John 20:1-2, 11-18
Modern Scripture scholarship has exposed a remarkably false tradition about Mary of Magdala. For many centuries Mary has been confused with the unnamed “sinful woman” who anointed Jesus’ feet in the home of the Pharisee (Luke 7) and was assumed to have been a prostitute. In fact, Mary is named in the Gospel of Luke in Chapter 8 as the woman from whom Jesus drove seven demons. Knowing today that all kinds of illnesses were ascribed to demonic possession, it is possible that Mary of Magdala was a woman with a very serious illness (mental or physical) who was healed by Jesus. Mary is attested to in all four of the Gospels as one of the women who supported the itinerant preaching of Jesus out of her personal wealth, and like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was greatly honored in the early Church. She has been called the Apostle to the apostles (first witness to the witnesses) based on the text from John’s Gospel that identifies her as the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself after the Resurrection.
The Sower by Jean Francois Millet
In our Gospel today Jesus is telling the parable of the “Sower and the Seed” to the crowd. Most of us are quite familiar with the story. The Sower is Christ. The seed is the Good News. And the soils are the minds and hearts of each of us.
When I was an adolescent, I did not get along with my younger sister and brothers. Actually, much of our time we spent arguing and teasing each other. Living with our parents in a relatively small apartment and having to share rooms, was not really conducive to a peaceful coexistence. Looking back, I am full of admiration for my parents who provided us with a loving home and instilled in us a respect for family bonds. Perhaps like most adolescents, I did not appreciate these family bonds and simply wanted to move out of the family to start my own life. However, the older I get, the stronger the bond with my siblings becomes and the more I value my family.
Exodus 14:5-18; Matthew 12:38-42
Today’s Gospel from Matthew begins with yet another verbal attack by “some of the scribes and Pharisees.” This time they are pressing Jesus for “a sign.”
Never mind that they had already watched his encounters with thousands and seen his many miracles. Of course, we know that generally those that asked this kind of question of Jesus would not choose to recognize signs even if individually pointed out to them.
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34
The Gospel of last Sunday told of Christ's first sending out of the disciples on a mission of preaching and healing. In the order of Mark's Gospel it was followed by an interlude which tells of the Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, hearing of Jesus's mission, and being touched in his conscience and thinking that here was John the Baptist come back from the dead; it adds the story of how he had had John executed to satisfy the whim of a daughter of his unlawful wife which the latter had prompted. And now we have the story of the return of the disciple-missionaries.
▪ On the Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis also blessed the Pallium for the newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishops, as a sign of unity with St. Peter represented by the pope, as a shepherd who gives his life for the flock. He urged the faithful to pray for all the pastors of the Church, that set free by Christ, they may be apostles of freedom throughout the world. Among those who received the Pallium was Tadeusz Wojda, SAC, newly appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Gdańsk (Poland). He was accompanied by two Bishops and ten priests who were accommodated in the Procura. On the same day we were privileged to have them in the Generalate Chapel for morning Mass, animated with the essence of internationality, and in the afternoon, we celebrated this event with an agape together with the Sisters.
The Pharisees went out and conspired against Jesus, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope." Matthew 12:14-21
- The discretion of Jesus is hard for us to understand. He didn’t ask the people to forget but he asked them to appreciate the meaning of their experience. We are so quick with our cameras and news reports that we often miss the opportunity to think about what has happened, to reflect on how God is at work in a way that deserves patient appreciation rather than instant analysis and discussion.
Exodus 11:10—12:14; Matthew 12:1-8
Walking through standing grain rings a bell in my experience, a reminiscence of childhood walks along still green wheat fields with my dad and brother. We were not hungry, we just picked heads of wheat for the fun of it, for the taste of the still milky grains. Jesus’ situation was different. He was an itinerant rabbi without income, depending on people’s goodness of heart and at times both he and his disciples were hungry, as the gospel reading tells us was the case today. So they helped themselves to a few heads of grain.
The yoke mentioned in today’s Gospel is an unfamiliar concept for most urban-dwellers. Modern farmers typically use tractors, not draft animals, though my father used horses when he was very young. Several years ago I attended a demonstration of some old-time farming methods that my father had done. A man there had been training a team of young oxen for pulling. For the uninitiated, oxen are essentially steers (neutered males), which may grow to weigh a ton or more at maturity. But this man started working with steer calves when they were small, perhaps two or three hundred pounds, as they were much more cooperative and manageable at that size.
Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12; Matthew 11:25-27
We often search for signs, for some kind of indication that we are doing the right thing, making the right decision, heading down the right path. It would be helpful if those signs could be as visible as the one Moses received from God in the first reading. It’s hard to miss a burning bush. What God was asking Moses to do was an enormous task so a shrub conflagration seems an appropriate signal.
Exodus 2:1-15a; Matthew 11:20-24
Jesus began to reproach the towns. (MT 11:20)
The feeling of being corrected (or called out, or challenged) for something we have done (or not done) is not a good feeling. Whether by a parent, sibling, friend, boss or stranger, it is something that can evoke defensiveness in us. To think that I was out of line… The nerve of that person to correct ME…
In today’s readings, we see Moses reproaching a Hebrew and Jesus reproaching the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida. In the former case, Moses encounters just this sort of defensiveness in the response of the Hebrew culprit. The Gospel reading does not indicate a response from those whom Jesus was addressing but we can perhaps imagine it.
Today’s reading from Matthew includes the very familiar warning from Jesus, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Having returned from a Holy Land pilgrimage about 3½ weeks ago, Jesus words have a new context to me. During the pilgrimage, our group made the Way of the Cross through the crowded and bustling passageways in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem. Groups of six or seven of us took turns carrying a large wooden cross for a couple of the stations. Though the prayers we said were familiar, this was a whole different way of experiencing the Stations of the Cross. We passed by shops and street vendors, who probably witness this on a daily basis, but it was uniquely poignant and inspirational for those of us who were participating. Although, we did not carry the cross alone and it was not as big or heavy as the original one, there was an element of reality to it all. We ended the stations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus’ crucifixion and entombment are commemorated. Each time I pray the stations in the future, my memories of that experience will be rekindled and intensify the meaning of the prayers.