Scripture Study, Feb. 5, 2017

February 5, 2017 Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend, the readings call us to consider the meaning of our Christian call and the way in which we live it out from day to day. Isaiah reminds Israel of the real meaning of the religious rituals and of the need to live that meaning out in concern for justice, and care for the poor, the sick and the oppressed. Paul reminds us that our faith rests on the power and grace of God and not on the eloquence of our preachers and the logic of our instruction. It is the Crucified and Risen One Who is the foundation of our faith and not earthly wisdom. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that our faith must be seen, by others. We are meant to influence the world around us, not to be influenced by it.

First Reading: Isaiah 58: 7-10

7 Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; 10 If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;

NOTES on First Reading:

* 58:7 The Lectionary adds,"Thus says the LORD," to the beginning of the reading to indicate who is speaking. These are the acts mentioned in Matthew 25:31-46 upon which depends the eschatological judgment of the nations.

* 58:8-14 This section is really a series of promises of salvation and deliverance which are tied into the previous section by the use of key words such as: call out (vv. 1, 5, 9), oppressed (vv. 6, 9), bread (vv. 7, 10), afflicted (3, 7, 10), pleasure (vv. 2, 3, 13) and day (vv. 3, 5, 13). In summary, when lowliness, humility and righteousness unite a community of men and women, God’s glorious presence shall rest upon them.

* 58:10-11 When the rich, by fasting, become poor in spirit, and the poor impart their attitude of humble waiting upon God to the rich, then God will answer with "glory", "light", and "springs of water".

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

1 When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, 4 and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

NOTES on Second Reading:

* 2:1 The mystery of God is His plan for the salvation of His people which, from 1 Cor 18-25; 2:2,8-10, clearly involves Jesus and the cross. Instead of mystery, many other good manuscripts read "testimony" (see 1 Cor 1:6).

* 2:3 Paul reflects the weakness of the crucified Jesus in his own bearing (see 2 Cor 10-13). Reverential fear which is based on a sense of God’s transcendence is reflected in fear and much trembling. This reverence permeates Paul’s existence and preaching. Paul uses the same expression in his advice to the Philippians to work out their salvation with "fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12), because the same God is at work in them Whose exalting power was at work in the emptying, humiliation, and obedience of Jesus to death on the cross (Phil 2:6-11).

* 2:4 Whichever of the various readings for this verse is accepted, the point is the same. Simply stated, the inefficacy of human wisdom for salvation is contrasted with the power of the cross of Jesus.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 5: 13-16

13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. 16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."

NOTES on Gospel Reading:

* 5:13-16 In this section of the sermon Jesus emphasizes the personal involvement of the disciples by constant use of the pronouns "you" and "your." Salt and light are common ancient images.

* 5:13 Some consider this to refer to the salt that came from the Dead Sea which was often an unstable combination of salts. This salt was quite capable of deteriorating and going bad. Others take this to refer to even pure salt which could not loose its flavor but could become ritually unclean and thus be unusable and be thrown out. Jesus compares a disciple who looses his passion for following the Master with salt that has gone bad. Salt which acts as both a spice and a preservative was also an image of a good teacher who enhanced and preserved the student’s life by his teaching.

* 5:15-16 The good deeds of the disciples are to influence the world. The followers of Jesus can no more escape notice than a city set on a mountain. If they fail to perform these good works, the disciples of Jesus are as useless as a lamp whose light is concealed.

* 5:16 The good deeds done by the disciples are not to lead to arrogance but to the conversion of many.

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