1st Sunday of Advent – Entering the Light

Photo by Ethan Milrad on Unsplash

In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
(Isaiah 2:2–3)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
First Sunday of Advent
Romans 13:11–14
November 27, 2022

For three of the four Sundays of Advent, our second reading will be from St. Paul’s “Letter to the Romans.” We have read this letter together many times and indeed spent an entire summer on one section. You may find our introduction to the Letter to the Romans helpful. We need only note now that Paul as a Roman citizen could not be executed as cavalierly as a non-citizen. He was being sent to Rome as a prisoner to be tried by the Emperor. The Roman prison system was somewhat haphazard, and a well-connected detainee could arrange for what would amount to house arrest. Paul needed the help of the Roman Church to do this, but he had become very controversial. This letter was at least in part his attempt to show that he was, in our terms, an orthodox believer and a stable person. It is a great gift to us because it provides Paul’s clearest attempt to present his teachings in an orderly manner.

The passages that we will read for the next two weeks are Paul’s comments on the return of Jesus and the establishment of the kingdom. This is fitting for the Advent season. Advent means “arrival or coming” We immediately think of Christmas, but the liturgy of the church focuses on this for only the last week of Advent. Until December 16, the readings and prayers look at the consequences of the return of the Lord.

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Christ the King – Accepting No Substitutes

Cristo Rey (Christ the King), 1953, Cali, Colombia
(About this Image)

Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:42–43)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Solemnity of Christ the King
Colossians 1:12–20
November 20, 2022

We examined selections from the Letter to the Colossians earlier this year. Indeed, we read Colossians 1:15–20. Today we add verses 12–14 and do so on the Solemnity of Christ the King. Our emphasis previously was on the healing of the cosmos with ecological considerations. Today it will how and where Jesus leads us.
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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Working Well in Preparation of the Lord’s Return

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell there.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy,
Before the LORD who comes,
who comes to govern the earth,
To govern the world with justice
and the peoples with fairness.
(Psalms 98:7–9)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Thessalonians 3:7–12
November 13, 2022

Today, we conclude our examination of 2nd Thessalonians. As we have noted previously much of it is a mystery. We are uncertain who wrote it, to whom or when. We are certain only that the author, who may very well have been St. Paul himself, had read Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians and was very familiar with the other writings of St. Paul. He also had a distinct message or, to be more precise, two messages. Today we will examine the second message and again seek not to lose the forest for the trees.

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Guided by Jesus

Center stained-glass window of St. Charles Borromeo parish
(About this Image)

The Church asks us to understand that Christ,
who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again.
When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come,
at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts,
bringing with him the riches of his grace.
(Pastoral Letter of St. Charles Borromeo )

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5
November 6, 2022

Last week, we began reading the “Second Letter to the Thessalonians” at Mass. This letter presents many complicated technical issues that may obscure a remarkably simple message about the afterlife, indeed, a very traditional one. Many Jews, most noticeably the Pharisees, believed that the Messiah would come, all the dead would rise from their graves and be divided between the good and bad. The 12 tribes of Israel would be restored and there would be an earthy reign of Justice. The early Church, most brilliantly but not exclusively St. Paul, adapted but did not fundamentally change this schema. Jesus would return, the dead would rise and be judged, but as he is more than the Messiah, all humanity would be brought into the kingdom which he would rule. Those who read this letter would have agreed with this. The problem was as Jesus has already been with us, why is he waiting so long to return and begin the kingdom and what are the consequences? A fuller account of this may be found in last week’s commentary.

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Faith Revealing Truth

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus,
James Tissot, 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Thessalonians 1:11–2:2
October 30, 2022

We shall be reading the second letter to the Thessalonians for the next three weeks. It presents considerable technical problems. Scholars are uncertain who wrote it, from where, to whom, and indeed when. Some of these issues are interesting but examining them too closely may obscure that the letter reveals a consensus on the meaning of Jesus’ return for all time and fake news for ours.

The letter is called of “Second Letter to the Thessalonians.” It may not have been written by Paul nor to the Thessalonians, but it does examine the major theme of the letter, the return of Jesus.

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Living as a Christian Leader

The Pharisee and the Publican,
James Tissot, c. 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:10–14)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18
October 23, 2022

We will complete our reading of 2nd Timothy this week. We have suggested that it was written by an associate of St. Paul soon after the apostle’s death. The author mentions many people who we can presume were real and that they and their stories were known to the Pauline community. We have approached the letter as a novel in the form of a letter. This does not mean that the incidents related did not happen to Paul and the original readers were not unaware of them.

This is also the end of the letter, and the author will bring the many themes that he has examined throughout the letter together. The chapter begins with Paul commissioning Timothy as a church leader:
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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Being Formed in His Word

Old Woman Praying, Arent de Gelder, c. 1700

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.'”
(Luke 18:1–5)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Timothy 3:14-4:2
October 16, 2022

We continue today with our reading of the 2nd letter of St. Paul to Timothy. We are approaching it as an epistolary novel. Although the author is not St. Paul, he is writing not long after Paul’s death to people known by Paul and the community. His overall aim is to show that Paul’s gospel can continue without Paul but not without the ideas that Paul believed and the virtues he lived. One of the advantages of this novel approach is that it shows us the importance of a personal relationship with those with whom we wish to share the good news.

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