5th Sunday of Lent – Walking in Charity

Resurrection of Lazarus, James Jacques Tissot,
1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum

Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.”
(John 11:25–27)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Romans 8: 8–11
March 26, 2023

We return to Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have read this letter twice before this Lent and examined it in some detail during the summer of 2020. Indeed, most of this reading we saw before on July 8, 2020. We will use some of the same material today but focus on our Lenten themes and practices.

Today’s reading answered a question from the previous chapter:

Miserable one that I am!
Who will deliver me from this mortal body?

(Ro 7:24)

To our modern ears this may seem as if Paul is dividing the human being into body and soul: body, physical and bad, soul, spiritual and good, this reflected the prevailing Greek ideas of Paul’s time. Paul did not believe this, nor did his readers in Rome who were born Jews and maintained a “Jewish anthropology”. As such they would have understood and appreciated the modern philosophical statement that “we do not have a body; we are our bodies.” We are not naturally immortal. Immortality means that the true and important part of us—spirit, soul—leaves the body at death. The body ultimately deteriorates into ashes, it was just a necessary shell. Jews and Christians believe that human beings are composed of “Body and Soul” and that we need both to be human. Thus, we experience the resurrection of the body. This is the new life promised in the scriptures and can only be given by God. Paul realized that this is now accomplished through Jesus. A body is in our future, but it is one totally dedicated to the work of God.
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4th Sunday of Lent – Walking in the Light

The Good Shepherd, c. 300–350,
at the Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome (Wikipedia)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
(Psalm 23:1-3a)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Ephesians 5:8–14
March 19, 2023

We have all heard that Christians must be in the world but not of it. The author of Ephesians today shows us that this idea was with us from the beginning. As we have seen when we examined the letter to the Colossians last year and Ephesians the year before, we are not sure if these letters were written by Paul or a successor. The church has clearly taught that both are inspired and trustworthy. Let us keep in mind that Paul wrote in Romans that “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (12:2). There is at least continuity. These are the concerns of cosmopolitan urban Christians: now as well as then.

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3rd Sunday of Lent – God’s Love for Us

Woman at the Well, Carl Heinrich Bloch,
c. 1865 to 1879, Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace, Copenhagen.

Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
(John 4:13–15)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Third Sunday of Lent
Romans 5:1–2, 5–8
March 12, 2023

We return today to the letter of Paul to the Romans. This was our second reading for the first week of Lent and we will read from it again on the 5th Sunday. Romans is Paul’s closest attempt in putting his thoughts in order and it is often used at Mass. The first two verses and verse 5 from today’s reading were read for Trinity Sunday last year. Today we add three verses and apply them to Lent. Although the message is the same the different context allows them to better illuminate a different truth. As is often said the best interpreter of scripture is scripture.

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Second Sunday of Lent – Joined with Jesus

The Transfiguration (Upper Portion), Raphael,
1516-1520, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican.

While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
(Matthew 17:5)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Second Sunday of Lent
2 Timothy 1:8b–11
March 5, 2023

Today we will look at the 2nd letter to Timothy. We have not only read this letter before but have virtually read around this passage. Last year we examined 1:8 but then skipped to verse 13. The most likely reason is that verses 9–10 may be a hymn which the author has placed here for emphasis. It is something of a digression from the main point of the previous section but fits in very well with the Transfiguration that we celebrate today.

General information about 2nd Timothy can be found here.

These letters present themselves as written by St. Paul to his protégé. The first letter of Timothy examines how a church can be governed by a non-apostle. Second Timothy is more personal. Indeed, it is very warm and tender and tells the story of the friendship of Paul and Timothy in Christ. We are not, however, sure if Paul himself wrote it. We can be sure that even if Paul was dead when it was written there were enough eyewitnesses to testify that the story was true or false. Minimally but most importantly it is a depiction of an older follower of Jesus inspiring a younger one.

Inspiring someone to a be a Christian is not easy. The cross is always present. Jesus not only died but he died the most humiliating death possible. Crucifixion was designed to strip a person of his humanity and honor. This would be terrifying in any age but particularly so in the ancient world. They held honor above all things and a person was worthless if deprived of it. Jesus then would have been considered worthless. How could someone follow him? How could someone not be ashamed of him?

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1st Sunday of Lent – Committing to the Lord

Christ in the Wilderness, Ivan Kramskoi, 1872 (Tretyakov Gallery)

 At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
(Matthew 4:1–2)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
First Sunday of Lent
Romans 5:12–19
February 26, 2023

The Sunday Mass readings are organized in a 3-year cycle. During “Ordinary Time” the weeks of the year in which the priests’ vestments are green, the first reading is from the Old Testament and is chosen to reflect the Gospel. The second reading, usually from St. Paul, is on a separate theme. During other times, all three readings are chosen to reflect a single theme.

We discussed the letter to the Romans during the summer of 2020. It was at the height of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. This Lent, we will read from Romans this week and then again the weekends of March 12 and 26. We will need to ask not only what the passages mean, but why they have been chosen to be read on these days.

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Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – Being a Temple of the Spirit

The Sermon on the Mount, Carl Bloch, 1877,
Museum of National History (Denmark)

You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
(Matthew 5:38–39)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 3:16–23
(with reference to 1 Cor 3:1–3:9)
February 19, 2023

We will conclude our examination of the opening section of Paul’s “First Letter to the Corinthians” today. It is a Christian essential because it reveals the social consequences of accepting Jesus. A Christian has accepted Jesus and more specifically Jesus as the crucified Lord only when he has changed his or her entire life. This as we have seen includes what and who we deem important in our daily lives. By this point an honest reader will acknowledge that he or she may have accepted the doctrines but not the consequences. He will address that today. We will need however to look at several verses before the ones chosen for today’s readings.

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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Wisdom of the Cross

Fra Angelico, detail from “Sermon on the Mount” (1442),
Museo Di San marco Dell’Angelico, Florence.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
(Matthew 5:17)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Corinthians 2:6–10
February 12, 2023

For several weeks, we have been examining the opening chapters of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Paul has been showing the Corinthians and us the social consequences of the Gospel. The Corinthians and far more than we might wish to acknowledge ourselves, accept a social, political, and cultural hierarchy. Paul may acknowledge some of this may be needed in civil society but none of it may be allowed in the Church. He has rigorously demolished the claims of money, class, education, and group. Last week with extraordinary acumen he showed how oratory, the prestige means of communication of ideas in his world, was unable to express the cross. Today he will show how elite wisdom fails in comparison to the cross.

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