This week we begin the season of Advent, which marks the start of a new liturgical year for the Church. The readings for Sunday Mass are arranged on a three-year cycle. Each year features a different Gospel—Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Readings from the Gospel of John are interspersed throughout all three years. With this year’s first Sunday of Advent, we begin Cycle B of the Lectionary, which focuses our attention on the Gospel of Mark. This week and next week, our readings from Mark’s Gospel present two important Advent themes: the Lord’s return at the end of time and John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus.READ MORE
By now we’re all settling into our routines for the year and getting to know our students. Inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who advised “meeting them where they are” as the starting point for conversation, I’m wondering, do we meet them where they are? In order to take this Ignatian approach, we need to get to know them. Beyond playing a few get-to-know-you name games, which have their place, how do we go deeper and learn who these young disciples-in-training before us are?READ MORE
This week’s Gospel speaks of how Jesus’ disciples are to conduct themselves as they await the Kingdom of Heaven. In the preceding passages and in last week’s Gospel, Jesus taught that there is no way to predict the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. His disciples must, therefore, remain vigilant and ready to receive the Son of Man at any time.
Jesus’ parable talks about Christian discipleship using economic metaphors. Before he leaves on a journey, the master entrusts to his servants a different number of talents, giving to each according to their abilities. A talent is a coin of great value. Upon the master’s return, he finds that the first and second servants have doubled their money, and both are rewarded. The third servant, however, has only preserved what was given to him because he was afraid to lose the money. He has risked nothing; he did not even deposit the money in a bank to earn interest. This servant is punished by the master, and his talent is given to the one who brought the greatest return.READ MORE
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus talks about what it means to be prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven. This week’s reading follows a series of warnings and predictions by Jesus about the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus wants his disciples to understand that the exact day and time cannot be predicted. He teaches the disciples that they must remain vigilant so that they will not be caught unprepared.
When thinking about the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, it is important to consider the first-century wedding traditions of Palestine. Scholars tell us that it was the custom of the day for young maidens—friends and family members of the bride—to meet the bridegroom when he came to bring his bride to her new home.READ MORE
When my mom was 13 years old and unbaptized, she hung around with her best friend Ramona who, like the rest of her family, was a practicing Catholic. Once, when my mom went with Ramona’s family to Sunday Mass, she observed them all go up to receive Communion and come back to their places to kneel in prayer with a look of joyful contentment on their faces. After Mass, my mom asked Ramona’s mother, “What do you go up there to get from the priest?” Without hesitation, Ramona’s mother broke into a big smile and said, “The greatest gift you could ever imagine!”
Within a year, my mom was baptized and received her First Holy Communion!READ MORE
This week’s Gospel continues to elaborate on the tension between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees. Our Lectionary sequence at this point, however, is not quite a continuous reading of Matthew. In between last week’s reading from Matthew and this week’s, we find Jesus’ question to the Pharisees about the Messiah being “David’s son.” Having concluded a series of dialogues with the Pharisees and other religious leaders, Jesus now directs his words to the crowds, warning them not to follow the example of the scribes and Pharisees.
The scribes and Pharisees were teachers of the Mosaic Law. They were entrusted with its interpretation and, thus, were influential in determining Jewish practice. In order to appreciate the conflict that is evident in this passage, we must understand that Jesus was basing his teachings on the same laws and traditions available to the Pharisees. Both were interpreting the Law of Moses in order to better adapt it to contemporary Jewish life. The differences between their teachings, therefore, are often highlighted and amplified by Matthew.READ MORE
This week’s Gospel follows close behind the Gospel read last Sunday. It is the last of three questions put to Jesus by Jewish religious leaders who are trying to trick him into saying something that might get him arrested. This reminds us that the context for today’s reading is the mounting tension between Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
The Herodians and the Pharisees asked the first question, which was about taxes. The Sadducees asked the second question, which was about the Resurrection (see Matthew 22:22-33). The third question, considered in today’s Gospel, is asked by a Pharisee who asks Jesus about the greatest of the commandments.READ MORE
In this week’s Gospel Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem continue their tense exchange of questions and challenges. At this point the disciples of the Pharisees, together with the Herodians, try to entrap Jesus by their question about the payment of taxes.
Matthew sets up an unusual partnership between the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Herodians were supporters of Herod Antipas, a Jewish political leader who collaborated with the Romans. Such collaboration would have required a compromised observance of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees, on the other hand, taught scrupulous observance of the Mosaic Law and opposed Roman occupation. Herodians favored the payment of taxes; the Pharisees opposed it. The Herodians and the Pharisees approach Jesus, asking that he take sides in their dispute. If Jesus answers with the Pharisees, he shows himself to be an enemy of Rome. If he answers with the Herodians, he offends popular Jewish religious sensibilities.READ MORE
Immediately after criticizing the religious leaders through the parable of the tenants in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proceeded to tell another parable, again directed at the religious leaders. We hear this parable in today’s Gospel.
In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus offers an image of the kingdom of heaven using the symbol of a wedding banquet. In this weeks first reading from the prophet Isaiah and in today’s psalm, the Lord’s goodness is evident in the symbol of a feast of good food and wine. Jesus’ listeners would have been familiar with the image of a wedding feast as a symbol for God’s salvation. They would consider themselves to be the invited guests. Keeping this in mind helps us to understand the critique Jesus makes with this parable. The context for this parable is the growing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. This has been the case for the past two Sundays and will continue to be true for the next several weeks.READ MORE
This week’s Gospel follows directly after last Sunday's Gospel in which Jesus was questioned by Jewish religious leaders about the source of his teaching authority. After refusing to answer their questions, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons and then criticizes the priests and elders for their lack of belief in John the Baptist.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus once again speaks to the priests and elders with a parable. In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to tenants and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest that the tenants owe to him. Several times the servants are sent to collect payment, and each time they are beaten and killed by the tenants. Finally, the landowner sends his son to collect his rent. The tenants, believing that they will inherit the vineyard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner's son.READ MORE