COMMENTARYAGAPE BIBLE STUDYGENERALCATENA AUREALIFE RECOVERY NOTES

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

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FIRST READING

Ezekiel 2:2-5

I am sending you.

  • Prophets are called by God to proclaim the message of salvation.
  • Suffering and rejection are bound to come with the call.
  • In the first reading, Ezekiel is sent to bring God’s message to hard hearted and obstinate people.
SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

When I am powerless, I am actually strong.

  • The Corinthian community requests evidence of Paul’s authority.
  • Evidently, Paul is kept humble by some sort of affliction.
  • Paul recognizes that the power of God is made known in his weakness.
GOSPEL

Mark 6:1-6a

What kind of wisdom is he endowed with?

  • The Gospel of Mark was written for early Christians experiencing persecution for their faith.
  • The rejection Jesus experienced in Nazareth hindered his power because of the people’s lack of faith.
  • In today’s passage, Mark presents a foreshadowing of the final rejection Jesus will experience at the time of his death.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor/ clipart © 2000 by Father Richard Lonsdale.

Catholic Productions

Dr. Brant Pitre

VIDEO: A New Creation in Christ (1 Cor 5:4-17)
SOURCE: The Mass Readings Explained | Intro
Hearers of the Word

Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

Navarre Bible
Commentary on Sunday's Readings (PDF)

Click to access 14-ordinary-time-year-b.pdf

Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. We also included quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
Raymond E. Brown

Introduction to the New Testament

The Opponents or False Apostles in II Cor 10–13

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Jesus Returns to Nazareth (Mk 6:1-6)

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Ave Maria Press

A Catholic Study of God’s Word

The Call of Ezekiel (Ez 1-3)

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saint louis university

Scripture in Depth

PREACHING THE LECTIONARY by Reginald Fuller

FIRST READING:  This passage comes from the first of four different accounts of Ezekiel’s call. He marks a new departure in Old Testament prophecy. Ever since the first prophet (Amos), the concept of the “Spirit” had been avoided by the prophets. It was originally too much associated with ecstatic prophecy and Baal worship, but by Ezekiel’s time it could safely be brought out and used, for by now it had been purified of its older, questionable associations.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM:  it is not easy to see precisely what connection the psalm has with the reading from Ezekiel. Perhaps the point lies in the final stanza, in which case it can be taken as a lament on the part of the prophet that his message is rejected and he receives nothing but contempt from his hearers

SECOND READING: Paul had been unfavorably contrasted with the false prophets, who boasted of their ecstasies, visions, miracles, etc. The Apostle replies that whenever he was tempted to preen himself like his opponents, he was pulled up short by a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from being elated.

GOSPEL:   Mark is thus telling his readers that Jesus was not merely a successful wonder-worker; even his miraculous deeds led to his rejection and to the cross.

RELATED COMMENTARY:

SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS

Visit liturgy.slu.edu for more resources (e.g PRAYING TOWARD SUNDAY, MUSIC OF SUNDAY, GENERAL INTERCESSIONS) to help you reflect on the spirituality of the scriptures before Mass.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

INTRODUCTION

The Difficult Ministry of God’s Representatives

In the Old Testament, God’s holy prophets spoke His words to the people, but the people didn’t always appreciate the message. For example, in the First Reading, God sent the priest-prophet Ezekiel as His “voice” to the covenant people suffering in the Babylonian exile who were “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” God told Ezekiel to preach His message to them “whether they heed or resist.” God places the same obligation on the ministerial priesthood today when they preach on difficult topics like adultery, divorce, abortion, and misplaced sexual identity.

Today, our priests face many of these same struggles in the resistance and even animosity of their congregations when they preach on evils that have become acceptable in secular society. These evils include the various forms of sexual immorality, divorce, contraception, and abortion.  Unfortunately, too many of our priests shy away from these difficult topics in their desire to be “popular” with their communities. Pray for our priests in their mission to fearlessly be the “voice of God” in preaching the teachings of Mother Church despite the “hard faces and obstinate hearts” of the people to whom they minister. Pray that our priestly ministers will have the courage to preach the truth of the Word whether their congregations “heed or resist.”

Pray that their parishioners “living in exile” in this secular world remain obedient to the Word and not become a “rebellious house” like the Israelites in the Babylonian exile. And pray that all Christians will submit themselves to the “voice” of the Lord through His priestly ministers and that their cry will be the same as in today’s Psalm response: “Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.”

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
First Reading

God’s Prophet to Israel in Exile

In the Old Testament, God’s holy prophets spoke His words to the people, but the people didn’t always appreciate the message. For example, in the First Reading, God sent the priest-prophet Ezekiel as His “voice” to the covenant people suffering in the Babylonian exile who were “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” God told Ezekiel to preach His message to them “whether they heed or resist.” God places the same obligation on the ministerial priesthood today when they preach on difficult topics like adultery, divorce, abortion, and misplaced sexual identity.


Ezekiel’s Commissioning

Today’s passage recounts Ezekiel’s commissioning as Yahweh’s holy prophet after he experienced his inaugural vision (Ez 1:4-2:8a). Lying prostrate after his vision, with his face on the ground, three events occurred in quick succession: God spoke to him, God’s Spirit entered him, and he was set upon his feet (Ez 2:2). The call for service that followed demanded an erect servant, anointed by the Spirit of God, ready to listen and obey.


The Title “Son of Man”

God addressed Ezekiel by identifying his humanity, using the title “son of man.” Jesus will use the same title for Himself in His humanity and to connect Himself with the prophet Daniel’s vision of the divine Messiah who looks like a man in Daniel 7:13. What followed was the announcement of God’s intention to send Ezekiel to be His “voice” to the children of Israel in exile. God identified the exiled Jews as rebels, who are the descendants of rebels (referring to the rebellious members of the Exodus generation and their descendants). Interestingly, God refers to His people in exile as Israelites instead of Judahites. It was probably because the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) were the only descendants of Israel who still existed as a unified people. The Assyrians conquered the other ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and sent them into exile over a century earlier, in 722 BC. Those “lost tribes” lost their identity and were assimilated into the Gentile world.


Three Ways Yahweh Describes the Israelites

Notice the three ways Yahweh described the Israelites/Judahites in verses 3-4:

  1. rebels
  2. hard of face
  3. obstinate of heart

That they are “rebels” describes them as disloyal people who refuse their allegiance to their sovereign Lord, Yahweh, a commitment they swore by an oath at Mt. Sinai in the ratification of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 24:3, 7). That the people are “hard of face” described the exterior manifestation of their stubbornness, while “obstinate of heart” described the interior condition of their disobedience.


Yahweh Tells Ezekiel Not to Expect a Positive Response from the People

If what God told Ezekiel about his target audience wasn’t bad enough, God then informed His newly commissioned prophet that he could not expect a positive response from the people. However, whether they “heed or resist,” he must continue to preach God’s message, so the people will know that God had not abandoned them and cared enough about them to send a prophet. That God said they were a “rebellious house” indicated that they would likely not listen to Ezekiel and exposes the continuing condition of the people’s defiance. The term also emphasizes their opposition to serving as God’s obedient people and members of the “household of God.” Despite their experience of suffering in exile, the Israelites were continuing to be an insubordinate covenant people refusing to listen to or be corrected by their God and divine King when He spoke to them through His priest-prophet Ezekiel (see Ps 78:5-8; Is 30:9-14)

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Responsorial Psalm

Relying on the Lord

The response is: “Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy”

A Psalm of Ascents

This psalm is entitled “a psalm of ascents.” It is the prayer of a pilgrim who has made the journey to the holy city of Jerusalem in the Judean mountains, 2,400 feet above sea level, and is entering the gates of Yahweh’s holy Temple. He raises his eyes to the Lord in Heaven to make a personal appeal for His help (verse 1). The faithful covenant people’s expression of trust (“our” in verse 2) follows the psalmist’s appeal along with a petition for God to show mercy because they have suffered the contempt and scorn of non-believers (verses 3-4).


Meaning for Christians

For Christians, this prayer has a deeper meaning when addressed to Christ Jesus, who, forty days after His Resurrection, ascended into Heaven to take His place at the right side of God the Father (Acts 2:33; Heb 1:3).

Applied to Jesus, “enthroned in Heaven” (verse 1) means that in His Ascension to the Father, He transcends all created things and has sovereignty and dominion over all creation, as Daniel saw in his vision (Dan 7:13-14).

For the faithful today, “Our eyes are on the LORD our God” as we continue to look for Him as we struggle in our earthly existence. We await the fullness of our salvation when He comes again in His Parousia or Second Coming to gather His elect and to judge the proud and arrogant the psalmist mentions in verses 3-4, as we will be “pleading for His mercy.”

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Second Reading

Suffering for Christ

In the Second Reading, St. Paul writes about his struggles and hardships in his mission to carry the Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles. In addition to the opposition to his message, he endured a physical affliction and petitioned the Lord three times to heal him. The Lord did not heal Paul, but He gave Paul the grace to accept his suffering. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that God sometimes permits certain hardships and sufferings to draw out a greater good in us. Paul accepted his affliction, and God used it to make him a more compassionate apostle to the Gentiles.


Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh”

In humility, St. Paul refers to the insults and other hardships he has endured in his mission as Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles. He also refers to his suffering in some physical affliction that God has allowed him to experience to ensure that his supernatural gifts did not make him proud and boastful. Paul does not reveal the exact nature of his “thorn in the flesh” (verse 7), but some Church Fathers and modern commentators suggest that it was some painful and humiliating physical condition. It was probably the same condition he referred to in Galatians 4:13-15. It may have been an affliction brought on by his initial loss of sight after his blinding vision of the resurrected glorified Christ in his conversion experience since he says if the Galatians could, they would have given him their eyes.


An Angel from Satan

St. Paul attributes his affliction to “an angel from Satan,” which suggests the disability could have been an obstacle to his mission to evangelize. Paul says three times he asked the Lord to heal him, and three times the Lord told him to endure because God’s grace was enough to enable him to live with his suffering.  Paul testifies the weakness of his physical condition, and his submission to the will of God for his life served to strengthen his faith in the Lord Jesus and his commitment to his mission. He thanked the Lord that his weakness made the grace of God greater in his life since he knew that his missionary work was not his success but can boast that it was Christ working through him.


Interpretations

St. Thomas Aquinas, using this passage as an example, wrote that God sometimes permits certain hardships and sufferings to draw out a greater good (Commentary on 2 Chr, ad loc.). For example, in Paul’s case, to protect His apostle from the sin of pride (the root of all vices), God allowed His chosen apostle (and others who serve Him) to be humiliated by weakness in an affliction. In this way, the humbling experience allowed God’s servant to recognize that he/she cannot succeed by his/her efforts alone. Therefore, when encountering the same conditions, we must trust in God’s providence and take assurance from St. Paul, who wrote; We know that all things work for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).

The Catechism tells us: “God is infinitely good, and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? ‘I sought whence evil comes, and there was no solution,’ said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For ‘the mystery of lawlessness’ is clarified only in the light of the ‘mystery of our religion.’ The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror” (CCC 385, quoting St. Augustine, Confessions, 7.7, 11 and 2 Thess 2:7 and 1 Tim 3:16).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Gospel

Jesus’s Rejection by His Neighbors at Nazareth

The Context

Jesus came to His hometown of Nazareth and attended the Sabbath day (Saturday) service in the local Synagogue. Nazareth is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew Nasret, derived from the Hebrew word “consecrate” (nazir) or “branch” (netzer/nezer). Located on the southwestern side of the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth is about 15 miles from the tip of the southern shore. The Old Testament Scriptures do not mention Nazareth, but there was an inscription naming Nazareth found at Caesarea that dates to the 1st century AD. The town of Nazareth was considered insignificant in Jesus’s day (see Jn 1:45-46).


The Sabbath Obligation

As a Jew who was obedient to the commands of the Sinai Covenant, it was Jesus’s custom to keep the Sabbath obligation by attending the Synagogue (Ex 20:8-11; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:1-3; Dt 6:12-15; Lk 4:16) when He wasn’t in Jerusalem to attend the Temple worship services.  Worship expressed in sacrifice took place in the Jerusalem Temple. However, for those communities located too far away from the Temple, prayer and praise took place in the local synagogues, where the congregation read and reflected on the Sacred Scriptures. The synagogue president had the authority to ask any male of the covenant to read and expound on the day’s selected Scripture to the congregation. He invited Jesus to stand and read the Scripture for that Saturday Sabbath service and expound on the passage (verse 2a). St. Mark does not record the reading or the exchange between Jesus and the congregation that appears in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 4:16-30). In the Luke passage, Jesus declares the fulfillment of the prophetic text He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 in Him (Lk 4:16-21)!


Jesus, “Son of Mary”

Instead of being favorably impressed by the wisdom of Jesus’s teaching, the people were angry that one who they consider an ordinary man and their equal dared to put Himself above them. Interestingly, they call Jesus the “son of Mary” instead of the “son of Joseph.” It was customary to name a man or woman through their father and not their mother. That they only mentioned Mary could be because Joseph had been dead for a long time, or they knew the story that Joseph was not Jesus’s biological father.


Jesus’ Brothers

Jesus’s “brothers” (adelphoi in the Greek text), also named in Matthew 13:55, are James, Joses (the shortened form of Joseph), Simon, and Judas (Jude in the abbreviated form). These “brothers” and “sisters” are kinsmen/kinswomen who could be the children of Joseph by a previous marriage, cousins, or even uncles/aunts. Hebrew and Aramaic did not have terms for extended relationships like half-brother, stepbrother, cousin, etc. That is why in the New Testament, the word “brothers/adelphoi” refers to brothers like James and John Zebedee, Jesus’s disciples, and countrymen in general (i.e., see Acts 15:7). The Church has always taught that Mary did not have other children. See the documents “Did Jesus have Brothers and Sisters?” and the Four Marian Dogmas concerning Mary’s perpetual virginity.


And They Took Offense at Him

The Greek word translated as “offense” is skandalizomai, meaning “to stumble over an obstacle”; it is the word from which we get our English word “scandal.” Knowing Jesus in His ordinary life became a “stumbling stone” to them in accepting Him as an agent of God (see Is 8:14; 1 Cor 1:23; 1 Pt 2:7-8).  Jesus had lived such an ordinary life among the people of His community that they found it incredible that He should be anything special. The prophet Isaiah foretold that the “Suffering Servant” of God would grow up unrecognized by his neighbors before His great work of atonement (Is 53:2). The point is that our Redeemer is one of us (Heb 2:16-18).


A Prophet is Not Without Honor

Jesus used what must have been a common proverb in verse 4 to explain His rejection (see Lk 4:24; Jn 4:44). Like God’s prophets before Him, the people ridiculed and rejected Jesus for preaching the word of God among His countrymen (see Is 6:9-10 repeated in Mt 13:14-15). Receiving a negative response to preaching the coming of the Kingdom of the Messiah was the warning that Jesus gave His disciples (see Mt 5:11-12).


The People’s Lack of Faith

Their lack of faith amazed [thaumazo = “to marvel, wonder”] Jesus and hindered Him in working miracles on their behalf. “Laying hands” on someone is a sign of transmitting power. It was not that Jesus did not have the ability to heal because of their unbelief. There is no limit to God the Son’s power, but He respects our free-will choices, and healing is a cooperative effort involving the person’s faith coupled with divine intervention. Verses 5-6 highlight the necessity of faith for God’s work in our lives, and it is why Jesus warned people to “have faith” before He healed them (i.e., Mk 5:36). In this passage, His neighbors’ lack of faith amazed Jesus, and later, the “little faith” of His disciples made Him sad (Mt 8:26). However, He would also compliment and feel admiration for the faith of two Gentiles: a Roman centurion and a Canaanite woman (Mt 8:10; 15:28). What about you? When you appear before the judgment throne of Christ, will He be amazed at your lack of faith, or will He reward you with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.  Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL

Featured Commentaries

Mark: Christ Centered Exposition Commentary - Jesus: A Prophet Without honor! (Mark 6:1-6)

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Exalting Jesus in Mark (Chr… by Juan Carlos Herrera

Mark: A Reader-Response Commentary - Jesus in His Hometown

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Mark Commentary by Oscar Cabrera

Mark: A Theme Based Approach - Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth
SOURCE: Above content taken and embedded on this page provided by SCRIBD. All rights reserved.
Feasting on the WORD – YEAR B

Jesus is Rendered Powerless

Here he struggles with the limitations of his full humanity: being rendered powerless by those who doubt his calling.

GOSPEL:  Because of the unbelief of the people of Nazareth, Mark tells us, Jesus is rendered powerless (v. 5). This is a troubling statement, for we know that God has endowed Jesus, as the Messiah, with God’s own power. Here again, however, we are reminded of the reality of Jesus’ humanity. Just as Jesus struggled against temptation in the desert at the beginning of his ministry and against the reality of his fate in the Garden of Gethsemane at the end of his ministry, here he struggles with the limitations of his full humanity: being rendered powerless by those who doubt his calling. But Jesus’ powerlessness is not primarily about him but about us: about those who are unwilling to believe the great things God can do.

The preacher can explore examples of missed opportunities and lost blessings because of our limited faith. In an implicit way, Mark continues to raise in this text the question he repeatedly raises in his Gospel: who is this Jesus? When Jesus stills the storm on the Sea of Galilee, those in the boat with him wonder, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (4:41). When he brings Jairus’s daughter from death to life, those who witness it are “overcome with amazement” (5:42). In this story it is not those who are encountering Jesus for the first time but those who have known him for years who are asking the same question about Jesus’ identity and responding to his teaching with amazement.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD – YEAR B. All rights reserved.
MAX LUCADO: LIFE LESSONS

A Day in the Life of Christ…

Jesus experienced stressful, chaotic days like ours. He knows what the pace of our life is like.

Mark 6:1—7:23

A day in the Life of Christ.. . .

[A] day in which Jesus experiences more stress than he will any other day of his life—aside from his crucifixion. Before the morning becomes evening, he has reason to weep . . . run . . . shout . . . curse . . . praise . . . doubt.

From calm to chaos. From peace to perplexity. Within moments his world is turned upside down. . . .

The morning has been a jungle trail of the unexpected. First Jesus grieves over the death of a dear friend and relative. Then his life is threatened. Next he celebrates the triumphant return of his followers. Then he is nearly suffocated by a brouhaha of humanity.

Bereavement . . . jeopardy . . . jubilation . . . bedlam. . . .

Ponder this the next time your world goes from calm to chaos. . . .

Jesus knows how you feel.

A friend of mine was recently trying to teach his six-year-old son how to shoot a basket. The boy would take the basketball and push it as hard as he could toward the goal, but it always fell short. The father would then take the ball and toss it toward the basket, saying something like, “Just do it like this, son. It’s easy.”

Then the boy would try, and miss, again. My friend would then take the ball and make another basket, encouraging his son to push the ball a bit harder.

After several minutes and many misses, the boy responded to his father’s encouragement by saying, “Yeah, but it’s easy for you up there. You don’t know how hard it is from down here.”

You and I can never say that about God. Of the many messages Jesus taught us that day about stress, the first one is this: “God knows how you feel.” (From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from LIFE LESSONS by Max Lucado (24 Book Series). All rights reserved.
PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

Blind Prejudice

Prejudice produced a gap which was filled in with unbelief.

GOSPEL: Where does He get His wisdom? The answer of blind prejudice comes back, “Is this not the carpenter?” (v. 3). Again, the mildest meaning of the question is a putdown for an unschooled craftsman who now claims to be a rabbi. More likely, the barb goes deeper to twist and to turn. To be called a carpenter in Jesus’ time did not necessarily mean a skilled craftsman with high position among laboring classes; it also meant a “handyman” who traveled from house to house doing small, odd jobs for a pittance. On the scale of honor, a handyman stood just above the village idiot. If this is the stereotype of Jesus that His townsfolk still hold, we can understand why they have trouble accepting the wisdom of His articulate and authoritative words. Prejudice produced a gap which was filled in with unbelief.

Where does Jesus get the power to perform mighty works? Again, the answer comes back in prejudicial terms, “Is this not the…brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” (v. 3). By inference, the whole family of Jesus is maligned. Pointing to His brothers and sisters, the skeptics call attention to the fact that they are not only natural progeny of Mary and Joseph, but undistinguished in gifts or reputation. How can their brother suddenly appear with a claim on the supernatural?

Jesus has come home anticipating a welcome. Instead, He is crushed under an attitude of unbelief growing out of the familiarity and prejudice of people who try to remake Him in their own despicable and defensive self-image.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.
AFRICA STUDY BIBLE

Preaching and Teaching Without Fear

Jesus’ power is more than sufficient to bring deliverance, strength, and even healing.

FIRST READING – Even though false prophets gave words of comfort, Ezekiel predicted disaster. God told Ezekiel not to change the message because of fear or their threats (Ezekiel 2:6-7). The Yoruba of Nigeria say, Eni ran nise la mberu, ai beru eni ama je fun, meaning, “The messenger should only fear the one who sent him on an errand and not those to whom the message is to be delivered.”

This proverb speaks directly to the difficult situations in which pastors often find themselves. They have been sent to the world, just as Ezekiel was sent during his time. And like Ezekiel, they should not be afraid. No matter how hazardous the environment or rebellious the people might be, a minister of God must only fear God who commissioned him as a messenger to his world.

When ministers are unwilling to say difficult things, this can lead to softening the biblical message. They may dilute the message to make it more beautiful to the world. But God’s objective is to have a pure and committed church. Ministers must earnestly deliver God’s message to their world. They must speak God’s truth from the Bible without fear.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from Africa Study Bible. All rights reserved.
Feasting on the WORD – YEAR B

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

This does not give the pastoral leader license to tell cherished members of the congregation afflicted with chronic pain or debilitating illness that they are required to regard such conditions as blessed gifts from God. But it does guide us in our efforts…

SECOND READING: Paul understood his thorn as an agent sent by Satan to diminish the effectiveness of his mission, an agent that has backfired on the enemy because it guards him against being carried away by his transporting visions. Without the thorn, Paul could have easily fallen into the trap that ensnared the superapostles, diverted from his urgent mission by narcissistic fascination with his experiences and the sense of self-importance they bring. That which Satan sent to do harm has been transformed by grace to a good gift.

This does not give the pastoral leader license to tell cherished members of the congregation afflicted with chronic pain or debilitating illness that they are required to regard such conditions as blessed gifts from God. But it does guide us in our efforts to speak to them not only of the God who shares their burdens, but of how we may discover God’s grace even in our weaknesses and limitations. This is dangerous territory, to be entered into only in a spirit of deep compassion. Again Paul steers us in sound and helpful ways, even if his particulars of language and images need to be reframed. He clearly understands his “thorn” as an agent of Satan, not God: God did not cause his affliction any more than God causes a child to develop leukemia. But God is present even in the difficult things God does not cause, and the grace of God can be made manifest even through the afflictions that bring God—and us—grief and sorrow. For Paul, God’s grace is as much a “given” as the air about him, a grace that prevails over sin, weakness, and hardship: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).

Paul boasts not of his experiences of transcendent wonder, but rather of his human weakness, his thorn. As is true in so many dimensions of faith, there is a paradox here: we express humility before God by boasting of our weakness because the love, power, and glory of God are made manifest through the good we are able to accomplish in spite of that weakness. “Whenever I am weak, I am strong” (v. 10).

Through this rich text, pastoral leaders are reminded that cultivating an inner spiritual life is important in deepening our own walk with God, but it is generally wise to speak of that inner life cautiously, if at all. Rather, that inner life should form us in ways that make our public ministries more faithful. Rather then describe our personal encounter with the risen Christ in transcendent clouds of glory, our calling is to be the presence of Christ to others. But we can, and should, speak humbly and honestly of our weaknesses and limitations, bragging not of our own accomplishments, but of what God is able to accomplish through our lives, despite our weakness.

SOURCE: EXCERPT taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD – YEAR B. All rights reserved.

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14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

commentary on readingsThe Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.

Annotated index of Church Fathers used in commentary

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Catena Aurea

Mark 6:1-6

1. And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

2. And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?

3. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

4. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

5. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.

6. And he marvelled because of their unbelief.

COMMENTARY

THEOPHYLACT. After the miracles which have been related, the Lord returns into His own country, not that He was ignorant that they would despise Him, but that they might have no reason to say, If Thou hadst come, we had believed Thee; wherefore it is said, And he went out from thence, and came into his own country.

BEDE. (in Marc. 2, 23) He means by His country, Nazareth, in which He was brought up. But how great the blindness of the Nazarenes! they despise Him, Who by His words and deeds they might know to be the Christ, solely on account of His kindred. It goes on, And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? By wisdom is meant His doctrine, by powers, the cures and miracles which He did. It goes on, Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. ii. 42) Matthew indeed says that He was called the son of a carpenter; nor are we to wonder, since both might have been said, for they believed Him to be a carpenter, because He was the son of a carpenter.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Jesus is called the son of a workman, of that one, however, whose work was the morning and the sun, that is, the first and second Church, as a figure of which the woman and the damsel are healed.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) For although human things are not to be compared with divine, still the type is complete, because the Father of Christ works by fire and spirit. It goes on, The brother of James, and Joses, of Jude, and, of Simon. And are not his sisters here with us? They bear witness that His brothers and sisters were with Him, who nevertheless are not to be taken for the sons of Joseph or of Mary, as heretics say, but rather, as is usual in Scripture, we must understand them to be His relations, as Abraham and Lot are called brothers, though Lot was brother’s son to Abraham. And they were offended at him. The stumbling and the error of the Jews is our salvation, and the condemnation of heretics. For so much did they despise the Lord Jesus Christ, as to call Him a carpenter, and son of a carpenter. It goes on, And Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country. Even Moses bears witness that the Lord is called a Prophet in the Scripture, for predicting His future Incarnation to the sons of Israel, he says, A Prophet shall the Lord raise up unto you of your brethren. (Acts 7:37) But not only He Himself, Who is Lord of prophets, but also Elias, Jeremiah, and the remaining lesser prophets, were worse received in their own country than in strange cities, for it is almost natural for men to envy their fellow-townsmen; for they do not consider the present works of the man, but they remember the weakness of His infancy.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Oftentimes also the origin of a man brings him contempt, as it is written, (1 Sam. 25:10. Ps. 138:6) Who is the son of Jesse? for the Lord hath respect unto the lowly; as to the proud, He beholdeth them afar off.

THEOPHYLACT. Or again, if the prophet has noble relations, his countrymen hate them, and on that account do not honour the prophet. There follows, And he could there do no mighty work, &c. What, however, is here expressed by He could not, we must take to mean, He did not choose, because it was not that He was weak, but that they were faithless; He does not therefore work any miracles there, for he spared them, lest they should be worthy of greater blame, if they believed not, even with miracles before their eyes. Or else, for the working of miracles, not only the power of the Worker is necessary, but the faith of the recipient, which was wanting in this case: therefore Jesus did not choose to work any signs there. There follows, And he marvelled at their unbelief.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Not as if He Who knows all things before they are done, wonders at what He did not expect or look forward to, but knowing the hidden things of the heart, and wishing to intimate to men that it was wonderful, He openly shews that He wonders. And indeed the blindness of the Jews is wonderful, for they neither believed what their prophets said of Christ, nor would in their own persons believe on Christ, Who was born amongst them. Mystically again; Christ is despised in His own house and country, that is, amongst the people of the Jews, and therefore He worked few miracles there, lest they should become altogether inexcusable. But He performs greater miracles every day amongst the Gentiles, not so much in the healing of their bodies, as in the salvation of their souls.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

First Reading

The Ways of an Infinite God

Job 38:8
“Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness

New Living Translation (Hover cursor above the scripture reference to read the NRSV version)

JOB 38:2–39:30 God used a series of questions to illustrate how little Job knew about creation and God’s ways. If Job knew nothing of these mysteries, how could he know anything about God’s character? All Job could do was worship and trust God.

We, too, wonder why we suffer. We wonder why bad things happen to us and those we love. But like Job, we are finite and cannot understand the ways of our infinite God. All we can do is praise him and await his deliverance.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

FIRST READING

Holding onto Denial

Ezekiel 2:5
And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.

Ezekiel 2:3-5 Why did God send a message of judgment to a group of people already in exile? At this time Jerusalem still stood, and a majority of the people still lived in Israel. Ezekiel was among a small group that had already been exiled; many of these early exiles believed their captivity would be short. Ezekiel was called to tell them that the consequences of their sins had not yet fully happened. Jerusalem was yet to be destroyed. The people needed to admit their sins and turn to God in repentance in order to fulfill God’s purpose for their exile.

Like the exiles, we often hold on to our denial long after we have begun to feel the destructive consequences of our actions. We must be wise and act before the full consequences of our addictions fall upon us.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Second Reading

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

2 Corinthians 12:9
I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10  – NLT – Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. [9] Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. [10] That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

GOSPEL

Insights: About the Person of Jesus

Mark 6:5
And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

In Mark 6:1-6 Jesus visited his hometown of Nazareth, where he was looked upon as a mere man, a carpenter, Mary’s boy. The people’s unbelief kept Jesus from performing “mighty miracles” in Nazareth. Unfortunately for the people of Nazareth, their familiarity with Jesus bred contempt. Fortunately for us, Jesus left and went elsewhere to minister to those who would believe in his miracles and message. Our world has tried to pass Jesus off as just another man, a good teacher, or a wise prophet. Anyone who focuses on Jesus’ humanity to the exclusion of his divinity makes a grave mistake. If Jesus were not the Son of God, there would be little hope for any recovery, including our own.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Gospel

Betraying God

Mark 14:18
and as they were sitting around the table eating, Jesus said, “I solemnly declare that one of you will betray me, one of you who is here eating with me.”

MK 14:10-26 We are often shocked by Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. Since Judas had spent about three years in close friendship with Jesus, we wonder what could have prompted him to act as he did.

Yet if we are truly honest with ourself, we may see the same potential in our own heart. Whenever we refuse to give Jesus authority over a certain area of our life, we act like Judas. Whenever we promise to do one thing and then do another, we act like Judas. We all have betrayed God in some way or another. We should use Judas’s failure as an opportunity to take a hard look at our own life. In what ways are we betraying God?

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
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