Sunday Gospels 2021: Readings & Reflections

Sr Veronica's weekly one page reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings have a global circulation. Each month the next four reflections are published here on our mercyworld.org website in reverse chronological order so that the most current reflection is always at the top of the list. 

Veronica Lawson is an Australian Sister of Mercy. She studied Scripture at the École Biblique in Jerusalem and at Trinity College, Dublin. For many years, she lectured in Biblical Studies at the Australian Catholic University and its predecessor institutions before spending seven years as leader of her congregation. She regularly presents biblical workshops and lectures within Australia and throughout the world. Sr Veronica writes from an eco-feminist perspective.

You are welcome to circulate these reflections. Please acknowledge the author, Veronica Lawson rsm.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 1:21-28

'Today’s gospel reading recounts the first episode in a section of Mark’s gospel that focusses on a typical day in the ministry of Jesus as authoritative teacher and prophetic healer (1:21-38). ..'

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 1:14-20

'Most of the gospel readings for this year are from Mark's story of Jesus. As with any story, it is best to read it from beginning to end, attending to the story line, to indications of habitat and of time, to all the actors or characters in the story, human and other-than-human. While the main character or actor is Jesus, there are other characters and character groups that claim our attention...'

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 1:35-42

'A personal call to a particular a way of life is not always easy to explain, even to oneself. At my religious profession, I chose the challenging motto “To give without counting the cost”. I have taken that motto seriously, even if I have been tempted to change it to something more manageable. Today’s liturgy calls me back to what that commitment entails: I have come to realise that, in a very real sense, it encapsulates the gospel call to all the baptised...'

Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, Year B

Mark 1:7-11

'The Baptism of Jesus marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. Many of us have been fortunate enough to get some time after Christmas to reflect on the past year with all its challenges and to set goals for the year ahead so that we might move into Ordinary Time with renewed life and vigour. As Covid-19 vaccines offer hope of a return to more familiar ways of being, we acknowledge the need to explore new ways of living the faith we profess..'

Feast of the Epiphany, Year B

Matthew 2:1-12

'God’s presence is revealed to us in diverse ways: we can read the book of God’s vast creation; we can search out the meaning of our dreams; we can learn from our own and others’ experience; and we can listen to the voice of our sacred scriptures...'

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Mark 9:2-10

'The wilderness was the geographical and key symbolic focus of last week’s gospel story. This week, the focus is a mountain. Wilderness and mountain remind us that God’s Earth itself is the locus of mystery and grace, the place of Earth-divine encounter...'

1st Sunday in Lent, Year B

Mark 1:12-15

'Lent comes around each year and presents us with its usual challenge to take stock of our lives, to see more clearly what is in our hearts and to discover what might be calling us out of our comfort zones. It is a time to consider how we might respond to the pain of the world and of its inhabitants. ..'

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 1:40-45

'We all seek to be part of family and community because we are social beings who need to engage with others and with our environment. Some are deprived of choice in this respect. Repeated name-calling and labelling is an age-old strategy of exclusion. “Illegals” is a label that excludes some of the most vulnerable people in today’s world ...'

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 1:29-39

'In Australia, Sunday of the Word of God is celebrated this weekend. It comes at a time when our planetary community is in need of deep healing. It invites us to bring the distress of the Earth community into dialogue with the gospel...'

Passion/Palm Sunday, Year B

Mark 11:1-10; Mark 14:1-15:47

'Mark's account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is more restrained and less victorious in tone than the other gospel accounts. In keeping with Mark's gospel as a whole, it forms part of the relentless journey of Jesus the suffering Messiah towards Jerusalem, the place of his death...'

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

John 12:20-33

'Today’s gospel tells us that among those who go up to Jerusalem to worship at the feast of Passover are some “Greeks”. The reference is probably to a group known in the early church as “God-fearers”, although that designation is found only in Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles. These people were, in relation to Judaism, a bit like RCIA candidates in the Catholic tradition...'

4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

John 3:14-21

'The gospel for today is the concluding section of Jesus’ conversation with a Pharisee called Nicodemus who comes to him “by night”. It features a number of typically Johannine themes: life, eternal life, believing, seeing, God’s love, salvation, judgment, light, darkness, the world, truth...'

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

John 2: 13-25

'Today’s gospel passage foreshadows the death of Jesus. As a devout Jew, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem at Passover. His final going-up will be the occasion of his death and resurrection...'

4th Sunday of Easter, Year B

John 10:11-18

'The liturgy for Good Shepherd Sunday invites us to reflect on Jesus as the noble or good shepherd of the believing community. “Shepherd” in its literal sense is not really part of our 21st century vocabulary, and yet we use it metaphorically, as a verb or as a noun. Its verbal form connotes care and compassion, protection, guidance and tender relationship. In John’s gospel, Jesus rightly claims for himself the title “good shepherd”.... '

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B

Luke 24:35-48

'Extraordinary things can happen if we open ourselves to the presence of a stranger on the road of life. That is one of the elements in today’s gospel that forms the conclusion to the Emmaus story. When I was a student at Trinity College in Dublin researching Luke’s depiction of women in the Acts of the Apostles, I would often take a detour on my way home to visit the National Gallery of Ireland. Velázquez’ remarkable oil painting, Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus captured and held my attention...'

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B

John 20:19-31

'Some of us may remember when we spoke of the Sundays after Easter. The terminology has changed and we now speak of the Sundays of Easter. In other words, we now recognise that the liturgical readings and prayers for each Sunday between Easter and Pentecost invite us into a different movement of the one great symphony of resurrection faith...'

Easter Vigil, Year B

Mark 16:1-8

'At the foot of Mount Macedon, where I spent my whole childhood, stands the lovely Anglican Church of the Resurrection, built in the aftermath of the devastating 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. Members of both Catholic and Anglican communities had wanted to build one church for the two communities but the respective insurance policies determined otherwise: two churches replaced the two that were destroyed in the fires. The most striking feature of the Anglican Church is Leonard French’s stained glass depiction of the resurrection experience of a devastated community, a statement of hope in the face of death and seeming hopelessness. Macedon has risen from the ashes and is once again a vibrant community...'

Trinity Sunday, Year B

Matt 28:16-20

'Trinity Sunday celebrates the core Christian conviction that God is a communion of relational love. For the people of Israel, no other god could compare with their God whom they knew as both creator and liberator and whom they experienced as intimately involved in every aspect of their history and of their day-to-day lives...'

Pentecost Sunday, Year B

John 20:19-23

'Pentecost Sunday is often called the birthday of the Church. For the ancient Israelites, Pentecost (meaning “fiftieth”) was a harvest festival celebrated 50 days after the beginning of the harvest. When the Jerusalem Temple was built, this harvest festival was transformed into a pilgrimage feast to celebrate the covenant that God had made with Israel on Mt Sinai. In the decades following the death of Jesus, the early Christians reflected on their origins and chose this feast to mark the birth of God's new covenant with God's people...'

Feast of the Ascension, Year B

Mark 16:15-20

'The feast of the Ascension invites us to face the universal experience of loss, the loss of a loved one or of something precious to us, and to face this experience in a transformative way. In Ordinary Time, we celebrate the life and ministry of Jesus. Over the period of Lent and Easter, we have been re-membering his death and resurrection. The liturgy now draws us into another aspect of the Mystery, that of the presence and absence of the One who has been raised...'

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B

John 15:9-17

'The constitutions of my religious institute remind me that “the tender mercy of our God has given us one another”. The implications of this profoundly beautiful truth are spelt out thus: “In our communities, we try to live in the friendship of Christ’s disciples [John 15:15]. To so live calls forth relationships of equality, a real acceptance of ourselves and others, a forgetfulness of anything that does not make love its message.” ..'

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B

John 15:1-8

'Again and again, life's experiences teach us that, as members of the Earth community, we cannot make it on our own. We need one another, other living beings, the sun, the soil, the water and everything else that formed from exploding stars in the distant past. The gospel reading reminds us that as baptised Christians we are not just intimately interlinked but that the source of our unity is the Risen Christ. As limbs and leaves and sap of the same vine, we simply cannot survive in isolation...'

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 5:21-43

'In Mark’s gospel, we often find a story within a story. Some scholars refer to this technique as the making of a Markan sandwich, others as a framing device. In Mark 5:21-43, the frame consists of the two-part story of the desperately ill twelve year old daughter of Jairus, a synagogue official. ..'

12th Sunday in Ordinary time, Year B

Mark 4:35-41

'Today’s gospel story looks back to the parables in the first part of the chapter and to the crowds that heard them. The story also looks forward as it marks the beginning of the second major section of Mark’s gospel (4:35-8:21), a section that seems to be structured around a number of crossings of the lake or Sea of Galilee...'

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 4:26-34

'The first of the parables in today’s gospel reading has no parallel in the other gospels. It compares God’s kindom to a trusting sower who scatters the seed by day, sleeps by night, and simply observes the “earth produce of itself” until it is time to harvest the grain...'

Body and Blood of Christ, Year B

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

'The Gospel for today’s feast reminds us that we are in a “covenant” relationship with our God. We renew that covenant in every celebration of the Eucharist...'

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 6:1-15

'The gospel readings for the next two weeks are taken from John 6, a section of the gospel that focuses on food and related themes: on hungry people; on the need for food/bread; on food/bread as metaphors for life. Bread has been the staple food for millennia in bible lands. To be without bread is to lack the very basics of existence, and that is how it is for so many in our world Even the impoverished in the so-called “first world” know what it is like to be without the means of subsistence in a world of plenty...'

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 6:30-34

'In every life, there is need for a balanced rhythm of work and re-creation. With so much pain and suffering in our world at the moment, the demands of living a gospel way of life can overwhelm us and cause us to act as though everything depends on us. While we can never really escape the responsibility of being there for those in need, today’s gospel reminds us that there is a time for being out on mission and a time for being with the one who calls and sends us...'

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 6:7-13

'To be a disciple of Jesus is to experience a call. It is also to be sent on a mission in partnership with others, a mission invariably expressed in terms of preaching, teaching, healing, and/or driving out of demons or unclean spirits. In other words, it is to be authorised to do what Jesus did and to proclaim what he proclaimed...'

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 6:1-6

'Most of us have known the experience of feeling powerless in the face of rejection, especially when it is rejection from those who are closest to us, from those who might normally be expected to understand and affirm us. Mark presents such rejection as the experience of Jesus. ..'

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

'After a lengthy detour over some weeks into the gospel of John with its focus on Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Bread of Wisdom, we return to Mark’s gospel and a legal dispute about ritual purity. The parties to the dispute are Jesus, the Pharisees, and some of the scribes or teachers of the law.'

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 6:60-69

'If we have trouble understanding and coming to terms with the teachings of Jesus in the gospel, then we can take some comfort from the reaction of the disciples in John’s community some decades after the death of Jesus. It seems that it was not only the members of the Jewish synagogue who were offended by his teaching, but also those Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah or Christ and had joined the community of believers...'

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1:39-44

'A visit to the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem in 1973 was a moment of enlightenment for me, a moment to reflect on Mary’s life, her death and her “assumption” to the fulness of life in God. Just over five years ago, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Dormition in Aleppo, Syria, was badly damaged by an underground explosion, yet another victim of a cruel war...'

Feast of St Mary McKillop

Matthew 6:24-34

‘Today’s trouble is enough for today!’ These are the concluding words of the gospel for today’s feast. We are “not to be anxious”. Rather, we are invited to be single-minded in our commitment. The challenge of this gospel is to live in the present, in right relationship and connection with the whole Earth community and to trust in the goodness and providence of God...'

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 6:41-51

'Jesus was a Jew, as was John, the author of the gospel. It may seem strange, therefore, that John has the “Jews” complaining about Jesus. It is indeed strange and it has caused many a reader to wonder. John seems to use the designation “Jew” as a code word for the opponents of Jesus...'

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 6:24-35

The question of the crowds "Rabbi, when did you come here?" has to do with time and place. They address Jesus as teacher, as one who can lead his questioners from one physical and metaphorical place to another. His response to their question introduces a discussion about bread...'

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 9:38-48

Sometimes we act and speak as though we humans have the monopoly on access to the power of God even if, in fact, we have no such monopoly. In today’s gospel Jesus seems to be telling his disciples that God works through people of good will, irrespective of whether they are on the edge (“not one of us”) or at the centre of the kin-dom of God movement.

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 9:30-37

Most of us have to admit to being like the disciples whom Jesus was trying to bring from blindness and ignorance to insight and understanding. Like them, we are often afraid to ask for explanations when we fear that we may not be able to deal with the responses we receive. We so often choose to live in denial.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 8:27-35

Today’s gospel reading leads us into a section of Mark’s gospel that explores challenges confronting all disciples on their journey of faith. The first challenge is to clarify the nature of our commitment as disciples of Jesus. If we fail to understand who Jesus is, then we have little chance of understanding the nature of our own call to follow him. Two questions (“Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”) are addressed to our forbears in faith communities of the latter part of the first century and to Christians across the millennia.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

(Mark 7:31-37)

From September 1 to October 4, we join with Christians across the globe in celebrating the Season of Creation. The 2021 theme, “A Home for All, Renewing the Oikos [household] of God” invites us to attend to those rendered homeless, birds and beasts and humankind alike so that there might be a home for all the species of the earth. Today’s gospel draws attention to the profoundly deaf who find themselves on the edge of the earth community.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 12:28-34

In today’s gospel reading we encounter a good scribe, while in next week’s we find some not so good scribes. This seems to fit the pattern of the Markan gospel. There are faithful disciples and not so faithful disciples. There are honest Jewish leaders like Joseph of Arimathea and not so honest leaders like those who try to entrap Jesus. There are principled Romans like the centurion who witnesses the death of Jesus and not so principled Romans like Pilate who condemns him to death.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 10:46-52

What is it that we fail to see? Today’s gospel reading brings to closure a long section of Mark’s gospel that focuses on the journey of Jesus and his disciples from Caesarea Philippi in the north to Jericho in the south. Jericho is the final staging point in the journey to Jerusalem where the final act of the gospel drama will be played out. This section of the gospel (8:27-10:52) is prefaced by the story of a blind man who comes to sight in stages. It ends with the story of another blind man, Bartimaeus, who comes from blindness to sight, from insight to greater insight, and who joins Jesus on the journey to Jerusalem.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 10:35-45

In the kin-dom of God movement established by Jesus, there is no place for domination or for any exercise of power over others. In today’s gospel story, this is a lesson that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, clearly need to learn. They seem to think that the structures of power operating in the Roman world are going to be replicated when Jesus conquers the forces of opposition and comes into his “glory”.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 10:17-30

Not too many of us commit murder or adultery. Not too many take hostages or give false testimony in a court of law. Most are ready to honour and care for their parents in their old age. In other words, most of us are basically decent and honest and could make the same claim as does the wealthy man who runs up to Jesus, namely that we have kept the commandments from our youth.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mark 10:2-16

The question of gender inclusivity in decision-making has been much in the news of late. The maleness of political and church institutions has been highlighted in my country as a serious contributor to the disorder that finds expression in both bullying and abuse. Since the creation of patriarchy in the Bronze Age, some 3000 years ago, lack of gender inclusivity has posed a challenge, particularly for those who find themselves excluded.