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The Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

Okay, so what's going on in this passage?  I will make a few points here.  Number one, remember that the context of these words we just heard from Jesus are his instructions to his 12 apostles, or his 12 disciples.  Although we tend to use the word disciple in a really broad sense to mean anyone who is a believer, in a first century Greek context — in Jesus’ setting in the Gospels — the word disciple, mathitís, literally means a student or a learner.  So in this context Jesus is describing his intimate circle of the 12 disciples, the 12 students that he has chosen among all his followers to be entrusted with his own authority and to go out and to imitate him by preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.  So when he talks about disciple, that's the primary meaning in its context here, the mission of the 12 disciples.  Now in that context he is talking to the disciples about their own discipleship and about the demands of following him, and he begins with this really shocking statement that “whoever loves his father or mother more than me isn't worthy of me,” in other words, “isn’t worthy to be my disciple.”

Now it's hard for me to stress just how radical that would've been in a first century Jewish setting, in particular because of the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments.  So if you go back to Exodus 20 and to the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments that God gave to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, one of the things you're going to notice is that the first three Commandments are about God and about honoring him, not blaspheming, and what not.  But the second set of commandments, the last seven, are all about love of neighbor and your relation with others.  The very first one of those second set of commandments is “honor thy father and thy mother,” it's the fourth commandment.  And in Hebrew the word there for honor, kavod, literally means to glorify or give glory to your mother and your father.  So the idea of honoring one's father and mother was like the fundamental commandment in your relationship with other human beings.  The first obligation you had as a person was to give glory and honor to the people who gave life to you, namely your mother and your father.  So for Jesus, a rabbi, a teacher and a prophet, to come to his disciples and say “if you love your father and your mother more than me you're not worthy to be my disciple,” would've been an absolutely shocking claim, because what Jesus is essentially doing is kind of turning the tables on not just social customs, but on the Decalogue itself, which would put your relationship with your family, and in particular with your parents, as being of the highest importance.  And Jesus is saying “no, no, no, your relationship with me, your love for me, exceeds that of your love for your parents.  It's more central and it’s more important, and if you love them more than you love me you can't be my student, you can’t be my disciple.”

So again, just translate that for a second into a contemporary setting.  Imagine if you walked into a college classroom and the professor came out on the first day of class and said “okay, before we begin, I need to let you know something.  If you don't love me more than you love your parents you can't be a student in my class.”  Everyone would be shocked because obviously that professor would be demanding an extremely radical and unheard of level of commitment from his students to him, and not just commitment, but love, and that is really what Jesus is saying here.  So that is the first point here, Jesus is bringing the discipleship discourse to an end with a shocking demand, but it doesn't leave it there, he says even more.

He also says that “whoever loves sons or daughters more than me isn't worthy of me.”  And I think it's understandable, even apart from a knowledge of the Decalogue, it's natural for mothers and fathers to put their children at the very center of their lives, to love their children above all others.  And yet Jesus is saying “you can't love your children more than you love me.”  Again, what prophet  would ask such a thing?  What teacher would ask such a thing?  Well, the Jews would've known that if you go back to the Old Testament, the only person that ever demands not just that kind of allegiance, but that kind of love, is the Lord himself.  And they would have known it because every day, several times a day, they would have prayed the great prayer in Deuteronomy 6 known as the Shema, “hear O Israel.”  Deuteronomy 6:46 reads as follows:

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

So this was what elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus calls the greatest commandment, the commandment to love God with all one's heart, all one’s soul, all one’s strength, above all others; and yet now Jesus is saying “I want you [speaking to the disciples] to love me with that kind of radical and supreme love.”  So what's going on here?  Well this is one of those times in the Gospels where Jesus doesn't explicitly declare “I am God,” but he does implicitly reveal that he is divine, because he's making a claim on the love of the disciples that only God himself could make.  He wants them to love him radically, completely, totally, above the love of parents and above the love of children.  And if you don't do that, he is basically saying you are not worthy to be my disciple, which only makes sense if following Jesus means following God, because it would be following that great commandment from Deuteronomy 6:4-6.  So he's demanding divine love, the kind of love that God alone can demand, on the part of his disciples. 

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

The first thing we want to highlight here is Paul’s language of Baptism. So he says:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Now the Greek word baptizō literally means to be immersed in water. And it actually was used in  first century context, not just to refer to the kind of immersions that John the Baptist was famous for—that’s why he’s called John the Baptizer. He’s John the Immerser. People go out to him in the river Jordan, and they’d be immersed in the waters of the river Jordan as a symbol of their turning away from sin (repentance) and confessing those sins for the forgiveness of sins. So it says that John practiced…

...a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:3)

But the imagery of Baptism was something that was also practiced in Judaism of Jesus’s day, outside of the activity of John, in the practice of immersion of water for ritual cleansing. So for example, there’s a passage from the Gospel of Mark that is easy to overlook in many English translations, but it gives you a little insight into Paul’s language here. In Mark chapter 7:1-4, there’s a controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees, because the Pharisees notice that some of Jesus’s disciples are eating food without having washed their hands. And this is what Mark says, listen to this:

Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves...

Now, the Revised Standard Version here says “purify themselves,” but literally the Greek says baptizō. So they don’t eat when they come from the market unless they baptize. What is that a reference to? Well, it’s a reference to the fact that in first century Judaism, not only around the temple but even in the synagogues and in some of the more wealthy people’s homes, there were ritual pools of water called mikvah. It’s mikva'ot, actually, in Hebrew—that’s the plural. We’ll just call it mikvahs in English. And a mikvah was a ritual bath where a person could cleanse themselves if they encountered any kind of ritual defilement, like by going to a marketplace where they might have meat that was offered to idols, like a pagan or something like that.

So when certain very devout Jews would come from the marketplace, they would baptize. They would immerse themselves in water. So it was a way, again, like with St. John the Baptist, symbolizing cleansing from sin, especially if you were going to enter into the temple. So there were a lot of mikvahs around the temple that you would immerse in, so that you could enter into the presence of God and cleanse yourself from sin to enter into His holy presence.

So Paul here, obviously though, is describing Christian Baptism, which wasn’t a repeated ritual washing but a one time event through which a person would be cleansed of sin—not just ritually or symbolically but actually, really, through union with the death of Jesus Christ...through union with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So when Paul says:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

...he’s revealing that Baptism isn’t just a kind of external symbolic right—not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, that’s part of it. It is an external symbolic right, but it’s more than that, because you’re being baptized into the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So he goes on:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

So if you think of this in terms of a chart, you can look at one side—you have the life of Christ, the mystery of Christ’s life. You have three stages, basically. After His death, He’s buried in a tomb, and then on Easter Sunday (number two), He rises again. So number three, He’s no longer under the dominion of death. Those are three key points. Once Christ dies and is buried and rises again, He’s no longer under the power of death. He’s never going to die again in His resurrected body.

Paul is saying just as that happens to Jesus—or happened to Jesus—in time and history and space, so too through this ritual immersion in Christian Baptism, those who go down into the water are united to the death of Jesus. They’re immersed in the water (just like Jesus’s dead body was buried in the tomb) and then they come up out of the water (just like Jesus’s resurrected body came up out of the tomb), so that (number three) they too are no longer under the power of sin and death. They’re dead to sin and now they’re alive to God. They had a share in the resurrected life of Jesus.

Now, I don't know about you, but that’s not the way I learned about Baptism in my Catechism class. In contemporary Christianity and contemporary Catholicism (at least in the west), when we talk about Baptism or we catechize about it, we tend to talk about it primarily in other categories, like either the cleansing of original sin—that was one of the first I learned, that your original sin is washed away, the stain is washed away in Baptism—or incorporation into the Body of Christ. Through Baptism, you become a member of Christ’s Body. Other people will talk about it as making you a child of God. Through Baptism, you become a son or a daughter of God. And all these are true. They’re all correct. What we don’t often hear is that Baptism is a sacrament of burial with Jesus...or Baptism is a sacrament of dying with Christ and rising with Christ.

But that’s precisely what Paul’s describing Baptism as here in Romans 6. And it’s also crucial for understanding why Baptism is so powerful. Have you ever wondered about that? Maybe you were baptized as an adult. If you were, you’ll know that if you come into the Church as an adult, you don’t have to go to sacramental confession before you’re baptized. Because when you receive the Sacrament of Baptism as an adult, it not only washes away original sin, but it washes away and forgives every actual sin you’ve ever committed, as well as all the consequences or temporal punishment for those actual sins.

Now, how is that possible? How is this one act of pouring water three times or being immersed in water—how can it wash away twenty years of sin? Thirty years of sin? Fifty years of sin, sixty years of sin? No matter how bad they are. How is Baptism that powerful? It just looks like some water being poured on someone’s head or someone being immersed in a pool. The answer is Roman 6. It’s because Baptism isn’t just an external symbolic cleansing. Baptism is a participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which He redeemed the world and entered into the new life of the resurrection.

So every time a person is baptized, they are (so to speak) crucified with Christ and raised with Christ, so that the power of His death and resurrection flows through the water of Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit into the person to where they are forgiven of all original and actual sin and made a child of God, made a member of the Body of Christ...but also made sharers in the one Paschal Mystery of Jesus’s Passion, death, and resurrection by which the world was redeemed. Baptism is that powerful because the Passion of Jesus was that powerful.

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Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


***Subscribe or Login for Full Access.***

GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

Okay, so what's going on in this passage?  I will make a few points here.  Number one, remember that the context of these words we just heard from Jesus are his instructions to his 12 apostles, or his 12 disciples.  Although we tend to use the word disciple in a really broad sense to mean anyone who is a believer, in a first century Greek context — in Jesus’ setting in the Gospels — the word disciple, mathitís, literally means a student or a learner.  So in this context Jesus is describing his intimate circle of the 12 disciples, the 12 students that he has chosen among all his followers to be entrusted with his own authority and to go out and to imitate him by preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.  So when he talks about disciple, that's the primary meaning in its context here, the mission of the 12 disciples.  Now in that context he is talking to the disciples about their own discipleship and about the demands of following him, and he begins with this really shocking statement that “whoever loves his father or mother more than me isn't worthy of me,” in other words, “isn’t worthy to be my disciple.”

Now it's hard for me to stress just how radical that would've been in a first century Jewish setting, in particular because of the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments.  So if you go back to Exodus 20 and to the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments that God gave to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, one of the things you're going to notice is that the first three Commandments are about God and about honoring him, not blaspheming, and what not.  But the second set of commandments, the last seven, are all about love of neighbor and your relation with others.  The very first one of those second set of commandments is “honor thy father and thy mother,” it's the fourth commandment.  And in Hebrew the word there for honor, kavod, literally means to glorify or give glory to your mother and your father.  So the idea of honoring one's father and mother was like the fundamental commandment in your relationship with other human beings.  The first obligation you had as a person was to give glory and honor to the people who gave life to you, namely your mother and your father.  So for Jesus, a rabbi, a teacher and a prophet, to come to his disciples and say “if you love your father and your mother more than me you're not worthy to be my disciple,” would've been an absolutely shocking claim, because what Jesus is essentially doing is kind of turning the tables on not just social customs, but on the Decalogue itself, which would put your relationship with your family, and in particular with your parents, as being of the highest importance.  And Jesus is saying “no, no, no, your relationship with me, your love for me, exceeds that of your love for your parents.  It's more central and it’s more important, and if you love them more than you love me you can't be my student, you can’t be my disciple.”

So again, just translate that for a second into a contemporary setting.  Imagine if you walked into a college classroom and the professor came out on the first day of class and said “okay, before we begin, I need to let you know something.  If you don't love me more than you love your parents you can't be a student in my class.”  Everyone would be shocked because obviously that professor would be demanding an extremely radical and unheard of level of commitment from his students to him, and not just commitment, but love, and that is really what Jesus is saying here.  So that is the first point here, Jesus is bringing the discipleship discourse to an end with a shocking demand, but it doesn't leave it there, he says even more.

He also says that “whoever loves sons or daughters more than me isn't worthy of me.”  And I think it's understandable, even apart from a knowledge of the Decalogue, it's natural for mothers and fathers to put their children at the very center of their lives, to love their children above all others.  And yet Jesus is saying “you can't love your children more than you love me.”  Again, what prophet  would ask such a thing?  What teacher would ask such a thing?  Well, the Jews would've known that if you go back to the Old Testament, the only person that ever demands not just that kind of allegiance, but that kind of love, is the Lord himself.  And they would have known it because every day, several times a day, they would have prayed the great prayer in Deuteronomy 6 known as the Shema, “hear O Israel.”  Deuteronomy 6:46 reads as follows:

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

So this was what elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus calls the greatest commandment, the commandment to love God with all one's heart, all one’s soul, all one’s strength, above all others; and yet now Jesus is saying “I want you [speaking to the disciples] to love me with that kind of radical and supreme love.”  So what's going on here?  Well this is one of those times in the Gospels where Jesus doesn't explicitly declare “I am God,” but he does implicitly reveal that he is divine, because he's making a claim on the love of the disciples that only God himself could make.  He wants them to love him radically, completely, totally, above the love of parents and above the love of children.  And if you don't do that, he is basically saying you are not worthy to be my disciple, which only makes sense if following Jesus means following God, because it would be following that great commandment from Deuteronomy 6:4-6.  So he's demanding divine love, the kind of love that God alone can demand, on the part of his disciples. 

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

The first thing we want to highlight here is Paul’s language of Baptism. So he says:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Now the Greek word baptizō literally means to be immersed in water. And it actually was used in  first century context, not just to refer to the kind of immersions that John the Baptist was famous for—that’s why he’s called John the Baptizer. He’s John the Immerser. People go out to him in the river Jordan, and they’d be immersed in the waters of the river Jordan as a symbol of their turning away from sin (repentance) and confessing those sins for the forgiveness of sins. So it says that John practiced…

...a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:3)

But the imagery of Baptism was something that was also practiced in Judaism of Jesus’s day, outside of the activity of John, in the practice of immersion of water for ritual cleansing. So for example, there’s a passage from the Gospel of Mark that is easy to overlook in many English translations, but it gives you a little insight into Paul’s language here. In Mark chapter 7:1-4, there’s a controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees, because the Pharisees notice that some of Jesus’s disciples are eating food without having washed their hands. And this is what Mark says, listen to this:

Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves...

Now, the Revised Standard Version here says “purify themselves,” but literally the Greek says baptizō. So they don’t eat when they come from the market unless they baptize. What is that a reference to? Well, it’s a reference to the fact that in first century Judaism, not only around the temple but even in the synagogues and in some of the more wealthy people’s homes, there were ritual pools of water called mikvah. It’s mikva'ot, actually, in Hebrew—that’s the plural. We’ll just call it mikvahs in English. And a mikvah was a ritual bath where a person could cleanse themselves if they encountered any kind of ritual defilement, like by going to a marketplace where they might have meat that was offered to idols, like a pagan or something like that.

So when certain very devout Jews would come from the marketplace, they would baptize. They would immerse themselves in water. So it was a way, again, like with St. John the Baptist, symbolizing cleansing from sin, especially if you were going to enter into the temple. So there were a lot of mikvahs around the temple that you would immerse in, so that you could enter into the presence of God and cleanse yourself from sin to enter into His holy presence.

So Paul here, obviously though, is describing Christian Baptism, which wasn’t a repeated ritual washing but a one time event through which a person would be cleansed of sin—not just ritually or symbolically but actually, really, through union with the death of Jesus Christ...through union with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So when Paul says:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

...he’s revealing that Baptism isn’t just a kind of external symbolic right—not that there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, that’s part of it. It is an external symbolic right, but it’s more than that, because you’re being baptized into the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So he goes on:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

So if you think of this in terms of a chart, you can look at one side—you have the life of Christ, the mystery of Christ’s life. You have three stages, basically. After His death, He’s buried in a tomb, and then on Easter Sunday (number two), He rises again. So number three, He’s no longer under the dominion of death. Those are three key points. Once Christ dies and is buried and rises again, He’s no longer under the power of death. He’s never going to die again in His resurrected body.

Paul is saying just as that happens to Jesus—or happened to Jesus—in time and history and space, so too through this ritual immersion in Christian Baptism, those who go down into the water are united to the death of Jesus. They’re immersed in the water (just like Jesus’s dead body was buried in the tomb) and then they come up out of the water (just like Jesus’s resurrected body came up out of the tomb), so that (number three) they too are no longer under the power of sin and death. They’re dead to sin and now they’re alive to God. They had a share in the resurrected life of Jesus.

Now, I don't know about you, but that’s not the way I learned about Baptism in my Catechism class. In contemporary Christianity and contemporary Catholicism (at least in the west), when we talk about Baptism or we catechize about it, we tend to talk about it primarily in other categories, like either the cleansing of original sin—that was one of the first I learned, that your original sin is washed away, the stain is washed away in Baptism—or incorporation into the Body of Christ. Through Baptism, you become a member of Christ’s Body. Other people will talk about it as making you a child of God. Through Baptism, you become a son or a daughter of God. And all these are true. They’re all correct. What we don’t often hear is that Baptism is a sacrament of burial with Jesus...or Baptism is a sacrament of dying with Christ and rising with Christ.

But that’s precisely what Paul’s describing Baptism as here in Romans 6. And it’s also crucial for understanding why Baptism is so powerful. Have you ever wondered about that? Maybe you were baptized as an adult. If you were, you’ll know that if you come into the Church as an adult, you don’t have to go to sacramental confession before you’re baptized. Because when you receive the Sacrament of Baptism as an adult, it not only washes away original sin, but it washes away and forgives every actual sin you’ve ever committed, as well as all the consequences or temporal punishment for those actual sins.

Now, how is that possible? How is this one act of pouring water three times or being immersed in water—how can it wash away twenty years of sin? Thirty years of sin? Fifty years of sin, sixty years of sin? No matter how bad they are. How is Baptism that powerful? It just looks like some water being poured on someone’s head or someone being immersed in a pool. The answer is Roman 6. It’s because Baptism isn’t just an external symbolic cleansing. Baptism is a participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which He redeemed the world and entered into the new life of the resurrection.

So every time a person is baptized, they are (so to speak) crucified with Christ and raised with Christ, so that the power of His death and resurrection flows through the water of Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit into the person to where they are forgiven of all original and actual sin and made a child of God, made a member of the Body of Christ...but also made sharers in the one Paschal Mystery of Jesus’s Passion, death, and resurrection by which the world was redeemed. Baptism is that powerful because the Passion of Jesus was that powerful.

For full access subscribe here >

 



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