Short background notes based on the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (NJBC) and the footnotes of the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), primarily meant for this parish. Not intended as instant sermonettes, simply starting points for a brief explanation of the readings at weekday Mass. Disagreement may be more useful. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
MONDAY 18th May
Acts 19. 1 – 8
Luke is smoothing out any conflict between the movements of John and Jesus: John’s disciples were on the way to the complete truth.
The part of Our Lord’s teaching that the disciples understand is that he comes from the Father, but they still don’t understand how he is to depart and be glorified. (NJBC)
TUESDAY 19th May
Acts 20. 17 – 27
Paul’s farewell. The break between the missionary and the passion aspects of St Paul ministry, copying Our Lord’s.
The beginning of the prayer of self-offering and intercession for the disciples, which in some respects parallels the Our Father.. “Knowing” the Father: in the Biblical sense of experience of him. Once the Mosaic law was the instrument of revelation; now it is Christ. “The world”: symbol of unbelief and hostility to Jesus.
WEDNESDAY 20th May (St Bernadino of Siena; Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter)
Acts 20. 28 – 38
Both the reference to “episkopoi”, overseers, who are elders rather than appointees of the apostles, and to the church being commended to God and to his word, rather than the other way round, point to offices of service rather than of authority.
What earlier was described in terms of indwelling is now described as the Father’s protection. John’s community may have had links with the Essenes who used the concept of unity to distinguish them from the outside world. Here the relationship between the Son and the Father is the source of unity. His self-consecration, most completely seen in his passion, is the source of the consecration of the disciples.
THURSDAY 21st May
Acts 22. 30; 23. 6 – 11
Luke does not explain the root of the Saducees’ objections, a strict adherence to the Torah, and so he makes them sound irreligious. In fact they were more fundamentalist than the Pharisees.
John 17. 20 – 26
The Church primarily understood as the community of the faithful, a view very remote from current administrative ultra-montanism and infinitely more fruitful.
FRIDAY 22nd May
Acts 25. 13 – 21
More links between the formal interrogations of Jesus and those of St Paul.
The lectionary jumps from Jesus’ prayer at the last supper to the epilogue added to the Gospel. While loving Jesus was earlier connected with keeping his commands, here the result is the commissioning of Peter to continue Christ’s work of feeding the sheep.
SATURDAY 23rd May
Acts 28. 16 – 20, 30f
St Paul in Rome emphasises his loyalty to Judaism. The epilogue focuses on the triumph of the Gospel.
John 21. 20 – 25
The beloved disciple. The reading locates the source of the recorded traditions in a particular community; that remains one of the key purposes of every Christian community.
Monday 25th May
Ecclesiasticus 17. 24 – 29
The writer continues his meditation on the subject of being human. Being in Sheol is seen not as a punishment but as a sort of half-existence where we are incapable of praising God.
Mark 10. 17 – 24.
The rich man; wealth. The great reversal: wealth was seen as a blessing and an opportunity for alms-giving. In this case Our Lord puts discipleship first.
TUESDAY 26th May
Ecclesiasticus 35. 1 – 12.
A classic description of the link between the moral and the devotional life. The emphasis on alms-giving continues seamlessly through the Old and New testaments.
Mark 10. 28 – 31
WEDNESDAY 27th May
Ecclesiasticus 36.1, 4 – 5, 10 – 17
Bringing Israel together , the ‘ingathering’, remained a characteristic of Judaism long after the Exile. The dispersion always regarded the dispersion as a passing and unfortunate phase, to which the coming of the Messiah would put an end (NJB).
Mark 10. 32 – 45
The Twelve and the pecking order; the last word.
THURSDAY 28th May
Ecclesiasticus 42. 15 – 25
Praise of God, Lord of creation. The holy ones are the angels.
Mark 10. 46 – 52
Healing of Bartimaeus.
Rounding off a section that started with the healing of a blind man in 8.22 – 26, but also a section that deals with progress in faith (NJBC)(cf 9.25, help my unbelief). Bartimaeus is v positive. He becomes a follower, the term denoting more than following Our Lord around. Jericho is near Jerusalem; this involves the passion as well.
FRIDAY 29th May
Ecclesiasticus 44. 1, 9 – 13
Encouragement to Jews in exile to avoid compomises with Hellenism by remembering the heroes of their past.
Mark 11. 11 – 26
Withering the fig tree; cleansing of the Temple; teaching on faith; forgiveness.
The lectionary omits the entry into Jerusalem on the borrowed colt in fulfilment of Zechariah 9.9. Zech 14 prophesies that the great eschatological battle would take place at the mount of Olives. The cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple are clearly prophetic acts. The second part of today’s reading is basically catechesis on prayer, artificially added to the account of the entry.
SATURDAY 30th May
Ecclesiasticus 51. 12 – 20
From a poem on the quest for wisdom.
Mark 11. 27 – 33
Christ’s authority and that of John.
Implicit in Our Lord’s question about John’s baptism is his own divine authority. This is the first of five incidents of differing kinds, but all involving controversy with the authorities. At the conclusion of this first argument, Our Lord does not “win the argument”, but leaves his opponents to sort out the arguments for themselves. It is an important lesson for the formation of conscience.
Week 9, Year 1
WEEK 9 CYCLE 1
The Book of Tobit, a morality tale, describes the righteousness of God working invisibly through the lives of his people in exile. The lectionary skips much of the longer editions.
Monday 1st June
Tobit 1. 1, 2. 1 – 8
Looking after the poor was an obligation at the time of the harvest feast of weeks (Pentecost). Burying the dead was also a corporeal work of mercy. Tobit had been in trouble earlier for this work.
Mark 12. 1 – 12
Jesus has entered Jerusalem and this determines the nature of his ministry. This parable is open to all sorts of allegorisation which may be beyond what Our Lord intended, but Mark is mainly concerned with the Jewish religious leaders.
Tuesday 2nd June
Tobit 2. 9 – 14
He slept outside because of his ritual impurity incurred by burying the dead. Tobit followed the Law at considerable cost to himself. On this occasion the consequence was blindness. Despite this, his sense of honesty was unimpaired.
Mark 12. 13 – 17
Our Lord’s point is that we should be as assiduous in serving God as in serving Caesar.
Wednesday 3rd June
Tobit 3. 1 – 11, 16f.
Tobit’s Lament. The lectionary omits the lament of Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, who is haunted by a demon who kills her seven husbands before each marriage is consummated. Enter the angel Raphael, the healing of God, disguised as a kinsman and guide called Azariah.
Mark 12. 18 – 27
For the purpose of Mass the important point is simply not Our Lord’s use of Scripture but his teaching that with God death is not an absolute. Of course it is easier simply to think of the “after-life” but Our Lord’s teaching makes death simply part of the natural world, not something which binds God.
Thursday 4th June
Tobit 6. 11, 7. 1, 9 – 14, 8. 4 – 8
The lectionary omits the details of the dead fish by which Tobias defeats the demon who kills Sarah’s suitors. The fish appears later in the cure of Tobit’s blindness. The point of today’s reading, of course, is Tobias and Sarah celebrating their marriage in prayer.
Matthew 12. 28 – 34
The emphasis is on inner and basic dispositions (NJB).
Friday 5th June
Tobit 11. 5 – 15
Tobias follows the instructions of Raphael and cures Tobit’s blindness with the gall-bladder of the fish. Tobit’s hymn proclaims God’s power. His suffering is not a punishment but a test.
Mark 12. 35 – 37
Psalm 110 is commonly used in the New Testament, but this reading makes it clear that even this formula “Son of David” does not provide a complete explanation of the Messiah.
Saturday 6th June
Tobit 12. 1, 5 – 15, 20
The Jews discovered the belief in angels during the Exile and consequently explored it. Raphael is an intermediary who offered the supplications of the faithful to God .
Mark 12. 38 – 44
Leaving aside the element of hypocrisy, the problem of which Catholics really matter – the prominent, the active or the wealthy on the one hand and on the other the people who hang on to some sort of faith against the odds – is important today.