The first reading from Leviticus is a selection of verses chosen to indicate to us today that the laws which the book is about are really about the inner attitude that people should have, not just externsl actions – just keeping the letter of the law.
In this section of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he is trying to lift them above the differences among them about Christianity. They should try to realise that they, as a community, have the very Spirit of God within them; and it is this inner reality that Christianity is about and not personal differentces of practice or understanding.
For the gospel reading we have another section from what is presented as a sermon of Jesus.; as we hear it we should realise the very radical – deep – nature of the challenge to us as Christians that it puts forward.
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This reading that Catholics have today is wise words influenced by the cultural environment of Greece in Alexandria, Egypt. You have the ability to make choices given you by God; So you must choose the sort of person you want to be in your condition and situation!
In his writings Paul draws upon his own Graeco-Roman education together with the revelation that he has recieved from God. Here he tells of a wisdom that comes from the very Spirit of God – the Spirit that we must let influence our lives too!
Matthew respects the value of the Jewish Law recieved from God, but we listen to a selection from Chapter 5 where he wants to tell his readers that with Jesus we should interpret the Law in the deeper way that Jesus did in His life here; we must let this be the way we try to live.
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The prophet and preacher gets down to the basics in this passage: answering the question what is it that you must do to be a light in the world that you live in, you must care for and serve the needs of those around you and then comes our reading.
Paul was well educated both as a Roman citizen and as a Jewish scholar, but in a way this played no upfront part when he preaches in Corinth or as here writes to them. He preaches the powerful message of Christ crucified.
Matthew in this passage of his gospel tells us more of the attitude that Jesus called for in His followers – it boiled down to doing good for others and in this way enlightening their lives.
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29th January 2017
The people in Jerusalem are going through difficult times and they interpret all this as God’s anger with them. The prophet Zephaniah preaches that they must reform themselves but foretells that God will save at least some of them. The reading omits a whole section of condemnation of the surrounding nations as well.
There have been difficulties within the Christian community in Corinth with different groups and views of Christianity, each thinking they were right and best. But Paul stresses in this passage the virtue of lowliness and himility for the very Wisdom of God Himself became just one of us!
We are most likely familiar with the Beatitudes, translated sometimes as “happy are those who…” Though it is not a self-righteous happiness, but rather a contentment with the good that God is able to do through them (through us) when they let Him live in their lives (and we in our lives here and now).
The history of all peoples, individuals and nations, in our own time also and in our own lives has a certain pattern. The words of God’s spokesman are about this but with the twist that God can always be relied upon to bring bightness and joy after it all.
Even in the early church there were divisions among Christians with different takes on what it meant to be a Christian. Paul writes to such Christians in Corinth. He says all should remember that it is Christ who died for them and whom they should together follow!
The gospel picks up on the ideas of the first reading – seeing Jesus as the light for all. But it also tells us of discipleship – those called may be quite different from each other but are called equally to follow Jesus in their new life.
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15th January 2017
In the Isaiah passage the Lord speaks to one of His spokesmen (such is a prophet), with a quite progressive message for the chosen people (for us); it announces that though they are chosen yet His purpose is to extend salvation to all peoples everywhere.
About the year 52 Paul writes to the Church congregations in Corinth where he had originally preached. Though he was going to address some awkward issues with them, he opens the letter positively to these people called by God and prays for them to have grace and peace.
Some early Christians were more devoted to the Baptist than to Jesus, so in his Gospel John clearly reminds them of the Baptist’s own words about the superiority of Christ. We notice that the word ‘sin’ in the Lamb of God saying is singular and so implying all sinfulness in the world which will be overcome by Christ.
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8th January 2017
Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews, seems to have had an epiphany, that is, a revelation of something about God, of His relationship with Abraham’s descendants: they will be blest and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through them (Gen 12:1-3). It was the prophets who regularly tried to re-awaken this epiphany, revealing as accurately as they could what God wants for His creatures. At the time of our first reading, the Jews are probably just back in Jerusalem after suffering exile in Babylon and looking at the dilapidated city and Temple, they need a ‘bright star’ to lift their spirits; so we read from the prophet’s poem encouraging them to realise what can be – to see the work of God in their surroundings – which he interprets as best as he can, speaking of the wealth of nations coming to them as gifts from around the world, from Midian, Ephah and Sheba. The responsorial psalm (72) is appropriate to this idea as well.
What we think we know of God is always inadequate – the revelation (epiphany) is always in need of improvement and correction. So it is that many of the Jews in the first few decades after Christ could not accept His attitude to sinners and non-Jews; and even some of those who became Christians thought that non-Jews would need to accept the rules of Judaism in order to become Christians. But Paul had seen that the will of God was different, mysteriously extending God’s love and forgiveness to all who would have it; this was the distinctive revelation of Christ; Paul had the grace of receiving this epiphany of something more about the purpose of God for the world. Paul wrote (Ephesians 3:2-6) that pagans have the same privilege, and even invents a new word to try to express this mystery, namely, they are (συνσωμα) ‘part of the same body with’ the Jews in Christ. And this welcome message for us who are also part of the body of Christ today.
The gospel is the story of the magi, the wise men from the east, following their star to find Jesus; it is about this that we chiefly use the word Epiphany. The magi, like us, have to find their way towards the mystery of God’s great closeness to us humans through Jesus who is both human and Divine. And we, like the wise men, will have to learn from others, others who know something of the Scriptures. There are many celebrities and famous people we may be tempted to try to emulate, but we must find the right star for us; we must be wary of those with unsuitable motives; we must have our dream and stay close to that Jesus who is our ruler and gentle inspiration. And as we move towards this perfect example of what it is to be human, we must bring our gifts and talents – we all have something to give. So the gospel story is about the revelation of God to us, about how we understand it and how we are to respond as best we can – a story of great depth, beauty and personal significance.