Over the past two Sundays, Catholics in Australia have celebrated (albeit in very different ways due to COVID lockdowns) two important feast days – those of our first saint, St Mary MacKillop, and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These two days are a week apart in the Australian liturgical calendar, but have not fallen on a Sunday for a number of years.
It is good that we can celebrate these solemnities on Sundays. Although the Assumption is celebrated annually as a holy day of obligation, there is no doubt that more people are drawn into participating in both these feast days when they align with parish communities’ Sunday celebrations.
Meanwhile, though, the Sundays of Ordinary Time roll on regardless. The result is that we have skipped both the Nineteenth and Twentieth Sundays of the season, and the gospel proclamations that we would have heard with them.
Across the Sundays in Ordinary Time each year, we listen to a semi-continuous reading of one of the synoptic gospels – Matthew in Year A, Mark in Year B (this year), and Luke in Year C. Through this semi-continuous reading, we walk with Jesus through his public ministry, and we celebrate and have the paschal mystery (the mystery of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection) opened up and unfolded for us. As such, we’ve missed part of that story, and it may feel odd to pick it up again this Sunday, as we’ve missed what’s gone before.
The timing of this break in the Sundays in Ordinary Time this year is particularly awkward. After hearing Mark’s account of Jesus’ preaching before the Feeding of the Five Thousand several weeks ago, our reading of the Gospel of Mark pauses so we may listen to chapter six of the Gospel of John. This chapter includes the famous miracle and John’s recollection of Jesus’ “Bread of life” preaching and Eucharistic teaching. We now pick up again this Sunday having missed two weeks of this, right at the end of chapter six where followers of Jesus walk away because they couldn’t handle what Jesus was saying.
As such, in order to maintain the rhythm of the Sunday Gospel proclamations of Ordinary Time, it would be helpful to spend some time reading and praying with the Gospel readings of the past two Sundays before we listen to this Sunday’s Gospel. Not only will it help us to make more sense of what we hear this week, but it will also give us the chance of reflect further on John’s rich Eucharistic theology. To help with this, you can find links to the past two Sunday Gospel texts below.