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Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection Sept 26 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, September 26

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Gospel:

At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”

Gospel Reflection:

The gospel reminds us that the kingdom of God is all-embracing and universal, and that the Spirit of God works where it wills and is not subject to human limits or boundaries. The gospel today goes on to face us with the harsh realities of sin and the consequences of human decisions. The choices of the gospel are clear, we are to conform our lives to Jesus Christ, follow His teachings, and enjoy His benefits. To do less places us in a precarious position where sin can take away the things we value most — our hands, our eyes, and in the end our hearts and very existence in the kingdom prepared for us.

While the gospel holds out to us a pathway for the future life with God in Christ, there are consequences to our decisions if we go in a direction apart from God.

This is a good time to take stock of where we are in our life with God and others and to make the internal corrections needed so that we can come to the life beyond the grave to the eternal life promised by the gospel.

-Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Sep 19 – Fr. Lynch

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Sunday, September 19

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 9: 30 – 37

Gospel:

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Gospel Reflection:

We are celebrating the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time and are well into the month of September. As the seasons begin to change from the summer months of heat and humidity to the cool dampness that the fall season offers, we hear today a powerful reminder of who God is and how the wicked thoughts and actions of anyone opposed or skeptical of the Lord remain.

The book of Wisdom is full of inciteful content that we are often challenged to accept. The reading from Wisdom today reminds us of our old way of thinking, fear, and need of proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to the certainty of God. People often claim that they want to be challenged, they want to learn new things, that is no different today or thousands of years ago…well at least until what they are challenged in or what new things they learn, call for them to change, or to accept that their way of thinking or living is flawed. The truth is most people do not like change, but change is the only constant thing that occurs. One consistent reason people do not like change is because it happens beyond their control, or they are blown out of the water by realizing in an instant that their way of thinking or living is wrong and needs to change; so rather than accept change, they reject it.

This is exactly what Jesus tells us will happen to Him (and his followers for that matter), but rather than just change, Jesus is Truth itself and the change the world really needs. This Truth sets the world free from the fear that lack of control holds in this world. Some people are drawn to Truth until it requires them to change, then rather than accept the Truth, they reject it, even to the point of silencing it by death, because it does not fit into whatever self-driven narrative people have for themselves. Jesus shows us how to rid ourselves of any anxieties by teaching us that He is the cornerstone that the builders have rejected.

Our responsorial song is a powerful reminder of what God does for us and who He is. He is our Savior, defender, helper, sustainer, upholder and He is Goodness itself. This is how the letter of James fits so perfectly then into the Sunday readings to remind us how to differentiate the True from the False, the Good from the bad and anything that comes from God or not. If it is jealous or selfishly ambitious then it is not from God; if it is peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of Mercy, produces good fruits, constant and sincere then it is from God. James is reminding us that God is love and we are called to live and respond in the Love of God with our actions, which often speak louder than our words.

The Gospel shows us that Truth and Love have come down from Heaven and are Jesus Christ. It is His words and actions that we are shown that the ultimate call to Love in a way that is sacrificial. We have so much to truly be thankful for. This is the Good News we hear today. St. Brigid of Kildare…Pray for us!

-Father Tim Lynch

Gospel Reflection Sep 12 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, September 12

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 8: 27-35

Gospel:

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”

Gospel Reflection:

“You are the Christ.” In today’s Gospel, Peter makes this powerful declaration of faith when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am.” However, while Peter got the answer right, he still didn’t totally understand Jesus. Jesus began to explain what the true meaning of being God’s anointed one means: that He would suffer greatly, be put to death on a cross, but would rise again. Peter could not comprehend a suffering Messiah and so he rebuked Jesus for teaching them this. However, Jesus came right back at him, and he said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Peter was allowing Satan to cloud his understanding and impede God’s will. So, not only would the Son of Man suffer and die, but those who wanted to follow Jesus, truly follow Him, they too must suffer and die. This is not exactly an easy plan or the best recruitment slogan to be a disciple of Jesus. Any of us who wish to follow Jesus must take up the cross and share in Jesus’ struggles and sufferings.

In order to be a follower of Jesus we need to change our entire life, dying to who we used to be, and becoming a new person. So, is your heart ready for this kind of commitment? Are you ready to give it your all? Jesus tells us the reward will be great… for “whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

This weekend, we commemorate the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. On this anniversary we pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the worst attacks on the United States soil since the Pearl Harbor attack. These attacks changed America, and the world, forever.

Though two decades ago, the memory of this tragedy remains fresh in our minds. We continue to mourn the loss of the Americans who lost their lives and honor the heroic acts of our first responders.

Friends, let us reflect on the words of Franciscan Father Joseph Bayne, Chief Chaplain of New York’s Eric County Emergency Services who was there that day: “I did not see the devil’s face at Ground Zero. I saw the face of God in the people working, caring, sweating, crying, rescuing, recovering and being very spiritual in their very humanness.”

-Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Sep 5 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, September 5

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7: 31-37

Gospel:

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Gospel Reflection:

In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus teaching in the largely pagan community of the Decapolis — on the East bank of the Jordan River. Jesus is presented with a man needing his hearing to be restored, who also could not properly speak. The miracle Jesus performs today has a direct link to the First Reading as it says, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.” Jesus performs this miracle using the simple Aramaic word “Ephphatha!” — Be Opened!

The Sacrament of Baptism includes an Ephphatha rite that is proclaimed by the presiding Priest or Deacon. The presider symbolically touches the ears and mouth of the infant so that the infant one day hears the Word of God and can one day proclaim it. The opening of our ears and mouth in this rite suggests a total commitment on our part to not just passively follow Jesus with our hearing, but to actively proclaim His Church with our voice.

Many of us shy away from such an active proclamation. We may feel ill prepared to do so by being insufficiently catechized, embarrassed for our lack of understanding our faith, afraid of the ridicule of others, questioning our own commitment to the faith, or any one of a variety of other shortcomings. The unnamed man of today’s miracle had no prior experience with Jesus before this miracle. Yet even though Jesus asks for his continued silence, the man cannot contain the secret and gift he has been given and uncontrollably proclaims it.

This may provide us some solace suggesting that Jesus is telling us to maintain His “Messianic Secret” and not proclaim it. But we would be in error to assume this. Jesus had not fully revealed His mission on earth at the time of this miracle and He did not want to distract from His ultimate mission — of His death and resurrection — until such time that it could be fully revealed. We now have the Gospels fully revealed to us, so unlike the healed man, we can properly place this miracle as part of the larger picture of Jesus’ Messianic Secret. It must no longer remain secret. We are to use our ears and mouths to proclaim the good news of the Gospel. It is now expected of us rather than restricted. We can and should do this using the tools we have available to us — to the best of our knowledge — each in our own abilities. It can be messy and despite our lack of preparedness, catechesis, lack of understanding, fear of ridicule or commitment, we can and should press on.

Our world is moving aimlessly forward. We can see it in our leadership. We can see it in our daily activities and priorities. We can see it in a growing distortion or rejection of the Gospel message. By our commitment to the Ephphatha rite performed at our own Baptism, we honor the intent and desire of our parents or sponsor who brought us to Baptism. We also honor the desire of proclaiming our faith to the world around us.

Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection Aug 29 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, August 29

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Gospel:

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Gospel Reflection:

There is nothing subtle about this weekend’s readings. They are straightforward and blunt, especially the gospel. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were accusing him of ignoring their laws and traditions. Jesus turns the tables on them and told them they were missing the main point of what religion is all about. Besides contradicting some of God’s laws, Jesus condemned them because they stressed only external observance. Jesus reminds them (and us) that true religion is about a change of heart.

In our society, we encounter an overwhelming number of rules, laws, recommendations, and guidelines, some from God, some from our religious leaders, and many from government and civil authority. Without all these civilizations cannot survive. Without law there is chaos and anarchy. We live in a society where too many people think freedom means doing whatever they want without having to answer to any authority. No question, we must balance the restrictions that laws and rules place upon us with the freedom we want to enjoy. However, this requires maturity to be able to keep that balance and most of us manage to do a fairly good job at that.

Jesus instructs us in this weekend’s gospel to live freely under the law of love. We should not delude ourselves or judge others but instead live as those who both hear the word of God and keep it. As we attend Mass this weekend and approach the altar of the Lord let us open our whole selves to the One who can create a pure heart and a steadfast spirit within us.

-Deacon Frank Iannarino

Gospel Reflection Aug 22 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, August 22

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6: 60-69

Reading I:

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Gospel:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Gospel Reflection:

As I began to write the reflection for this week, there was so much swirling around in my head and heart that it was hard to focus. So much is happening in our world, church and country: the Dixie fire in Northern California that has been burning for over a month with little signs of slowing down; the UN’s report on climate change, warning us that the earth is heating up much faster than was anticipated; the assassination, earthquake and flooding in Haiti; the withdrawal of troops and the evacuation of thousands from Afghanistan; the ongoing divisions in our Church and the Covid virus with the Delta variant still not under control. How can I approach these readings and not be concerned about all that is happening around us?

Usually, I focus on the Gospel, but the First Reading from Joshua and the Gospel from John are very intertwined. I encourage you to reread both today and throughout the week. The backstory of Joshua is important. It has been quite a while since the Israelites conquered the Promised Land and they had become lax in their faithfulness to the Covenant. We are coming in at the end of one of Joshua’s discourses. He knows that his own death is near and he is giving the people his last message. He has warned them of the disastrous consequences of unfaithfulness to the Law of Moses. Joshua is having what we might call a “fish-or-cut-bait meeting.” He tells them, “choose this day whom you will serve,” and then gives his own response, “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

That is very similar to the passage from John. Jesus is having a serious conversation with the disciples, and we are coming in at the end of that conversation, so it is a bit confusing. Jesus is quite clear that his way is not the easy way. The saying he was referring to in particular comes right before today’s passage… “ I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus is reminding them that HE IS THE BREAD OF LIFE and they must eat his body and drink his blood. . Often we limit this to mean each of us receiving Communion regularly. As awesome and important that the reception of Communion is, if we limit it to just that individual act of eating and drinking then we miss the essence of Jesus’ message. St. Augustine names it for us. When giving communion he would often say, “Become what you eat.” The Bread of life is not meant for individuals. It was and is given to ALL. WE must become the Bread of Life. WE must become the real presence in the world. WE must accept the whole message of Jesus. Jesus is our daily bread and he commissioned us to be the daily bread of life for others. The disciples have to decide. It was time to “fish or cut bait.” Will they, collectively follow Jesus or choose a different way? Some choose a different way and returned to their regular way of life. Peter, speaking for the group, chooses to follow Jesus. He knows that there is only one choice.

How do we take these readings and use them to look at what is happening in our world, church, and country right now? It goes way beyond what each individual is going to choose. It is time that we as a people make some very clear choices for the common good. How can we begin to think and act as a people of God? How can we live together and move forward as People of God and be Bread of Life for a world that is on the brink of starvation?

I am sick to death about the debate of mask or no mask, vaccination or no vaccination, COVID real or hoax, etc. arguing. There is no conversation, just arguing and waving “my individual right’s flag.” It is time to move to the common good.

In November 2020, Pope Francis wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. Pope Francis said, “If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain…. To come out of this
crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a
shared destination. The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone.
What ties us to one another is what we commonly call solidarity. Solidarity is
more than acts of generosity, important as they are; it is the call to embrace the
reality that we are bound by bonds of reciprocity. On this solid foundation, we
can build a better, different, human future.”

The Pope’s words of encouragement, challenge, and hope echo the words found at the end of the reading from Joshua.

“But the people answered: ’Far be it from us to forsake the LORD for the service of other gods. For it was the LORD, our God, who brought us and our ancestors up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among the peoples through whom we passed. Therefore, we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
It was not enough for Joshua to say that he and his household would follow the Lord, the people had to decide, how they as a people would move forward.

The readings from Joshua and John today are confronting and challenging. Will we serve the Lord or the gods of our times? Will WE as one people, BE the Bread of Life for others or just be concerned about feeding ourselves?

It is time for us to “fish or cut bait.” It is time for us to break the chain that holds us bound to the myotic and excessively unhealthy notion of individualism and take seriously the MISSION GIVEN TO US TO BE BREAD OF LIFE FOR ALL PEOPLE. It is the only way we will build a better future for all people.

— Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection Aug 8 – Fr. Lynch

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Sunday, August 8

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6: 41-51

Gospel:

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, ”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Gospel Reflection:

We are now celebrating the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and while it is called Ordinary Time, there are many elements that are not so ordinary and yet at the same time, there are ordinary things that never seem to change. Continuing in the Gospel of John narrative in Chapter 6, specifically the “Bread of Life” narrative we are challenged in many ways similarly to the challenges of God’s chosen people encountered in both the Old and New Testaments.

In the second (18th week of Ordinary Time) and third (19th Week of Ordinary Time) weeks of the “Bread of Life” discourse we hear specifically in the Old Testament readings and the Gospel accounts of people’s “grumblings” (Ex 6:2) and “murmurings” (Jn 6:41).

Why is this important? It is important because we realize in our own self-reflections how we are called to respond, aided by God’s grace, to accept God’s generous and loving plans for us all. In and of itself it sounds good and pretty, but often we see how even God’s Chosen do not always accept God’s plan but reject, lose faith, and fall back into the deprecating misery of thinking they know better than God. It is a lack of trusting God. This is dangerous for a variety of reasons, namely the flawed thinking that we know better than God or that our plan is better. God always has and always will provide for his people. Proof beyond any reasonable doubt is manifest in the Glory of God the Father sending his only Son Jesus to redeem us.

In the greatest gift God could ever bestow upon us, His prized creation, Jesus offers himself up for us in Word and Sacrifice. He gifts himself for all time and eternity, completely, totally, and without any reservation. Jesus’ example of abandonment of self for the greater good is something we can all grow and learn from and apply in our own personal faith journey daily during these trying times.

As we continue to navigate through the Covid Pandemic regardless of opinion, science, and preference may we never take for granted the true and total gift of Jesus in the Eucharist, who sustains and continually nourishes us as “The Bread of Life,” food for our journey. St. Brigid of Kildare, pray for us!

-Fr. Tim Lynch

Gospel Reflection Aug 1 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, August 1

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6: 24-35

Gospel:

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him,
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to him,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Gospel Reflection:

The Gospel reading this week is the second of five Sundays on the Sixth Chapter of John. This chapter is known as the “Bread of Life Discourse” because Jesus speaks of Himself as the Bread of Life. The Church presents this so we can have a deeper insight and appreciation for the Holy Eucharist.

Last Sunday’s Gospel presented the miracle of the loaves and fish. In today’s reading, Jesus is speaking to the people who came looking for him the day after the multiplication. They asked, “Rabbi, how did you get here?” Jesus did not answer their question but instead he addressed the reason why they were looking for him…they were looking for another free meal. Jesus tells them instead to seek Bread that will last forever, the Bread He will give.

Jesus was asking His listeners to change their hearts and their minds in order to see God in a new light. Instead of asking for bread for their stomachs as their ancestors did when Moses led them out of Egypt, they should ask for the Bread of Life…the Bread Jesus was going to give them…His Body and Blood.

Friends, how hungry is your soul for God? Whenever you are wearied in your faith journey, go to Jesus not to just replenish your worn-out bodies but also to replenish your worn-out spirits. For the Holy Eucharist is a food given for the life of our souls.

St. Augustine would often end Mass by saying to his congregation: “Be what you eat.” As we come to receive the Holy Eucharist at Mass, let us “be” that loving and caring presence of Christ in our world today.

-Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection July 25 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, July 25

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6: 1 – 15

Gospel:

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Gospel Reflection:

Today’s Gospel of John describes the feeding of the 5,000. Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John is a thorough discourse of Jesus as the Bread of Life. It is a Gospel within a Gospel of what we understand about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Bishop Brennan’s diocesan initiative, Real Presence Real Future, has as one of its objectives to renew the understanding of the Real Presence found in the Eucharist.

We will continue to read through Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel for the next five Sundays. It’s that important! Believing in the Real Presence is a pivotal belief in our Catholic faith. It might just be the litmus test for all Catholics. Other faiths may have Eucharist, but none of them fully ascribe to the belief that the elements of bread and wine become the true Body and Blood of Christ through the actions of the priest at a Catholic Mass. We do. Yet, a PEW Research Study, released in late 2019, reported that almost 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is symbolic rather than the Real Presence. Despite being a teaching of the Catholic Church since its earliest days, the Catholic Church seems to be facing a crisis of Eucharist as mere symbol. So, why should this matter? It is core to our faith as Chapter 6 describes the truths of the Real Presence.

Back in the 1950’s, a young Flannery O’Connor (who was a devout Catholic — writer and essayist) once said while having a discussion concerning the Eucharist, the other person described to her that the Eucharist was symbolic only. Flannery responded by saying, “If (the Eucharist) is only a symbol, then to hell with it.” Her comment was not a comment of her disbelief, but rather an indictment that reducing it to mere symbol renders it to the point of irrelevance. Mere symbol goes directly against the evidence found in Chapter 6. We can all learn from her confession of faith. Indeed, if the Eucharist is mere symbol, then why bother? Perhaps, that is why so many of our fallen away brothers and sisters of faith have concluded to hell with it. We need to be patient and reenergize our faith and understanding of the Real Presence first within ourselves before evangelizing to others the Good News found in the Eucharist.

It is deeply saddening to see so many Catholics leaving the faith. Often, it can come from a lack of understanding of the beauty and truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If it were better understood as being true and not merely symbolic, why would anyone leave the Catholic faith and seek faith elsewhere? “I don’t like the Pastor. I don’t like the music. The Mass is boring. The Mass takes too long. Parking is too difficult. The church is too cold or too hot.” All of these spoken or unspoken concerns should subordinate to the tradition of 2,000 years of our very direct and real participation with Jesus at His last supper. Yes, it is mystery — not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to approach our participation in it with reverence and awe. Today’s Gospel begins our reading of Chapter 6. It concludes today with fragments of bread to spare — twelve filled wicker baskets. The reference to twelve suggests abundance and completion just as the references elsewhere in the bible to the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, and many other Scriptural references to twelve. This reference to twelve is to assure us that this Scripture reading achieves fulfillment.

To understand the long history of the Real Presence and the teachings of the Church, consider watching and listening to Bishop Robert Barron on his recent release on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It could be the best 75 minutes you will ever spend in deepening the Catholic teachings of the Real Presence. He walks through the history of the Real Presence and the teaching challenges over the past 2,000 years. He ends on how the Real Presence continues to be the source and summit of our faith. Use this URL to watch Bishop Barron: https://books.wordonfire.org/eucharist-book . Skip down to the bottom of the web page to open the free playing of his presentation on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

If you are already a believer in the Real Presence, Bishop Barron will reaffirm your belief and give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of our Catholic teachings of the Eucharist. If you are questioning the Real Presence like so many Catholics, Bishop Barron offers you a logical and comprehensive primer that may just move you from disbelief to belief. If you are a non-believer of the Real Presence, Bishop Barron provides a rationale as to why Catholics believe in the Real Presence and why we have consistently held this belief dating back to the earliest days of the Church. Understanding John, Chapter 6, can move you toward the belief in the Real Presence and away from mere symbol. Jesus, in His own words in this Gospel, presents the case with no ambiguity about his leaving to each of us his on-going presence in our lives through the gift of the Eucharist.

-Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection July 18 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, July 18

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 6: 30-34

Gospel:

The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

Gospel Reflection:

In last week’s gospel, Jesus sent his apostles out to teach, heal, cast out demons, and to call people to repentance. In this week’s gospel we are told of their return, excited over their experience but were tired and needed to rest. Jesus wanted some time off, too, but he couldn’t. The mission of Jesus and his apostles was apparently so successful that a great crowd caught up with them. The gospel says: “…His heart was moved with deep sympathy for them. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd…” – people without leadership – and he continued to teach them.

One of the important messages in the gospel, as well as all our readings this weekend, is that in love Our Lord leads us by teaching us and appointing others to teach us. We’ll never be finished listening and learning as long as our world and country suffers from many divisions, injustice, poverty, hunger, discrimination, racism, war, hatred and killing of innocent people. Christ would be put to death before he would stop teaching. It is one of the reasons we gather week by week for Mass to listen and to learn…and then be sent. Whatever unites us needs to be stronger than what divides us. Christ came to unite us in peace through the saving power of the cross and the gift of his very self in the Eucharist.

As we approach the altar this weekend to receive Christ in the Eucharist, may we realize that in our diversity and struggles, we are united in the Body of Christ. May we also welcome our newly assigned parochial vicar and thank God for sending him to us so we can continue to listen and learn as Fr. Tim Lynch celebrates the Mass, preaches, teaches, and helps guide us so we can be Christ’s disciples (a word that means “learner”) to all we meet in the days, months, and years ahead.

-Deacon Frank Iannarino