12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Monday, June 20, 2022 - 17:15

Fr. Patrick Fitzgerald-Lombard, O.Carm., is parish priest of the parish of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Mayfield, Sussex. He is a member of the Aylesford Community. Today, Fr. Patrick is reflecting on the readings from yesterday's Mass. Please read Fr Patrick's introduction to these reflections and please look at the readings for Sunday Mass here (these will open in a separate window for ease of reading):

Jesus welcomed the crowd, spoke to them about the kingdom of God and healed those who needed it.  These opening words of the Gospel read this Sunday set the scene for our reflections about the ministry of Jesus.  This quote comes from the Gospel for the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, otherwise Corpus Christi, which most of us will be celebrating this Sunday in place of the Ordinary Sunday.  We could say that every Sunday is Corpus Christi but the Eucharist is so central to our Christian lives that the feast continues to be transferred from its traditional Thursday.   This Gospel reading does come from the Gospel of Luke and it is closely connected with the ordinary Sunday Gospels which we will again be following from next Sunday. 

Reading the Gospels for me means reading them as stories.  We could say they are an assembly of stories providing an overall story of the life and ministry of Jesus.  By that standard, the presentation of the Gospel in the Sunday Lectionary shows a remarkable discontinuity.  The main aim of my reflections is to bridge the gap, to see the Lectionary Gospel readings with their proper background in the Gospel itself.  At this stage of the year, we have had a gap in the Ordinary Sundays due to Lent and Eastertide.  This Sunday is the time for us to get organised, to look at the map as it were and see where we are going as we enter into Ordinary Time again.

It’s hard to discern the process by which the Lectionary readings were chosen though some principles are clear.   Noticeable is that Gospel stories common to two or three Gospels are read only once in the three year cycle.  The end of Eastertide is also the time when the readings are adjusted so that they are on course for finishing with the feast of Christ the King in November.   As a result some Sunday readings in the cycle will be left out.   This year, the Sunday before Lent was the 8th Sunday and this Sunday would have been the 12th Sunday if it had not been replaced by Corpus Christi.   We need to pick up on the four missing Sunday Gospels as well as seeing how the Corpus Christi Gospel fits in.  For this we need to look first at chapters 7 and 8 of Luke’s Gospel.   For the three Sundays before Lent, we heard the Sermon on the Plain in chapter 6.  This Sunday for Corpus Christi we hear the feeding of the crowd told in chapter 9.  We will look at that chapter next week .

Therefore this week we have the two chapters to consider.    Basically, chapter 7 is Luke’s own composition while in chapter 8 he follows Mark but with his own variations.  The Lectionary therefore gives us three Sunday Gospels from chapter 7 whilst chapter 8 is not heard at all.

Chapter 7 centres on the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist.  John sends disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one to come.  Jesus gives his evidence that the sick are healed and the dead are raised. Luke therefore begins the chapter with the healing of the centurion’s slave followed by the raising of the son of the widow at Nain.  It is typical of Luke to have an incident involving a man followed by one involving a woman.

Therefore in Luke's version of the healing the centurion never meets Jesus as he does in both Matthew and John.   Here we can see members of Luke's own community being invited to identify with the centurion.  This story looks forward to and prepares for the conversion of another centurion, Cornelius in chapter 10 of Act.  There centurion provides a model for the believing Gentiles. Both centurions are God fearing and have respect for Judaism.  Neither meet Jesus, they are those who have faith without seeing him..

The story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarepath  provides the Old Testament background for this widow of Nain.  Both stories have identical wording when the raised son is given back to his mother.   However Elijah has to ask God to intercede but Jesus acts on his own authority.

The incident at Nain was  notably public. Two large crowds were present, the crowd with Jesus and the mourners with the widow. We might say that the crowd with Jesus was following life while the crowd with the widow was following death.

We can compare the centurion and the widow.  Both would have been outsiders; the centurion because he was a gentile, the widow for her vulnerability.  Unlike Elijah's widow though, the widow of Nain would have been a daughter of Israel.  She says nothing, just receives Jesus’ compassion.  He is involved and commended for his faith by Jesus.

There follows the enquiry from John the Baptist about Jesus and then Jesus’ own comments about John.  For the enquiry, Jesus points to the evidence.  Speaking about John, Jesus notes the importance of accepting the ministries of them both.

The last part of chapter 7 is the remarkable story of the woman anointing the feet of Jesus.  It is important to recognize that the story is about the attitudes of the named Pharisee host rather than the actions of the unnamed woman.   Tradition has focused so much on the woman that the ministry of the women at the beginning of the next chapter was included with this episode.  Thus Mary Magdalene becomes the great sinner who anointed the feet of Jesus.  The evangelist though clearly separates his comments about the women from the preceding episode.  The episode is really about the host, Simon the Pharisee who could said to be self-righteous.

The women at the beginning of chapter 8 are instead the opening of a frame for Luke’s version of the parable discourse in chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel.  The frame closes with Jesus’ comments about his true family.  Luke’s editing therefore has given the parables a family focus. 

After the calming of the storm, Luke follows chapter 5 of Mark by relating the healing of the demoniac and the healing of two women.

Apart from the centurion and the widow, this is a very brief review of the Gospel episodes which won’t be heard.  Those two episodes are so distinctive of Luke and important for us that some detail has been worthwhile.

We are now ready to continue our preparation for following the Sunday Gospels.  Next week we will look at chapter 9 of Luke and the Gospel readings which come from it.