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On the Back Porch

Reading, pondering and studying God’s Word is sometimes best done “on the back porch.” Each week we will try to offer something for you and your “back porch time.”

Year A ArchiveYear B Archive

The 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

What We Celebrate

The scene of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple is popularly interpreted as an example of Jesus’ anger and hence his humanity. But that is to miss the point of why John the Evangelist places this encounter at the beginning of his gospel unlike the other gospel writers who place this event during the last days of Jesus’ earthly life. Could Jesus have “cleansed” the Temple twice? All scholars agree that is not likely. But then what was St. John’s reason for placing this event early in the public ministry of Jesus?

There is a lot more to this gospel. Sit with it for a moment on the back porch.

Full Text of the Sunday Readings

Detailed Commentary on the Gospel


Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple by Valentin (1618) | Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome | PD-US

The Temple

Israel’s temple in the Bible is described as the place where God’s space and humanity’s space are one. In fact, the whole biblical drama can be told as a story about God’s temple. In the opening pages of Genesis, God creates a cosmic temple, and in the person of Jesus, God takes up personal residence in his temple-world. By the end of the biblical story, all of creation has become God’s sacred temple.

Take a moment to consider the importance of the Jerusalem Temple in the story of Jesus.

 

The 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

What We Celebrate

Our gospel selection is akin to walking into the middle of a conversation – and indeed it is. Although Nicodemus has faded from the scene, at least by mention and name, this gospel is part of that dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, one of the leaders of the Jews. And if it is not confusing enough, from the start there is a reference to Moses and the incident with the fiery serpents in the wilderness. How is this connected to Jesus? Why does John use this Old Testament reference?

There is a lot more to this gospel. Sit with it for a moment on the back porch.

Full Text of the Sunday Readings

Detailed Commentary on the Gospel


Moses and the Bronze Serpent by Francesco Campora, 18th Century | Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro | PD-US

The Book of Numbers

Our gospel points to the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Pentateuch/Torah, the first books of the Old Testament. Take a moment and watch an overview video on the Book of Numbers.

Monsters, Dragons, Serpents, oh my!

In his book, Into the Woods, John Yorke makes the argument that every story is basically Jaws. Think about it. A dangerous monster threatens a community until one human takes it upon himself to slay the monster and restore peace to the community. Sound familiar? It is the plot of hundreds of Hollywood blockbusters. It is also a primary plot of the Bible.

Have you ever wondered why so many of God’s enemies are described with snake-like language? Or what the deal is with the references to monsters (think of Job’s leviathan, or Revelation’s dragon, or Daniel’s beasts from the sea)?

Read the full article on this topic.

The 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

What We Celebrate

The Lenten gospel moves from the beginning of the Gospel of John (last Sunday) to a scene that occurs 3 years later during “Holy Week.” Jesus has entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the people hailing him as “king.” But as last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus came for all the world and not just the people of Israel – and now the gentiles are asking to speak to Jesus. Why? What are they seeing? What are they seeking?

There is a lot more to this gospel. Sit with it for a moment on the back porch.

Full Text of the Sunday Readings

Detailed Commentary on the Gospel


The Gentiles Ask to See Jesus, James Tissot (1886-1894) | Brooklyn Museum | PD-US

What God Desires

In the 1st Letter to Timothy 2:3-4, we read that God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” Everyone. And that means not only the Jews but also the people of the “nations.” Here in our Gospel we have the Greeks approaching Jesus as the plan to satisfy the will of God comes to the light of day in the person of Jesus. But the plan has been a long time in the making. Watch this short video on the opening chapters of Romans as St. Paul explains “the big picture” of God’s plan for “everyone to be saved.”

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year B

What We Celebrate

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is unique in that two gospels are proclaimed. The first gospel is St. Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem which is proclaimed at the beginning of the Mass. The Lord’s Passion is the longer narrative proclaimed during the Liturgy of the Word. There is a lot of gospel to consider

It is Holy Week, so sit with the Word of God for an “extra” moment on the comfort of your back porch.

Full Text of the Sunday Readings

Detailed Commentary on the Palm Sunday Gospel

Detailed Commentary on the Passion Gospel


Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem (1320) by Pietro Lorenzetti: Basilica de San Francisco, Assisi | PD-US

Palm Sunday and the Triumphant Entry

By comparison to the other Gospel accounts, Mark’s narrative of the Palm Sunday entrance is understated. Most of us remember the accounts from Matthew, Luke and John – especially the waving of the palms and an entry almost king-like in its description. The video recounts the more descriptive entry. It is produced by an Evangelical Christian and it is scripturally sound in its connection to the events of Passover. It is also noteworthy in its use artwork, 3D recreations, archeology, and more. Enjoy.

Easter Vigil, Year B

What We Celebrate

If this Sunday’s gospel seems to be very similar to last Sunday’s scene in the Upper Room – that is because it is. Previously our account came from the Gospel of John in which the first appearance of the Risen Jesus was to Mary Magdalene followed by the gospel scene in the Upper room. This Sunday our account is from the Gospel of Luke in which the Upper Room is also the second appearance, following on the heels of the Emmaus Road account in Luke 24.

Word of the Risen Jesus is spreading within the Jerusalem community of believers, but incredulity abounds alongside a good measure of fear and anxiety. They have no category of understanding with which to grasp the Resurrection. Jesus needs them to overcome their fear, be at peace, and begin their mission to the world.  As always – a lot going on. Take some time and sort through it all in the comfort of your back porch.

Full Text of the Easter Vigil Readings

Detailed Commentary on the Easter Vigil Gospel

The Ending of the Gospel of Mark

Mark chapter 16 begins after Jesus’ death. Three women go to the tomb to anoint the body of their former teacher and friend (Mark 16:1-3). Instead of finding Jesus, they encounter a young man in a white robe, seemingly a messenger from God (Mark 16:4-5). He starts talking to the women, proclaiming that Jesus is risen from the dead! He then commands them to go and share this good news with the disciples in Galilee (Mark 16:6-7). This command came with a promise—if the women believed and obeyed, they would see Jesus there when they arrived. (Mark 16:7).

How did these women respond to the first “gospel” message? Trembling, they flee the scene. It’s unclear whether they obey the command to go to Galilee. The final words of Mark’s “good news” leave us wanting more—“they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). 

Was this the original ending of the Gospel?  Take a moment to learn more.

2nd Sundy of Easter, Year B
Divine Mercy Sunday

What We Celebrate

Although a week has passed since Easter Sunday, the gospel text for the 2nd Sunday of Easter is always taken from the Gospel of John 20:19-30.  The gospel conveys an account from the events that unfold on Easter Sunday later that evening as well as one week later when the Apostle Thomas is at last present in the Upper Room. The Gospel is filled with key moments:

  • The Risen Jesus appears to the Apostles and disciples gathered;
  • Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit”;
  • Jesus conveyed the authority to forgive sins in the name of God; and
  • Thomas’ encounter with the Risen Jesus.

It is Easter, so sit with the Word of God for an “extra” moment on the comfort of your back porch.

Full Text of the Sunday Readings

Detailed Commentary on the 2nd Sunday of Easter Gospel

Divine Mercy

The 2nd Sunday of Easter is also designated and celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus tells us that as his followers, we must show mercy to others just as our heavenly Father shows mercy to us. But how can we do that if we don’t understand what mercy is?

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B

What We Celebrate

If this Sunday’s gospel seems to be very similar to last Sunday’s scene in the Upper Room – that is because it is. Previously our account came from the Gospel of John in which the first appearance of the Risen Jesus was to Mary Magdalene followed by the gospel scene in the Upper room. This Sunday our account is from the Gospel of Luke in which the Upper Room is also the second appearance, following on the heels of the Emmaus Road account in Luke 24.

Word of the Risen Jesus is spreading within the Jerusalem community of believers, but incredulity abounds alongside a good measure of fear and anxiety. They have no category of understanding with which to grasp the Resurrection. Jesus needs them to overcome their fear, be at peace, and begin their mission to the world.  As always – a lot going on. Take some time and sort through it all in the comfort of your back porch.

Full Text of the Sunday Readings

Detailed Commentary on the 2nd Sunday of Easter Gospel


Image credit: Maesta altar piece, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308,
Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, Siena | Public Domain

The Resurrection of Jesus

This Sunday we move from the Gospel of John’s account of the Upper Room post-Resurrection appearances to Luke’s account. Take a moment to follow the whole Lukan account of post-Resurrection appearances.