Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2020)

21 August, 2020
Friday, Week 20

Saint Pius X, pope (Memorial)

1st Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

The valley full of dry bones will be revived

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord God, you know."

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord."

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.'Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act," says the Lord.

Responsorial: Psalm 145

Response: Praise the Lord, my soul!

He is happy who is helped by Jacob's God,
 whose hope is in the Lord his God,
 who alone made heaven and earth,
 the seas and all they contain.
 
It is he who keeps faith for ever,
 who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
 the Lord, who sets prisoners free.
 
It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
 who raises up those who are bowed down,
 the Lord, who protects the stranger
 and upholds the widow and orphan.

It is the Lord who loves the just
 but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
 Zion's God, from age to age.

Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40

The greatest commandment is love

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

BIBLE

May your words, O Lord, be in my thoughts, on my lips, and in my heart. May they be my guide on life's journey and keep me near to you.

Life and love will triumph

In Ezekiel, the hope for humanity is proclaimed as the dead come back to life; and according to Jesus, this is linked to the supreme law of love. Ezekiel compares the exiled Israelites to bones scattered over the plain, desiccated and bleached by long exposure to wind and sunlight. The scene that follows convulses with excitement, "Prophesy over these dead bones: I heard a noise, rattling of bones, bone joining bone; sinews and flesh covering them; prophecy: O Spirit, breathe into these slain." The resurrection was not completed when God stretched sinew, flesh and skin over the knitted bones but only when the spirit breathed new life into them.

As a genuine prophet, Ezekiel does not stop with the external shape of things, no matter how hopeless they may seem. The spirit must stir an inner life of fresh, faithful interaction with neighbour and friend. He was not explicitly announcing the resurrection of every human person from the dead, since his prophecy focussed on the Israelites, alive but exiled, seemingly without hope of ever resuming a happy, normal life in their promised land. Those who died in exile could not share in Ezekiel's vision for they would remain buried in a foreign land. Still, Ezekiel's image of dry bones for the nation of Israel, the starkest possible symbol for their hopeless situation as exiles, implicitly contains the hope of individual resurrection. In Ezekiel's vision, the wonder of God's reviving the nation of Israel points to the hope of personal resurrection also.

We should never try to limit God even by cherished religious formulae. Such limitations are exposed by Jesus' reply to the lawyer's question. First the lawyer intended to trip him up, but Jesus transcended the intrigue and argumentative spirit. In simple words he declared the greatest and first commandment of the law, "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart... soul... mind." And the second is like it, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." These two commandments are planted in the deepest fibres of our existence, and they point forward to eternal life.


First and second

A Pharisee asks Jesus this vital question, "Which is the greatest commandment of the law?" Jesus has no hesitation in replying that the greatest truth in the Law is the commandment to love. Love is not only the first and greatest but it is also the second greatest commandment. God has the first and greatest claim on our love; only our Creator is to be loved with all our feelings, all our will, all our mind, our whole self. God alone is worthy of this total love, because God's love has brought us into existence and sustains us in existence. Yet, Jesus is clear that such love of God, if it is really genuine, will overflow into the love of our neighbour, on a day-to-day basis.

If we truly love God we will be caught up into God's love for all of humanity, including our enemies. In Jesus' eyes, those who proclaim their loving devotion to God while damaging other human beings in any way are the worst form of hypocrites. Jesus gave himself completely in love to God and, as a result, he gave himself fully in love to others. We need his Spirit in our hearts, the Holy Spirit, if we are to love in this same twofold way.


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