18th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Walking with Jesus

The Gathering of the Manna, James Tissot, c. 1896 – 1902, Jewish Museum         

Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out
and gather their daily portion
Exodus 16:4

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
August 1, 2021

There is a tendency for people of the Global North to view religion as personal and private—a matter of taste and decision that should be kept at home or in church. Religion is a balm to the soul which we hope may bring peace and meaning. Fine and important in its place but does not have social significance. It is not surprising that whenever the Pope makes a statement on global inequality or climate change, he is passionately chastised for getting involved with politics and not sticking to religion. The early church would have found this incomprehensible. Christianity is personal, but not private. This will be important for us to understand as we rebuild our parish and the “Letter to the Ephesians” is a perfect place to start.

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17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Belonging to Jesus

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 4:1-6
July 24, 2021

We are examining the “Letter to the Ephesians” this summer. We have already seen that the author demonstrates with extraordinary sensitivity the cosmic nature of Jesus’s incarnation and the literally earth-shattering effects of his death and resurrection. We have also noted that there is much controversy about its authorship. This is not only a very scholarly discussion of word usage, grammatical structure and other technical issues but has become ideological. The author clearly teaches that the “Church” is not an afterthought or an application but was part of the divine plan from the beginning of time. This is a problem for many Protestants but not for Catholics. Also, for us there is no canon (list of writings accepted as revelations from God) within the canon. No writing is more revealed than others. It does not in that sense matter if this was written by the apostle Paul or not. It only matters that the church has accepted it as revealed by God. This letter, as we will see as the summer progresses, is of great and immediate importance for us in Brownstone Brooklyn.

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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Reflecting the Peace We Were Created For

The Good Shepherd, Thomas Cole, 1848,
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 2:13-18
July 18, 2021

Last week we began our reading of “The Letter to the Ephesians” by examining the majestic opening blessing. We suggested that we view it as an overture previewing many of the letter’s themes. Today, we will look at what it means to be chosen and how this is accomplished through the “blood of Jesus.”

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15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fulfilling Our Being

He Sent them out Two by Two,
James Tissot, 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum

He summoned the Twelve
and began to send them out
two by two.
(Mark 6:7)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the Second Reading
15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Letter to the Ephesians 1:14
July 11, 2021

This summer we will be studying the 2nd reading for Sundays which is now called the “Letter of Paul to the Ephesians”. Most discussions of this letter begin by asking if it was written by St. Paul himself in the 60s or a disciple most likely in the 90s. This will not concern us here. It is a complicated question and as we will see in a few weeks, it has much to do with post reformation church politics. Another question is the original audience. This too does not directly interest us. It was most likely written to several churches, one of which was Ephesus. This will mean that it will not have the local color of some of the letters attributed to St. Paul but will free the author to more directly examine “Cosmic” themes.

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Learning from Our Priest/Prophets

Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue (detail),
James Tissot, 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum
(About this Image)

When the sabbath came
he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished. 

And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor
except in his native place…”
(Mark 6:2, 3-5)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 3:2-5
July 4, 2021

Priests and prophets are both important in the history of the Jews. They fulfill separate roles. Ideally, they work together, but as often as not, there was conflict. Before and during the exile in Babylon, we see the extortionary situation when priests became prophets. This is a sign of crises and has occurred in our own times.

The principal responsibly of the Jewish priest, as indeed the Catholic or Orthodox priest today, is to offer sacrifice. Originally, this was the privilege of the head of the clan or tribal group. We several times see Abraham offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Over the centuries this developed into the professional and hereditary priesthood. With Moses, this process was codified into Law and with Solomon, sacrifice not only needed to be performed by a hereditary priest but only at the Temple in Jerusalem.

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13th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Clinging to Eternal Truth No Matter How Difficult

Resurrection of Jairus’ Daughter, Vasily Polenov, 1871

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
June 27, 2021

The reading from the Old Testament this Sunday is from the Book of the “Wisdom of Solomon.” Although it sounds ancient it is perhaps the last book in the Old Testament and could have been written as late as 30 BC. Also, although it takes the name of King Solomon of Jerusalem from about 1,000 BC, it was most likely written in Alexandria, Egypt for the children of the Jewish elite who were immersed in the Roman world and tempted to give up their faith. Some things do not change.

The conceit of the book is that King Solomon is presenting to the other kings and princes of the world the mind of God. Note it is assumed that God has created the entire world and his laws are based on this creation. Thus, they must be obeyed by everyone. Memorably, he begins:

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12th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Experiencing God’s Love

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633,
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (painting stolen in 1990)
(About this Image)

Fr. Smith’s Commentary on the First Reading
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Job 38:1, 8-11
June 20, 2021

The Book of Job is part of both the canons of Scripture and Western literature. It is now perhaps read more by non-believers than by believers in the God of Abraham. Perhaps more skillfully than any other book it asks how an all-powerful God can also be all loving. It has attained such a high place in both religion and literature not only because it is undoubtedly well-written, but because it refuses to give pat answers to any of the questions it raises. However much everyone can admire it, it will have different meanings for believers and non-believers. But ultimately, we will discover that there is a more fundamental distinction?

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