Welcome back to the Sunday Mass notes. Our first reading is from one of the first five books of Bible, the Books of the Law. The second reading is from the letter of St. Paul to the church in Rome, which explains the basic elements of the Gospel. Finally, the reading from St. Matthew includes the final instructions of Jesus to his disciples.
Introduction to the First Reading:
The first reading is from Deuteronomy, the name which means “second law.” In reading Deuteronomy it’s helpful to remember that God is not only reminding Israel the law but also of her special place in his love; they are his chosen people. Furthermore, in this repeating of the law given to Moses, God is reminding the nation of their responsibility to live within the sphere of that love. Special privilege, as God’s chosen people, always means increased spiritual responsibility. This last Book of the Law was written by Moses near the end of his life. Just before today’s reading we learn that God forbid Moses from entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 3:36). Although God didn’t oblige Moses’ request to go and visit the land, He did provide Moses with a panoramic view of the land from on top of Mount Pisgah (v. 27).
Today’s As you read the passage, reflect on God’s special love for those who follow Him, and how this love is played out through God’s protection and sovereign control of circumstances.
Deuteronomy 4:32-40 NAS95 32 Indeed, ask now concerning the former days which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and inquire from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything been done like this great thing, or has anything been heard like it? 33 Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? 34 Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. 36 Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37 Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, 38 driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. 39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. 40 So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.
In this passage, God reminds his people of his miraculous care for them up to this point as they journey on to the Promised Land. He has provided for them as for no other people. He delivered them miraculously from slavery in Egypt, and He was delivering them from nations much larger and more powerful than they. He has spoken to them through Moses, and He had disciplined them for their failures, but always in order to restore them. God reminded them of the conditional nature of His covenant with Moses, where obedience was required in order to obtain the promised blessings. “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you” (v. 40). God had repeatedly warned the Hebrew people about this necessity, and we know from the later Books in the Bible that they missed the mark in obeying Him.
In applying today’s reading to our lives, we recognize that we are under a New Covenant with God made through the blood of Jesus Christ. We entered this covenant when we placed our trust in Him and not in any merit found in ourselves (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9). As believers in Jesus Christ we are in a unique position in contrast to those we just read about who were under the Mosaic Law. God has provided us with His Holy Spirit Who lives in our hearts which provides us with the ability to obey Him. While we live under God’s grace His Holy Spirit compels us with the ability to obey Him while we can look back at the Old Testament Law and observe How God cared for and guided His people. We will learn more about how God empowers us through His Spirit in the second reading.
Introduction to the Second Reading:
The first reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The context is how as believers we are heirs with Christ, not only in His exultation but also in His suffering (Romans 5:3, Romans 8:17). As we just looked at God’s warning given to Moses about the requirement for obedience, we see in the verses in Romans leading up to today’s reading how God provides us with the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey. “[F]or if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). We pick up with today’s reading in verse 14.
Romans 8:14-17 NAS95 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
In the reading we see the relationship of the Christian to God. It’s not an association of fear, as one who is under the bond of slavery. Rather, the person who is “led by the Spirit of God” is considered an adopted son and can rightfully speak of God as his father. What’s more, as an adopted son, he is also an heir; he has an unspeakable inheritance (which Paul writes about in his letter to the Ephesians). In fact, the Christian is a co-heir with Christ. All that God has planned for Jesus, who obeyed the Father even to His death and resurrection, will be shared with his adopted brothers. There is a word of caution, however. Paul writes that the Christian will suffer with Christ (see also Romans 5:3) and later be glorified with Him. If our faith in Jesus is genuine, we will be willing to suffer for Him, not to earn salvation in any way, because He has paid the full price for that, but to demonstrate our love, obedience, and loyalty to Him.
Saint John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). We see this in today’s reading where the Holy Spirit Who lives within us cries out “with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16b). How glorious is it that we have God’s living testimony within our hearts to help us especially during out times of doubt!
Introduction to the Gospel Reading:
Today’s Gospel reading is from Saint Matthew. The context is the very closing of the Book where Jesus met with His disciples just prior to His ascension back to heaven.
Matthew 28:16-20 NAS95 16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
These verses are known as Jesus’ “Great Commission.” Here Jesus provides a summary commandment to His disciples, and by means of application to all believers regarding the work that He left us here on earth to accomplish. The question of obedience that we saw in the first reading is also mentioned in this reading. In these few verses, we hear Jesus making His final appeal to his disciples, giving them instructions, clearly stating what his purpose is for them. To settle the doubts of some, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that He has all necessary authority to commission them, and, what’s more, He assures them of his presence with them throughout the future. Jesus is the God that we heard speaking with authority in the first reading, and the God that lives within us and testifies to us that we saw in the second reading. God had promised (especially in John’s Gospel) that He would send his Holy Spirit to lead, teach, and counsel them in his absence. Sandwiched between the statement of his authority and the promise of his presence is the distinct purpose which He has for them. They are to go, make disciples, baptize them (in the name of the Holy Trinity), and teach them to obey all that He has commanded (vv. 19 – 20).
Jesus’ calling makes it clear that in our day we are to make disciples, that is, we are to take the gospel message to the world and encourage them to put their faith in the Son of God who sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin. The evidence of that believing faith is baptism into the name of the triune God. But there’s something beyond faith and baptism. We are to teach new disciples “to observe (or obey) all” of Christ’s commands.
1. In the first reading we saw how Moses relayed God’s message of the need for obedience to the people under the Law. In what ways do we as believers in the New Covenant have it “easier” to obey God?
2. In the second reading Paul said, “but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15). How might this verse resonate with someone who was adopted into their family? In what ways could this speak to the person who never experienced a loving, human father? In what ways can you relate, and how does knowing God make the difference?