PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


April, 2019

Preparing for the Sunday Readings

            One way to get the most out of the weekend liturgy is to prepare ahead of time.  Bishop Ken Untener when he was still alive and leading the Saginaw, MI diocese, wrote brief introductions to the first two readings at the Sunday Masses.  For example, the first reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, which this year is on March 31st, is from Joshua 5:9-12.  The introduction is: “After Moses died, God selected Joshua to lead the Israelites.  In this reading, Joshua and the Israelites have just crossed the Jordan River and now at long last are in the Promised Land.”  This short description provides the location and context for what is about to be proclaimed.  The Introductions for the first two readings for all three cycles is available for only $12 from Little Books of Saginaw. (, 989/797-6686)  Having your own copy allows you to prepare ahead of time for the Masses.

Understanding the Gospel

            Learning about the Gospel requires more attention because it is so rich in meaning.  Brendan Byrne, SJ offers an excellent resource.  He explains in just a few pages the background and meaning of each chapter of the gospels, one book for each Evangelist: Lifting the Burden: Reading Matthew’s Gospel in the Church Today (2004), A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel (2008), The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (2000), Life Abounding: A Reading of John’s Gospel (2014) (All four books are published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.)   Reading the section that refers to the weekend’s liturgy greatly enriches the experience of “taking the Scripture reading to heart.”

            One example is Mark 10:17-27 about the rich man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. (See the 28th Sunday of the year, cycle B).  The rich man runs up to Jesus with great eagerness.  He falls on his knees and breathlessly asks the question, “What must I do?”  As Byrne puts it, “The man presumes that there is something he must ‘do.’” (A Costly Freedom, p.161-3) 

            Jesus begins to explore the question on a deeper level.  He attempts “to focus the man’s attention away from what he must do and onto the goodness and generosity of God.” Jesus then asks the man whether he has kept the commandments.  “The man protests that he has kept all these since his youth, clearly implying that he is looking for something more.”

            Byrne goes on to describe, “The sense of emptiness in the man’s life prepares the way for the invitation Jesus now sets before him.  In a detail particular to Mark we are told that before issuing the invitation Jesus ‘looking at him, loved him.”  A footnote adds, “The verb may imply that Jesus made his affection palpable through a gesture of some kind.”  Jesus is calling the man to a new way of life that is based on an intimate personal relationship with himself.  The man, in other words, is invited to a total transformation of life.

            The first step in this transformation is to make room in his life for a radical shift.  He must give up all the “stuff” that he has been counting on for his security, give it away to those who could use it, that is, the poor, and only then is he ready to follow Jesus.  By abandoning his wealth in this way, Jesus recom-mends transferring his security into a heavenly ‘bank;’ that is where his treasure will be.  Letting go of the dubious source of a security that is provided by wealth, the man will then be free to join Jesus, putting all of his trust in the Father’s goodness.  But he couldn’t do it.  “Sadly,” Byrne writes, “the man balks at the invitation and goes away, his disappointment patent in his downcast looks.  What he sought with such eagerness he cannot win because the pull of his ‘many possessions’ holds him captive.”

            Preparing for the Gospel beforehand makes it all the more enriching when heard during Mass.