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Ordinary Time 5 (A)
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Readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1. Isaiah 58, 7-10

  • Share your bread with the hungry.  The prophet urges his listeners to do more than go and give to their fellow needy Israelites: above all, identify with them.  Turn not your back on your own.
  • I hear the germ that developed into the corporal works of mercy: besides feeding the hungry, he says: sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked.
  • In the Letter of James we hear about “true religion” and that was also inspired by this passage.  You shall call and Lord will answer.  God is present when we honor our neighbor and become one with the needy.  On the surface, they may seem to be unlike us, because we strive all our lives not to be in need, succeeding in keeping the wolf away from the door – and we may be wanting in other things.
  • These verses give some concrete substance to the general words about salt and light in the Gospel for today.
  • I hear these words: then, quickly, and light that breaks forth.  It happens at once, as if we reveal God’s own self-giving through our small acts of generosity.   
  • Central point: We are no longer individuals but imitate God in our giving.  God becomes present, according to the prophet, through this giving and receiving among brothers and sisters: Here I am.  Jesus pointed to this in his preaching about the kingdom of God.
  • Message for our assembly: How broadly do we conceive the circle of those we call “our own”?
  • I will challenge myself: To bring the congregation a bit closer together by my gaze upon them.

2. I Corinthians 2, 1-5

  • The apostle came to you proclaiming the mystery of God.  He is comparing his own message with that of the mystery religions known to his audience, but at the same time presenting a sharp contrast.  Yes, we come into communion with the divine, where God is accessible to us and we approach God. 
  • Here is one of the contrasts.  The Greeks celebrated human wisdom known to a select few initiates, while Paul proclaimed God’s power manifested to many.
  • I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling.  The passage betrays the agonizing struggle of faith that the apostle underwent, as he declared this Way of believing that did not seem respectable to the Hellenistic establishment.  Earlier in this letter he said that they looked on it as “nonsense.”
  • I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  The whole notion has never been easy to accept, and we ourselves relapse into sandpapering and varnishing the wood of the cross.  I should speak it roughly, to remind my listeners of the scandal that the cross signified in that time.
  • Your faith does not rest on human wisdom.  Three times I hear “wisdom,” and I realize that the apostle took no credit for himself. 
  • When I get to the words demonstration of spirit and power, I might be tempted to strengthen my voice to a shout.  But it is better to understate this.  The Corinthians knew what he meant, after all.  These phenomena, in the eyes of the church, matched and exceeded the loud but empty ecstasies of the devotees of the mystery religions, because they led to the building up of communities.
  • Climax: Know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
  • The message for our assembly: Have we had a taste of this divine presence in Christ?  Don’t we have a right to it?  Why do we not insist on this?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak proudly of who we are and what makes our wisdom different from that of others.

Gospel. Matthew 5, 13-16

  • You are the salt of the earth.  Salt is the means of seasoning, enhancing and eventually preserving all the food it touches.  At least it was in ancient times before refrigeration.  And most people then died young before they could develop heart disease.  “Salt” is the key word in the phrase.
  • Popularly, the phrase has come to mean a select group with no mission in life except to bask in its selectedness.  Jesus used it to identify the mission to which his followers were called.  If salt loses its taste: we have to perform or our mission collapses.
  • He also talks about light.  Both salt and light are dynamic, enhancing all.
  • Your light must shine before others.  Usually this is done with humility, by enabling or helping others, that God may be present to them through our works.  The first reading said that God was present in these actions.  It would be the highest kind of hypocrisy, almost treason against God, to claim that we have a unique privileged revelation of the one God, if we refuse to share it with others by keeping it all to ourselves, lighting a lamp and putting it under a bushel basket.  But I won’t shout it; I’ll just state the plain truth.
  • Climax: Glorify your heavenly Father.  We are not in the business of exhibiting our talents but of drawing adherents to God.
  • Message for our assembly: Can we accept our responsibility for the world?  Do we use all opportunities to evangelize by our example?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak with encouragement, to insist as Jesus insisted.

From Word to Eucharist: Observe the procession today.  Are we a light to the nations?  Do others see our deeds?  Do we ourselves see them?  Are we strengthened in our faith by the witness of those around us?  Or do we approach the table as lonely people?

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