nerve rattling opposition. His very life will be threatened. Jeremiah and Jesus survive because of their absolute trust in the God who has called them to witness to the truth.
On another topic, we continue our reading through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church with the beautiful ode to charity. I can’t help wondering if these verses reflect Paul’s own struggle to live a life animated by love. We know from his letters, that Paul was a passionate personality, susceptible to bouts of impatience and anger and even biting sarcasm. Perhaps that is what makes his description of love so inspiring. Paul captures not just the beauty of this virtue of love. He also hints at the battle we must wage within ourselves truly to love one another.
—Walter Modrys SJ

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

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, January 23

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

The Bible tells us that after the people of Israel had returned from the exile in Babylon in 515 BC, they faced the daunting challenge of rebuilding their country and Jewish society. This required a political reform, but even more, a religious revival. Our first reading takes us back to this period of reconstruction in the history of Israel. It’s a long story, occupying much of the Old Testament.
Ezra and Nehemiah were the two Jewish leaders that led the effort and played a crucial role in the very beginning of the campaign of reconstruction.
Today Ezra stands before the people to declare the reestablishment of the Jewish law in the land. It’s a great moment in Jewish history, for the identity of the nation is intertwined with the observance of the Law of the Lord, which had disappeared during the exile. The reconstituted law is the base on which the new Israel has to be built. Note the highly emotionally charged response of the people to this proclamation. As Ezra reads the script, Nehemiah directs the people to express their joyful recognition of this triumphal moment.
In the Lectionary, this reading was obviously chosen as an Old Testament precedent for Jesus’ action in the gospel. The setting for Jesus is far more humble—just a small gathering of people in the local synagogue—but the profound effect on the people hearing the proclamation is the same—at least in the beginning of the encounter. Especially striking is Jesus’ bold declaration that what Isaiah foretold is right now being realized in their midst. All this is recounted in Chapter Four of Luke. But the lectionary includes as well the opening verses at the very beginning of Luke’s gospel. This is the highly stylized and formal introduction to Luke’s Gospel that Luke wrote in imitation of the literary style of his day.
On a different topic, our second reading is Paul’s brilliant comparison between the physical workings of our bodies and the way the community of God’s people is to join together in a unified purpose.  There is a constant need for us to work against all the divisive forces that have plagued the church and society in every age.
—Walter Modrys SJ

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