Divine Mercy Sunday – Building Up the World

In Christ and Divine Mercy, image of Divine Mercy apparition to Sr. Faustina Kowalska, Stained Glass Inc. (CC license)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Divine Mercy Sunday
1 John 5:1-6
April 11, 2021

From now until the Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 16) our first readings will be from the Acts of the Apostles, our second readings from the first letter of St. John and (with one exception) our gospels from St. John. We will take this opportunity to look at the 1st Letter of John with special care. It will bring the entire message of the community which formed around the Beloved Disciple into greater clarity. We must begin by noting that this is the work of a community over time. The Gospel and Letters of John were composed as the community developed and they mark the signs of this growth. Scholars have detected four stages:

(1) The “Beloved Disciple” (usually referred to as John) – This Gospel many times remarks on the close relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple and that he may have lived longer than the other disciples. He was an eyewitness to the events that the Gospel relates. This Gospel shows greater familiarity with Jewish customs and rituals and the geography of the Holy Land than the others. That the Gospel of John and other writings can be traced to an eyewitness is more than plausible as is its connection to a charismatic figure as we can assume the beloved disciple was.

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Easter – The Depth of His Love, The Depth of Our Need

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Tomb, Eugène Burnand, 1898, Musée d’Orsay
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Easter Sunday
Colossians 3:1–4
April 4, 2021

The readings for Easter Sunday are all from the New Testament. Of the available options, we will look at Colossians 3:1–4. Discussions on Colossians usually become overly concerned if it was written by St. Paul or a disciple. This is of scholarly interest, but we need to remember that no matter who wrote it, Colossians is still inspired. It speaks to matters which are eerily relevant to our own day.

We should look at “Why a letter to the Colossians?” and “Who were the philosophers who are being opposed?”

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Palm Sunday – Beginning Our Journey

Entry into Jerusalem, Wilhelm Morgner, 1912, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany.
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Gospel
Passion (Palm) Sunday
Mark 14:1—15:47
March 28, 2021

The first reading for Passion (Palm) Sunday is the same every year: Isaiah 50:4-7. We reviewed it last year and, as it was during the Pandemic, my comments would not have changed. It will be interesting to look at it again next year when we should be able to see what the new normal has been.

As always, we will read the Passion and let us examine a question about it for which the answer can only be found in the Old Testament and Jewish custom: “Why did Jesus die during Passover week?”

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5th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Transforming Our Hearts

Jesus Wept, James Tissot, 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum.

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jeremiah 31:31-34
March 21, 2021

This week we once more have a choice of readings. Jeremiah will be read at the 9 AM Mass and Ezekiel at the 11:15 AM Mass. We will examine Jeremiah today and call attention to the commentary on Ezekiel from last year.

Jeremiah was a most fascinating and complex person. We can find his background in the commentary for Oct. 28, 2018. He was cursed to live in interesting times and in an interesting place. The kingdom of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital found herself between two great empires. Egypt was always at the south and the north passed between several powers in Judah’s 400-year history. Judah was able to maintain at least formal independence by playing one power off against the other. This required that the kings of Judah be nimble and lucky. As a young man, Jeremiah saw a political and religious renaissance but he lived to see the end of the Kingdom. This was death in slow motion from a fatal misjudgment of who really had power in 611 to the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586.

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Second Sunday of Lent – God’s Power and Love

Sacrifice of Isaac, Caravaggio, c. 1603, Piasecka-Johnson Collection (Princeton)
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22:1–2, 9a, 10–13, 15–18
February 28, 2021

Our reading today from the book of Genesis is usually called the “sacrifice of Isaac.” It is important to the three great monotheistic religions. The Jews call it the Aqedah (the binding) and it is important for liturgy, especially Rosh Hashanah and mysticism. Christians see it as forerunner of the sacrifice of Jesus. For Muslims Isaac is the perfect Muslim as, for them, he willingly submits to being sacrificed. These developments are important, but not as important or as immediately meaningful, as the original intent. We need first however look at two aspects of the story.

This is the dramatic center of the four stages of the relationship between Abraham and God.

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1st Sunday of Lent – God’s Radical Invitation

Noah’s Thanksoffering, Joseph Anton Koch, c. 1803

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 9:8–15
February 21, 2021

The story of Noah and the Ark has been the source of so many movies, children’s toys and stories, and memorable New Yorker cartoons that we can forget that it addresses many serious issues. As we look at this in Lent, we should remember that it is the first time that “covenant” is mentioned in the Bible. A covenant then as now is the way that the LORD wishes to express the kind of relationship he wants with us.

Christian and Jewish scholars agree that covenant is the legal means by which kinship is established between another individual or group. This is not a contract, a mere sharing of goods and services, but a sharing of life.  It usually consists of the stipulation of what this sharing will mean, a sacrifice of an animal, and the swearing of oaths of one or both parties. There is often a visible sign of the covenant and a common meal.

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