Reflections on Gospel Readings for Sundays and Feast Days


We would like to invite you to some weekly reading on the Gospel readings for Sundays (and occasionally feast days too). We hope you will find these reflections both interesting and spiritually enriching.

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Second Sunday of Advent -  Matthew 3,1-12

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

John the Baptist was a truly strange fellow, was he not? Can you imagine his possible vocation and ministry assessment from a bishop or a selection board? Well, it has been said that all of the Apostles, and even Jesus himself, would not be recommended for ministry in the Church, so that’s probably not a good measure but, if not quite along the lines of norms of ministry, the response to John the Baptist from contemporary religious leaders was equally incredulous. Indeed, even those who didn’t have an axe to grind with him would have considered him to be truly bizarre. And yet, he is the one whom God chose to prepare the people of his time for the coming of the Messiah, and his kingdom.

John, who was actually a very slightly older cousin of Jesus, was the forerunner, the advance man whose job it was, with his wild preaching and baptisms, to prepare people for the Coming. As we, this Advent, remind ourselves of the work that we need to do in preparing ourselves for the second coming of Jesus, and to celebrate the first coming on that Bethlehem night, it is imperative that we hear his message again.

The point that John makes is that we must repent. Repent is not a word that is too common in everyday usage, but literally it means to turn around. Specifically, in our context, it means to turn around and move away from sin; emotionally, physically, mentally; leave our sin behind and go in a different direction. Sin, too, is not a popular word today.

The problem today is that most don’t believe they are in need of repentance. They are basically good eggs and can’t imagine that they do anything wrong. I hear it regularly said, “I don’t need to go to church; I’m a good person, always doing a good turn and wouldn’t harm anyone…” and, as I’ve often myself said, if you believe funeral eulogies, I’ve only ever buried saints. “If only everyone in the world were like Gran, or Grandad, or Aunt Mabel… etc”, the world would be fixed – there’s no need of Jesus or repentance because we’re all so perfect!

If we really believe that Christ is coming we will want to get rid of all the sin in our life and for that we need to have the Holy Spirit working in us giving us the strength to abandon everything that wreaks of sin. If Christ IS coming we are not going to want to be around him if we are cloaked in sin; and sin is in thought, word, and deed, all that is contrary to the will of God. It’s not so much that God in his holiness can’t stand to be around sinful people (Jesus proved that not to be the case), but rather it’s that sinful people can’t stand to be in the presence of holiness. Repentance is for our own sake!

Have you ever spilled coffee down your front first thing in the morning when you get to work, and you have nothing to change into and you can’t go home? You’re stuck with that very obvious big brown coffee stain and everyone you see all day is staring at your clumsiness, or at least that’s what you think and feel. You’d give anything to get away; cancel all your appointments. You can’t stand to be with people while you’ve got that big stain.

But repentance isn’t just abandoning those things that are displeasing to God, those things that hinder our ability to grow in our likeness of him. What good is it to stop doing something if we don’t do something else to replace it? We end up with a vacuum and quickly slip back into doing the very thing that we’ve turned from. The point is to turn from sin toward having a healthy life-changing faith and practice, allowing the life of Christ to grow in us; allowing our lives to become God-like.

So when we turn FROM sin we turn TOWARD those things that nurture our relationship with God. We pray, we listen to God and to the word of God, we share in the Holy Eucharist, we might avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Confession. We give attention to fellowship with God’s people, the Church, because it is through them that we have a level of accountability in regard to our repentance. Our brothers and sisters in Christ gently nudge us in the direction we should be going.

There's an urgency about all this. Are we prepared? Are we ready? I’m not asking if we’ve finished our Christmas shopping or sent out all our Christmas cards, but have we repented? Have we changed our minds and direction? Are we continuing to repent?

John the Baptist is calling out to us: “Turn from your sins and turn to God because the Kingdom of heaven is near.”

Fr Julian Kent CFMD


First Sunday of Advent - Matthew 24, 37-44

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at un unexpected hour (Matt. 24.36-44)
 

Today marks a new beginning. It is particularly so for me as I began my priestly ministry with a special Mass on the afternoon of the first Sunday in Advent following my ordination to the sacred priesthood on the Friday before. But for all of us it is a new beginning as once more we begin a new Church year with this first Sunday in Advent. 

The colour is different, the hymns are different, and there’s a sense of festivity in the air. Well, maybe not a sense of festivity, but there probably should be, for Advent Sunday is a significant day in the Christian calendar. It’s when we remember what is coming. The word ‘Advent’ indeed comes from the Latin verb ‘venio’ - to come - and ‘advenio’ - to come towards. We are coming towards something. What is it that is coming? I’m a little wary of putting this question as I may get the answer, as I did once when teaching scripture in School in my Australian parish, ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’, and I don’t really want to dismiss the fact that Santa Claus is coming, nor that Christmas is coming, with all its festivities and joy and commercialism. But what we celebrate at Advent is not that Christmas is coming, nor that Santa is coming but that Jesus is coming!
I once saw a smart quip on a T-shirt – ‘Jesus is coming, look busy’. That particular joke isn’t original to the T-shirt company of course, but it does make you think about what you would want to be found doing if Jesus suddenly appeared on the scene. I heard one of those TV evangelists say that when he was growing up the preachers used to scare the children by warning them that Jesus could appear at any time, and woe betide them if he turns up and finds them at the cinema! He said that he grew up with a constant fear, every time he went to the cinema, that Jesus would return during the feature and he’d miss the end of the film. I’ve heard sermons like that too but I was always more concerned that I’d be in the shower or or the lavatory!
Advent has two themes connected with it. The first is looking forward to the coming of Christ at the end of time; the second is looking back to the coming of Christ and retelling the story of him as the babe born in the manger on the first Christmas day (we're not preparing for that event - it already happened - we're just retelling the story).

I’m conscious, as I read in the Scriptures about the second coming of Jesus, that whilst it is ‘good news’ in the best sense possible, it is good news that is surrounded by a lot of bad news. Indeed, the festivities of Advent, from an ecclesiastical point of view, do have a rather dour feel to them. While the rest of the world is starting to deck itself out in the Christmas colours of green and red, we have moved to the other end of the ecclesiastical colour spectrum donning violet, the colour of sombre reflection and penitence. I think that’s because, while we rejoice at the thought of Jesus returning, we recognise too that its foretelling is with a good deal of terrifying imagery.  Luke, in his gospel writes, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.  For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27).  There’s not much that is Christmassy about this picture, at least not in terms of the commercial version of Christmas?  There’s not a lot of similarity here between the coming of Jesus and the coming of our good old St Nick!

I’m not bashing Christmas, particularly as it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and most of the symbols we associate with Christmas do indeed find their origin in the gospels in the story of Jesus’s birth. Even so, I do feel that even when Christmas is a Christian celebration, our modern version really reflects more the middle-class captivity of the Church than it does the original message.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all”; that’s the spirit of Christmas, isn’t it? Not really. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those whom he favours” is what the angels were quoted as saying – the original message being a little less ambiguous than the popular sanitized version that’s even found its way into our liturgy.

God bless you this Advent and may you prepare well, both to receive Christ anew at the annual celebration of his Nativity and at his coming again.

Fr Julian Kent CFMD

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - Luke 23, 35-43

On the last Sunday of the Church’s year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. What does it mean for us to say that Christ is our King? When we look back over the last Century how should we characterise it?  It was certainly an age of technology, one in which our abilities to harness the powers of nature grew at an exponential rate.  But with this incredible explosion of scientific and technological knowledge goes an extra responsibility to use it wisely.  In other words, it requires good leadership.

 

Bad leaders are as old as humanity, but in the last century we knew some of the most brutal dictators in all history: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Ayotollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein. In this day our trust of government and politicians seems to be at an all time low. In the church, too, there is a lot of talk about leadership. We crave good leadership, but do we even know what it is anymore? Or maybe we think we know what it is and long for the “good old days”, but did we ever really know good leadership?

 

On the Solemnity of Christ the King, we focus on the claim that Jesus of Nazareth, who as a criminal was executed on a cross, is the leader we look to with our lives. In fact, the Solemnity of Christ the King was added very late to our church calendar in response to the crisis of leadership earlier in that last century. Unlike most other Christian festival days which were established centuries ago, Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius IX in 1925. Mussolini had been dictator in Italy for three years, Stalin was coming to power in Russia, and Hitler's popularity in Germany was just beginning to take hold. Despite the rising to power of these dictators, this Solemnity asserted that nevertheless Jesus Christ is King of Kings, and that “he shall reign for ever and ever”.


This day stands as a critique to every form of earthly power. It stands as a sign of hope in the face of any crisis of leadership.


Fr Julian Kent CFMD


Also on that day Fr Tosh Lynch from our Saint Mungo’s Mission, Glasgow writes:

A number of references in scripture from the New Testament refer to Jesus as Christ the King (Mark 15:32, Luke 23:2 and Revelation 1:5).

Pope Paul XI in his encyclical, Quas Primas (in the first), addressed Christ's Kingship and in instituting the feast of Christ the King reminded Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven rather than an earthly one. This encyclical was written in 1925 after World War 1. In the encyclical Jesus’ kingship was given to him by the Father and not obtained by violence.

Up until 1914 history is littered with war and strife, the hunger of power and land. Would it surprise you if I was to say, what has changed?

Jewish tradition would have the name of Jesus alongside either the place he was brought up or as the son of, Jesus the Nazarene, Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus, son of Joseph. The combination of Jesus and Christ are intended go remind the reader that he is the chosen one (Christ in Greek, anointed one and in Hebrew, Messiah).

Our gospel reading (Luke 23:35-43) sees Jesus being mocked and revered. The mockers challenge him to save himself but a robber crucified asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into his kingdom.

Here is a King who humbled himself even to death on a cross. It is a reminder to those in positions of power that there is a greater authority than them, it is to God that we give our reverence first and for most.




33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 21, 5-19

Are we ready for that? To be betrayed by our relatives, to be killed and all of that because of our strong faith in Jesus's promise?
Or are we sitting comfortably on our sofas, watching and commenting, sometimes posting but all from a safe and cosy sedentary position with zero risk?

We need to offer our lives to Jesus not in 50%, not even in 95% leaving a small percentage to ourselves. It must be radical, it must be complete and it must hurt. If you are comfortable with your life, there is a risk that when the time comes, you will hear "Verily I say to you, I have not known you.". What then? Does it not scare you? If it does, as it does scare me - please, there is still time for us to bravely follow Christ even if it leads us to martyrdom.

Fr. Chris CFMD


32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 20, 27-38

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear an interesting stupid question from the Sadducees who had the majority of the seats on the Sanhedrin or Jewish ruling council. They were more secular in their thinking and practice and were prone towards consorting with the enemy, the Romans. But what is most important to this story is that they denied that the Scriptures taught the bodily resurrection from the dead. They wanted to know only about what was important for this life and didn’t really care what happened after death – that sounds a lot like our secular culture today!

The Sadducees come to Jesus in order to try to trick him – they are intent on asking him a stupid question in order to demonstrate just how ludicrous in their minds the idea of the resurrection really is. What they are suggesting is the fulfillment of the law in Deuteronomy that commanded the brother of a deceased man to marry the widow, his sister-in-law, and have a child with her so that his dead brother’s name would not cease, so they suggest this crazy, one-off situation where seven brothers all marry the same woman and none of them have any children with her.  If any one of them had children with her then, in their minds, she would have been the rightful wife of that brother.  However, not one of them is bound to her through the procreation of children so which one is her husband?

It is a quandary, or at least, in their minds, it would be if the situation really existed. But instead of a stupid answer which a stupid question deserves, Jesus explains that no one will be married to her or anybody else in the life to come; we will be like angels. Does that mean that we won’t maintain our identity in heaven? Well, I imagine that we will since there would be little point in the resurrection were our resurrected state not to include the elements that go to making us unique individuals. If we do not carry with us our personal identity; our thoughts, our memories, our feelings; then we may as well be dead for all eternity. But on the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were able to distinguish Moses and Elijah. In addition, the disciples (though not immediately) were able to discern who Jesus was after he rose from the dead, and he is our prototype.

That is what Jesus demonstrates in the last portion of our text. He demonstrates from the Torah or Pentateuch that people are raised to life eternal. When God met Moses at the burning bush at Mount Horeb, God introduced himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, yet God cannot be God of dead people but only of living people.

How do you know that you’ve answered a question well? One indication is that you don’t get any more questions on the matter. The verse after our text ends says, “Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well’, for they no longer dared to ask him another question.” Thereby, even some of Jesus’s other enemies praised him for his wise answer

Our promise of life beyond this one gives to life a certain dimension that makes for a paradox in living. On the one hand, the trivia of this life loses its importance, but values, the important things, take on added meaning. We are assured of heaven and, because of that assurance, we live differently, we live for God, we respond to God, we rejoice in this life and we celebrate eternity.

Fr Julian Kent CFMD


31ˢᵗ Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 19, 1-10

Dearly beloved In today's Gospel, Jesus focuses on the person of Zacchaeus. This Gospel is ‘happening’ today and we are fully participating in it. Saint Luke tells about an event where a man really wants to see Jesus who is walking near to his place of residence. At the end of that passage there comes an excellent sentiment, which is the essence of the message.
It was Jesus who was looking for Zacchaeus. This is evidenced by the words, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” Jesus is looking for Zacchaeus; the Saviour cares about this meeting. The Lord tells him to leave the sycamore quickly, because today He must stay at his house. Jesus longs for this meeting. However, we do not know the true reasons that motivated Zacchaeus; perhaps it was only out of curiosity that he wanted to see Jesus. But Jesus says: “I MUST.” Jesus cares more than Zacchaeus; more than all of us. Jesus is looking for us, just as he was looking for Zacchaeus.

Jesus recognises Abraham’s son in Zacchaeus. If he is the son of Abraham, he is also God’s child! Jesus recognises this with all his might. Beloved, in the same way, the Lord Jesus notices this great dignity of the child of God. Jesus discerns this mystery in us; He discerns it in each of us! God's love will enable us too to discern this mystery in us. Amen.

Fr. Michał Żarkowski CFMD


All Saints Day - 1 st November 2019 (Year C)

Today is All Saints Day where we recall those saints who are at rest now following their labour here on earth. It is interesting that All Souls Day is tomorrow and fitting as we pray to the Saints and our loved ones who have died and are closer to God to intercede on our behalf.

As a child I remember reading books on the saints many of whom in the early church were martyred for the faith like Saint Stephen regarded as the first martyr in Christianity. It led me to daydream and think what I could so that I can be elevated to sainthood. The thoughts of a child eh?

I never imagined in my adult years that I would be reading about Saints in my own lifetime, Saint Pope John Paul II and Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta who were canonised recently following a rigorous process of investigation after two miracles were attributed to them.

We pray to the Saints based on our need and we may be named after a Saint or a person from scripture. My name is Thomas and although
I was named after a family member I smile when I read the gospel where Thomas doubts that Jesus appeared to the apostles during Thomas’s absence. Saint Thomas is the patron Saint of architects, politicians and land surveyors, and who knew?!

When I reflect on All Saints Day I remember those who in this current age have died for their Christian beliefs who have not been marked as martyrs.

Of those who stand up for equality and diversity, my heart is with those who despite the odds continue to stand for what is right and just as this is the Christ like thing to do and who have died for it.

My reflection is what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ and what will I do for Christ? Do I live the gospel despite the cost? I live in a country where freedom of speech exists, and where I am protected by the equality act. Some are not that fortunate.

Fr Tosh Lynch

Saint Mungo’s Mission, Glasgow




Please, click the above link to find our archived reflections from the past months.