Sundays in July, August and September 2021

During the Year B cycle of the Lectionary, we are presented with the Gospel of Mark, which is the shortest of the synoptic Gospels. But I am sure that was not the sole reason for the compilers of the Lectionary to offer us a five-week section from the Gospel of John. This is most of Chapter 6 – the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse of Jesus, which opens up both the evangelist’s theology of Jesus as the Revelation of God and his teaching on the Eucharist. This is a profound section which is worth pondering as a whole before dealing with the separate passages that the compilers of the Lectionary give us week by week. At the same time, for much of this period we are offered the magnificent letter of Paul to the Ephesians. Unlike many of the letters attributed to Paul, this has a structure and argument that really requires an attention to the whole. It is certainly appropriate for any hearer or preacher to take the letter in its entirety for prayerful contemplation before exploring the individual Sunday readings.

Sunday 4 July
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 2.2–5
Psalm 122
2 Corinthians 12.7–10
Mark 6.1–6
It tends to be the case that prophets in the Old Testament have a hard time carrying out their mission, and – with the exception of the rather comical book of Jonah – have little success in doing what they were sent to do in terms of changing people’s minds. We can think of Elijah under his furze bush and of Jeremiah thrown into a well, but in terms of ‘success’ the prophets whom God appoints and sends seem to do singularly badly. It is striking to hear that the Lord tells Ezekiel that he is to speak God’s word to the Israelites ‘whether they listen or not’. Ezekiel is obviously not to be concerned about results – he is to be concerned about carrying out his mission. Paul, even though he is conscious of the great gifts he has received, knows the struggle of being entrusted with his mission. Although his writings frequently recount the opposition and rejection he receives, he also struggles with what might be called ‘inner demons’ – and these are not to be taken away from him by the Lord. Today’s Gospel recounts Jesus’ own rejection by those of his own town – the people who know him. The common theme of all three readings is one to be taken to heart by all who would be disciples of the Lord; it is a reminder of the fundamental nature of being called by God – what is required is simply fidelity. There is no promise of success, no indications that the message of the gospel will be welcomed, no guarantee of protection from enemies within and without. The call in the end is simply to be faithful and to trust in the strength of the Lord, and to know that defeat and weakness are signs, not of God’s abandonment, but, for those with faith, the opportunity to experience the presence of God’s power.

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Breaking the Word - Sundays

In the constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Fathers of Vatican II decreed that: ‘The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God’s word’. (SC.52) The lavish feast of Sacred Scripture at the celebration of the Eucharist is designed to nourish and inspire the faithful. The following reflections on the Sunday readings for the next two months are an attempt to help readers and listeners to both savour and  ponder the selected passages so as to be drawn ever closer to the source of that nourishment. The author is a parish priest in Dorset and Vicar General of the Diocese of Plymouth.