Today is commonly called Gaudete Sunday; that word Gaudete means joy and joy is the principal theme of the first two readings. We don’t hear much from the Prophet Zephaniah in the Lectionary but this passage is an interesting one; it speaks about the coming of the Messiah and it tells us that day will be a day of rejoicing not just for the whole people but for the Lord himself. He even pictures the Messiah dancing with joy on that great day.
Although we would expect the liturgy at this time of the year to be pointing towards the birth of Christ and so to the city of Bethlehem it actually points us not to Bethlehem but to Jerusalem.
We finished the liturgical year last Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King. Today we begin the new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent and we will be guided through it with the help of St Luke the Evangelist.
I once heard a story about a man who travelled to London to attend an interview for an important post in the security services. When he arrived at the appointed place he found five other applicants in the waiting room, all discussing their prospects. There was no secretary on duty. A sign on the wall stated that applicants were to knock and enter the interview room at fifteen-minute intervals, beginning at eleven o'clock. They were to leave the interview room by another door, so that the nature of the questioning could be kept secret.
We are coming to the end of the liturgical year during which we have been seeing the years of Christ’s public ministry through the eyes of St Mark. As we approach the conclusion of the year it is appropriate that we consider Christ’s words about the Last Days.
Today we are given for our consideration the story of the Widow’s Mite. This text comes at the last stage of Jesus’ ministry. He has arrived in Jerusalem where he knows he is to face his death on the Cross and in the few days available to him he teaches the people in the precincts of the Temple.
The scribe in today’s Gospel gets an unusually good press. Jesus compliments him, something quite rare in the Gospels. The scribe asks which is the first of all the commandments and Jesus recites the famous opening words of the Shema, the prayer recited by pious Jews each day.
In today’s Gospel we are given the story of Blind Bartimaeus for our consideration. This is the last incident to occur on Jesus’ journey up to Jerusalem for the Passover where he is to meet his fate on the Cross of Calvary. But despite the fact that Jesus knows that this is the most important journey of his life and that he is shortly to face his own death he still is able to find the time to heal Bartimaeus. This shows us where Jesus’ priorities truly lie.
Sometimes the Lectionary gives us readings that are a bit too short. Today’s Gospel is an example of this tendency. In the actual Gospel, this passage about James and John asking for privileged places in the Kingdom is immediately preceded by a passage in which Jesus predicts his passion and death for the third time. It is unfortunate that it is omitted from the Gospel set before us today.
The story of the Rich Young Man appears more or less identically in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. The question the young man poses is an interesting one. He says, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He thinks that we can get to heaven by doing things. If this were true it would only be a question of finding out what things we must do and then once these have been completed we will be let into heaven.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket