13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Monday, June 27, 2022 - 16:45

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):

This Sunday we are at last returning to the Sundays of Ordinary Time so that the Sunday Gospels settle down as a presentation of the Gospel of Luke.  With one or two exceptions, these readings will continue until Advent.

Last Sunday, I commented on the three Sunday Gospels which were omitted because of the Easter break, with a review of chapters 7 and 8 of the Gospel.  This week we need to look at chapter 9, a crucial chapter in the story as Jesus’ ministry in Galilee reaches its climax.   Towards the end of the chapter the evangelist announces that Jesus took the way to Jerusalem. That departure forms the Gospel for this 13th Sunday but we won’t get that far this week.  As we will see next Sunday, this Sunday’s Gospel is best read with the Gospel for that Sunday.  We are still catching up.

There are two Gospel readings taken from earlier in this chapter.  Last week for Corpus Christi we heard the story of Jesus feeding the crowd.   If the 12th Sunday had been celebrated instead then the Gospel would have been the episode which comes next,  when Peter declares that Jesus is The Christ of God. 

At the beginning of the chapter,  Luke continues to follow Mark’s story by telling the mission of the twelve.  His editing of the chapter results in a focus on the twelve.  For their mission there is a notable emphasis to preaching the good news and healing the sick, a more positive message than Mark.   Luke like Mark uses the return of the apostles to frame Herod’s questioning but there is just a mention of the execution of John the Baptist.  Herod’s questions about Jesus though are answered in what follows.

The apostles return to Jesus and then they are followed by the crowd.   Luke says that Jesus welcomed the crowd and spoke to them about the kingdom of God as well as healing the sick.   Welcome sets the tone for what follows, the other Gospels speak of Jesus’ compassion.   Jesus’ activity is similar to that of the apostles on their mission.  This activity is also the context for the feeding that follows.  The setting is a desert, which will recall God feeding his people in the desert with manna.  The Twelve ask Jesus about feeding the crowd but they suggest dismissing the crowd given the difficulties of feeding them.  

The actions of Jesus with the loaves and fishes are the same as his words over the bread at the last supper: he took, blessed/thanked, broke and gave. He will use the same words again at Emmaus after the resurrection. The connection with the Eucharist could not be clearer.  Jesus gives the food to the disciples to serve.  At the Last Supper, Jesus will remind them that he is among them as one who serves.

All the evangelists mention the twelve baskets of left-overs. The abundance of the gift is evident. Luke though speaks of the Twelve so that each apostle brings back a basketful and will have enough to feed others.    The result is that stress on the gift, Jesus gives food for life. That is one answer to Herod’s question.  Luke highlights the need by giving the number in the crowd earlier in his account but that leaves the story open ended, as he likes to do. There are others to be fed, remembering the beatitude that the hungry will be filled.

Luke then omits a lot of Mark’s story 1 and comes directly to Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ.  Luke has edited Mark so that there are now two scenes with Jesus at prayer.  This the first is about suffering.  Jesus picks up Herod’s question and Peter’s reply that Jesus is the Christ is followed by a prediction of his fate, what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.    There is no rebuke of Peter as in the other Gospels; generally Luke is kind to Peter as the future leader of the Church.  The prediction is the first of three.  It is a simple statement of Jesus' fate, including his resurrection (which is why I avoid the traditional "passion prediction").  This is then a teaching on discipleship as following the same path as Jesus. The distinctive Lucan emphasis is on taking up the cross daily to follow Jesus. 

Luke adds that the Son of Man comes in his own glory as well as that of the Father. This provides a link to the Transfiguration which follows as a second scene of prayer.  This will be about glory.  Luke does not use the word "transfiguration" but the description of the changed Jesus is similar to Mark.  Both Moses and Elijah met God on Mount Sinai or Horeb (two names for the same mountain).  It is often said that Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets but that is too simple. Both met God on a mountain, both also went up to heaven.
Luke tells us that Jesus was discussing with Moses and Elijah his exodus, his fate in Jerusalem. This is also indicated by the sleeping disciples, just as they would do in Gethsemane, another scene where Jesus is at prayer.  Peter's suggestion of three tents is an attempt to hold on to the special experience. This leads to the appearance of the cloud, a sign of God's presence.  The voice stresses the Son as the chosen one with words which recall the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah. At the Baptism, the voice was personal to Jesus: "you are..".  This time the voice makes a public proclamation: "This is ...".   The finale of this scene is that Jesus is found alone. This is an important stress on the unique role of Jesus. The story ends simply and the three disciples remain silent at this stage. The time for their witness come later, after the resurrection.

Four scenes at the foot of the mountain prepare for the departure to Jerusalem.  The theme running through these verses concerns discipleship and considers different aspects of being a disciple. Luke begins by highlighting how coming down the mountain led them straight back into the everyday world.  The theme of the first episode is faith as the reason why the disciples were unable to cast out the demon. Simplifying Mark’s lengthy account, Jesus simply rebukes the demon, 9,42. The implication is that the faith of the disciples was just not strong enough, despite their earlier commission. The second prediction of the passion does not include the resurrection.  The third prediction will come at the end of the journey so that it is framed by the two predictions. There follows a discussion among the disciples about who is the greatest. Luke concludes with a comment special to him: "for the least among all of you is the one who is the greatest".   It's another lesson in discipleship. Yet the final comment is a declaration that discipleship must not be exclusive. The ministry in Galilee concludes with an open comment by Jesus: "whoever is not against you is for you."

 This therefore is the moment for Luke to leave Mark's story as Jesus begins the journey to Jerusalem.

1 Mk 6,45-8,26