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Scripture Notes

Notes on the Sunday readings by Father Nicholas King SJ (Campion Hall, Oxford University, UK).

By kind permission of the Editor of Southern Cross.



2nd Sunday – Year A (January 19th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 12:40

•    Isaiah 49:3, 5-6,
•    Psalm 40: 2, 4, 7-10
•    1 Corinthians 1:1-3
•    John 1:29-34

We are now into Ordinary Time, which means that in the Sunday readings we shall be following Jesus through the early part of his ministry, before we then interrupt it with the rigours of Lent, which is even now rushing towards us, and the excitements of Easter which follow. The question we must never cease to ask is simply this: who is this Jesus? The question is a difficult one (though you may think it absurdly simple), and in the readings for next Sunday we can look at some of the ways in which the early Christians sought to answer it.

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Feast of the Epiphany – Year A (January 5th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 02:09

•    Isaiah 60:1-6
•    Psalm 72:2a, 7-8, 10-13
•    Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
•    Matthew 2:1-12

Next Sunday we in this country celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, which continues the celebration of Christmas, with the reflection that the Jesus at whose coming we rejoice means good news, not just to those who already believe (Jews and Christians) but to those who hardly understand what we are saying or know what we are doing.

Look at the first reading for the solemnity. It encourages us to “Rise, shine, for your light has come”, and celebrates the disappearance of the darkness and thick cloud (of which we in the Northern Hemisphere are seeing plenty just now); but the joy is really for others, “Gentiles are going to walk in your light”, the prophet sings, “...the wealth of Gentiles shall come to you”.

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4th Sunday – Year A (December 22nd) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 02:03

•    Isaiah 7:10-14
•    Psalm 24:1-6   
•    Romans 1:1-7
•    Matthew 1:18-24

Next Sunday is the final Sunday before Christmas; sometimes that is a signal for hysterical bouts of shopping and packing and menu-planning, but life might be easier if instead we were to pay attention to the readings for the day, which offer us a useful reminder of what the Coming of Christ is really about.

Our first reading is recycled in Sunday’s gospel to help us understand what that Coming means; but it also has a life of its own, in the original setting. The situation there is that the prophet Isaiah is trying to help the King of Judah (do you remember the time in this country when religion was supposed to keep out of politics?

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The Baptism of the Lord – Year A (January 12th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 12:38

•    Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
•    Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10
•    Acts 10:34-38
•    Matthew 3:13-17

Next Sunday, we lurch back into what is called ‘ordinary time’ by celebrating the Baptism of Jesus, which in all four gospels is the start of his ministry.  This feast is in tension between two poles: on the one hand there is the holiness of God, which we are sometimes in danger of neglecting; on the other hand there is the extraordinary fact that this holy God chooses human beings to do his work.

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Feast of the Holy Family – Year A (December 29th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 02:06

•    Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14
•    Psalm 128:1-5
•    Colossians 3:12-21
•    Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Next Sunday, as always on the first Sunday after Christmas, is the feast of the Holy Family; it is perhaps the Church’s attempt to mend any breaches in our families that may have occurred during the celebration.

It is an interesting take on the family that the readings for next Sunday provide. The first reading is from ben Sira’, and emphasizes the privileged place that God gives to parents, “He has glorified a father over and above his children, and confirmed a mother’s judgement over her son. Honouring your father means atonement for your sins”.

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3rd Sunday of Advent – Year A (December 15th) E-mail
Written by Nicholas King SJ   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 02:01

•    Isaiah 35: 1-6, 10
•    Psalm 146:6-10
•    James 5:7-10
•    Matthew 11:2-11

Without vision, the people perish. Next Sunday we shall be a little over halfway through the time of Advent (or “Coming”), and the readings invite us to go deeper into the vision that animates us at this time of the year. 

The first reading is directed in the first place towards the Israelites in exile in Babylon, inviting them to think that God might be recalling them home to Jerusalem (so for them “Advent” was to mean “going back where we belong”); now to get back there they had to cross a little matter of several thousand miles of inhospitable desert, and into their anxiety the poet-prophet whispers the vision of that desert coming alive: “it will exult, and the wilderness shall rejoice and bloom”.

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