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 2nd March
Daniel 9. 4 – 10
The community begging for forgiveness.
Luke 6. 36 – 38
From the sermon on the plain following the choosing of the Twelve. This passage is from a section which Luke addresses to the community, with the emphasis on sharing possessions. “Forgive” in this context is a misleading translation, as the Greek has an economic force (NJBC): releasing from debt.
Tuesday 3rd March
Isaiah 1. 10, 16 – 20
The passage omitted from this reading refers to sacrifices. Worship without the practice of justice is hypocritical.
Matthew 23 . 1 – 12
Although today’s Gospel reading contains warnings against various titles and the consequent assertions of influence, it concludes with a warning against the assumption of power and rank. In v 43 Matthew does in fact commend other titles that were in use among the Jews: prophets, wise men, scribes.
The exercise of authority, of course, has its own problems. Our Lord cuts through all this, even the issues of justice, and focuses on the new order of rank in his kingdom, in which humility, for lack of a better word, is paramount. Mark 10.45 is key to this.
Wednesday 4th March
Jeremiah 18. 18 – 20
Presumably this section is chosen to fit the end of today’s Gospel reading.
Matthew 20. 17 – 28
“For many”: the Hebrew word ….. contrasts the enormous crowd of the redeemed with the one Redeemer: it does not imply that the number of the redeemed is limited (JBC). To be remembered in the context of the modified translation of the words of consecration.
Thursday 5th March
Jeremiah 17. 5 – 10
From a slice of Wisdom literature, without any particular relevance to this part of Jeremiah.
Luke 16. 19 – 31
Dives and Lazarus. The emphasis is on looking after the poor, rather than reward and punishment, let alone the reference to rising from the dead, let alone the matter of wealth and poverty. The punch line is still the obligation towards Lazarus.
Friday 6th March
Matthew 23. 33 – 43, 45 – 46
Parable of the vineyard. Not properly a parable but an allegory in which every element has it s equivalent in reality.
Saturday 7th March
Micah 7. 14f, 18 – 20
From the up-beat end of Micah, looking forward to the restoration of Israel.
Luke 15. 1 – 3, 11 – 32
Parable of the prodigal son. The usual focus is on the return of the prodigal, but the end is equally important – the problem of self-righteousness and the acceptance of sinners – which is the context of the parable.
LENT Week 3
MONDAY 9th March
2 Kings 5. 1 – 15
Naaman the leper
Apart from the reference made by Our Lord in today’s Gospel, the connection between the two readings is the power of God.
Luke 4. 24 -30
Our Lord challenges the people in the synagogue. Immediately before this he was admired in the synagogue for his interpretation of Isaiah; this episode probably came at a different time but was transposed by Luke for the sake of the end, emphasising the power of God which cannot be frustrated. Jesus proceeds to Jerusalem.
The March/April (2011) issue of The Pastoral Review (Jeremy Garratt, Rector of St John's Seminary, Wonersh, Surrey) gives another view of the readings. The Naaman story suggests conversion and baptism,"a journey of faith from hope to doubt to belief. This contrasts with the closed minds of Our Lord's own people. The Lenten message is clearer in this approach.
TUESDAY 10th March
Daniel 3. 25, 34 – 43
Azariah’s appeal to God of the covenant. It is a supplication for mercy by the community of exiles in Babylon. Their exile was the result of unfaithfulness and the Israelites could not buy God off with sacrifices. All they could do was to appeal to his faithfulness in response to their penitence.
Matthew 18. 21 – 35
The unjust steward. The reading begins with the dialogue between Our Lord and Peter on forgiveness in general but basically it is about mutual forgiveness as it is described in the Our Father. All communities are open to rows; Matthew is concerned with the unity of the Christian communities which supersedes the normal human understanding of what is owed.
Deut. 4. 1, 5 – 9
The Law is central to Israel’s identity. At the same time, this passage emphasises the effect of the Law in making the people wiser, an internal characteristic. The closeness of God (v.7) is in contrast to most of the teaching of the Law which puts a distance between God and the human race (NJB).
Matthew 5. 17 – 19
Christ’s teaching transforms the Law, makes it interior, deeper and in that sense more perfect.
THURSDAY 12th March
Jeremiah 7. 23 – 28
Israel’s rejection of the prophets. It is a pity that this passage omits the two previous verses, in which Jeremiah points out that ritual worship is not the essential part of religion (NJB). This is the recurring theme of the prophets which the people ignore: leading to insincerity.
Luke 11. 14 – 23
Questions about the source of Our Lord’s power. Our Lord refers his enemies to their own traditions. The finger of God is a reference to divine power in Moses’ struggle with the Egyptians (Exodus 8.15). In Matthew’s parallel the Holy Spirit is invoked, which gave rise to the expression “finger of God’s right hand” in the hymn to the Holy Spirit. It is worth dwelling on the contrast between the apparent weakness of one finger and the reality of divine power.
FRIDAY 13th March
Hosea 14. 2 – 10
Repentance and prosperity of Israel, being faithful again to God.
Mark 12. 28 – 34
Summary of the Law. The scribe is not coming to Our Lord in a hostile way. The reply is that the Law has to be approached in a personal and interior way: one of the purposes of Lent.
SATURDAY 14th March
Hosea 5. 15 – 6.6
Repentance, based on a realistic appraisal of our relationship to God
Luke 18. 9 – 14
The tax collector and the Pharisee. This passage follows the parable of the unjust judge, the power of prayer. Here Our Lord describes false prayer, based on unrighteousness, and true prayer, based on humility.
Today’s readings have resonances of François Mauriac’s The Woman of the Pharisees.