Sunday Gospels 2020: 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.

Video reflections on the Sunday Gospels by Sr Veronica can be viewed here

Fr Eamonn O'Connor presents the Sunday Gospel on the Irish radio show Side by Side, a Religious and Social Affairs programme with a difference. Broadcast every Sunday morning on Shannonside FM from 10.00 – 11.00, ‘Side by Side’ communicates the Christian message in the context of contemporary Irish society. It does so in a manner that is ecumenical and informative.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 4:12-23

'Most of the gospel readings this year will be from the gospel of Matthew. As with any story, it is probably best to read Matthew’s story of Jesus from beginning to end over a few days, entering into the drama and attending to all the elements in the story. Sr. Elaine Wainwright’s eco-rhetorical commentary on Matthew’s gospel invites us to read with attention to habitat as well as to the human and the holy...'

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

John 1:29-34

'To provide a reference for someone is a serious responsibility as well as a privilege because, more often than not, a good deal depends on the testimony provided in the reference. John the Baptist took it upon himself to provide a reference for Jesus. His testimony reverberates across the centuries, offering an introduction to Jesus for those who seek to understand this Jewish prophet and teacher who is more than a prophet or teacher. ..'

Baptism of Jesus, Year A

Matthew 3:13-17

'According to the Church calendar, today’s celebration of the Baptism of Jesus marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. In many cultures, this feast coincides with the end of the Christmas break, the return to work and to the regular patterns of life...'

Feast of the Epiphany ,Year C

Matthew 2:1-12

'The ancient feast of the Epiphany reminds us that the whole universe is in God and that God is in us. It celebrates the presence of God who is revealed to us in wondrous ways: in creation; in our dreams; in our day to day experience; in our sacred stories...'

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Matthew 5:38-48

'Today’s gospel is a continuation of the Matthean Jesus’ teaching on the sort of righteousness, the right relationship and justice, to which his followers are called in their living of the Law...'

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Matthew 5:17-37

'We sometimes forget that Jesus was a faithful Jew who observed the Law handed down within Israel from generation to generation. Today’s gospel is from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus, the faithful Jewish teacher, addresses his Jewish disciples and the Jewish crowds who gather to hear his words...'

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Matthew 5:13-16

'In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses two short parables to his disciples in the presence of the crowds. The crowds as well as the disciples hear what he has to say. Parables were intended to tease their hearers, inviting them to see things differently or from a new perspective, to see themselves in a new light ...'

Presentation in the Temple Year A

Luke 2:22-40

'This year the Feast of the Presentation falls on a Sunday and takes precedence over the celebration of the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. We might ask why this feast is of such importance in the liturgical calendar. ...'

5th Sunday of Lent Year A

John 11: 1-45

'Today’s readings touch into the most profound of mysteries, the mysteries of life and death. To hold a new born child or to see the sick restored to health is to experience the wonder of life. On the other hand, an unexpected death can bring unimagined grief and pain...'

4th Sunday of Lent Year A

John 9:1-41

'Last week, we journeyed with the woman of Samaria from bewilderment to deep insight into Jesus’ identity and mission and to a strong personal faith commitment. This week, we are invited on a faith journey with a man born blind and with the varying groups of participants in the drama. All have the opportunity of coming to faith...'

3rd Sunday of Lent Year A

John 4:5-42

'Those privileged to act as catechists in the RCIA program over the Lenten period will be introducing candidates to some of our most treasured gospel stories. In 1963, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy called for the restoration of certain early Church practices. The two main features of Lent, baptism and penance, were to be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis...'

2nd Sunday of Lent Year A

Matthew 17:1-9

'Last week’s gospel invited us into a confronting habitat, namely the wilderness. This week, we follow Jesus and three of his companions to a high mountain, eventually a cloud-covered mountain. Both wilderness and mountain link Matthew’s story of Jesus with the story of the Israelites of old. Wilderness and mountain also remind us that God’s creation is the locus of wonder and mystery...'

1st Sunday of Lent Year A

Matthew 4:1-11

'Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. It is also a time to enter into the “wilderness” and grapple with the mysteries of life in Christ. It presents us with a 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...'

3rd Sunday in Easter Year A

Luke 24:13-35

'Extraordinary things can happen if we open ourselves to the presence of a stranger on life’s journey. That seems to be a key element in today’s gospel passage from the well-known and well-loved Emmaus story...'

2nd Sunday in Easter Year A

John 20:19-31

'Not so long ago we used to speak 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 different movements of the one great symphony of resurrection faith...'

Easter Sunday Year A

Matthew 28:1-10

'Easter invites us to celebrate life in its fullest sense. It is anything but easy to celebrate life, however, when tens of thousands in the Earth community are facing death, when hundreds of thousands are ill and countless others are struggling to put food on their tables. Resurrection faith calls us to be fearless in our support of those most deeply affected...'

Passion Sunday Year A

Matthew 26:14-27:66

'This year, we are invited to hear Matthew’s passion narrative through the lens of a global community threatened by a virus. The prospect of untimely death for many is an ever present reality. Even more abhorrent to most of us is the ongoing practice of capital punishment, particularly when a just person is put to death for specious reasons or to political ends. That’s what confronts us in today’s gospel...'

Pentecost Sunday Year A

Acts 2:1-11; John 20:19-23

'Pentecost Sunday is often called the birthday of the Church. The earth itself features powerfully in the imagery associated with this feast: harvest, mountain, earthquake, thunder, fire. For the ancient Israelites, Pentecost (meaning ‘fiftieth’) was a harvest festival celebrated fifty days after the opening of the harvest...'

Feast of the Ascension Year A

Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20

'Loss is part of the human experience and death is generally the most painful experience of loss. As the death toll from Covid-19 approaches 300,000, we become more and more conscious of loss as a global reality. This loss of human life takes place against the backdrop of a catastrophic loss of species and of eco-systems...'

6th Sunday in Easter, Year A

John 14:15-21

'Those who defend themselves in court run the risk of being outsmarted by clever and sometimes unscrupulous adversaries. It is never a good idea to be too self-reliant even in a country with a basically sound legal system such as ours. Today’s gospel implies that the disciples need a defense attorney or lawyer. Jesus has acted in that capacity for them in their struggles with the anti-gospel forces arrayed against them...'

5th Sunday in Easter, Year A

John 14:1-14

'Take from my heart all painful anxiety” is a gospel inspired prayer. It is the prayer of Catherine McAuley, the first Sister of Mercy. Like Jesus, Catherine knew in her being that a troubled heart is an ever present possibility. When we don’t have any serious concerns in the present, we are often anxious about the future. There is a difference, of course, between having concerns and having a troubled heart...'

4th Sunday in Easter, Year A

John 10:1-10

'Sheep were domesticated in Palestine some eight thousand years ago. In biblical times, shepherds would lead their sheep out to graze by day and bring them by night to a communal enclosure or sheepfold, the entrance to which was guarded by a gatekeeper. Shepherds knew their sheep and their sheep knew them...'

13th Sunday on Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 10:37-42

'What price are we prepared to pay to create a just, equitable and healthy planetary community? That question is at the heart of today’s gospel reading. That was, in essence, the question that Jesus of Nazareth put to his disciples and the question that Matthew put to his community some sixty years after Jesus’ death. We seem to be at a turning point in world history, with a climate crisis, a pandemic that has claimed the lives of some 410,000 people and a new consciousness of the discrimination and violence experienced by people of colour...'

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 10:26-33

'Many of those who once looked through the barbed-wire fences of Australia’s detention centres carry personal stories of fear of persecution. One such story, the story of Najaf Mazari, is beautifully narrated by Najaf and Robert Hillman in their joint work, The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif. Najaf is an Afghani Hazara who suffered persecution and torture at the hands of the Taliban. He escaped to Australia via Indonesia in 2002. After some time in detention, he established a rug making business in suburban Melbourne. He was reunited with his wife Hakeema and daughter Maria in 2008 and became an Australian citizen in June 2014...'

Body and Blood of Christ, Year A

John 6:51-58

'Bread is staple food for much of the world’s population. It is also a metaphor for the food that sustains the life of the human community. Being able to “put bread on the table” is the most basic of desires. Witness the haunting images of starving “migrant workers” walking away from cities locked down for fear of pandemic, walking to their homes in rural India where they may find life-restoring “roti”! Bread means life...'

Trinity Sunday, Year A

John 3:16-18

'“She has gone to God and God is very near”. Some dear friends of mine chose these words for the cover of their mother’s funeral booklet. Their choice of words demonstrates their faith in God of whom John writes in today’s gospel. For them, as for us, God is not a distant God, but rather a God of communion, and a God in communion with the world: “God so loved the world….” John uses the term “world” here to refer to humanity in need of salvation...'

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 13:44-52

'The three parables and the summary statement in today’s gospel conclude Matthew’s parable chapter. In the first parable, the Matthean Jesus likens the kin-dom of the heavens, not just to “treasure”, but rather to treasure hidden in a field that someone, possibly a slave or day labourer, finds and hides before going joyfully to sell everything in order to buy the field and acquire the treasure...'

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Matthew 13:24-35

'Experienced gardeners or farmers or bakers might take issue with Jesus’ choice of images for God’s empire or kin-dom of the heavens. They may be singularly unimpressed by the methods of the farmer-gardener-God presented in today’s gospel reading...'

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 13:1-23

'Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have necessarily distanced ourselves from others. Some of us have retreated to the natural world so that our sensitivities have sharpened and our planetary awareness has heightened. We have become more attuned to the complexity of nature and to its rhythms. We have observed the diverse feeding habits of the birds, for instance, and their communication patterns. There is new and renewed interest in gardening, in the growing of vegetables and fruit in pots or in built-up garden beds. Such changes in lifestyle are conditioning us to use our eyes to see and our ears to listen...'

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 11:25-30

'Today’s gospel begins with Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving to God. The verb “to thank” in this instance has connotations of blessing. In this prayer of blessing or thanksgiving, Jesus contrasts those who consider themselves wise and intelligent with the truly wise ones, the “little ones” who know the daily struggle to survive, those to whom the secrets of God’s empire have been revealed..'

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 16:13-19

'“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken”, sings Melinda Schneider. The lyrics of this song, composed for Melinda’s dying father, affirm some fairly obvious truths. Even though we know that “everybody else is taken”, most of us spend energy trying to measure up to other peoples’ expectations and fail to be truly ourselves...'

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 15:21-28

' The gospels are written in Greek and much of the language of the gospels has to be understood against a Greek philosophical background. Today’s gospel story culminates in the healing of a “daughter” who may be a little girl or even a young woman. Her mother, the main character in the story, is known to Matthew’s community simply as a Canaanite woman, or in other words an indigenous woman. To some early Christian communities, she is Justa, so we might reasonably call her daughter Justina...'

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 14:22-33

'Right now, our planet is battered by the waves of pandemic. Our church also knows what it means to be “battered by the waves”. Over its two millennia history, there have been periods of discrimination and persecution against its members. Countless church members have died for their faith, while others have been and are being denied the freedom to practice their religion. ..'

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 14:13-21

'According to the most recent International Food Policy Research Institute (IFRI) Report, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below ten percent of the global population for the first time in history, down from nineteen per cent in 1990. The same figures hold for the undernourished in our world. Encouraging as the improved statistics may be, it is still a fact that almost three quarters of a billion people have less than $US1.90 per day to meet all their basic needs for food, shelter and security and this situation has been seriously exacerbated by the outbreak of Covid-19...'

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 21:28-32

'As we celebrate the fourth week in the Season of Creation, we might ponder again the ways in which Earth cares for us. Vineyards have provided nourishment for countless families in the ancient Mediterranean world since about 10,000 BCE. It is not surprising then that the biblical record frequently references vines and vineyards and that the vineyard becomes a metaphor for God’s “workplace”. ..'

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 20:1-16a

'From 1973 to 1975, East Jerusalem was my home. Early each morning, I crossed the road from the Chaldean Patriarchate to the Ecole Biblique Archéologique Française. I would greet the Palestinian day labourers lined up beside their vehicles, waiting for employment in the vacant lot that divided Israeli from occupied Palestinian territory. In the wake of the Yom Kippur War, these workers were living through hard times. In the morning, they were chatty and cheerful. Those who found work no doubt remained cheerful: they had the means to support their families and could find some meaning in their lives. Those still waiting for work at midday or later were dejected and shamed, not least by the prospect of returning home without their daily bread. Those who were hired found honour in the society and the means to sustain themselves and their families. Those who missed out on work suffered hunger, indignity and a sense of powerlessness. Confronted by this spectacle day after day, I began to understand the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. ..'

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 18:21-35

'The opening verses of this Sunday’s gospel reading have Jesus advocating limitless forgiveness (not seven but seventy-seven times). The parable that follows is anything but consistent, however, with this teaching and with the teaching of Jesus in the gospel as a whole. We are all familiar with the beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall be mercied” (5:7) and with the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (6:12). How then do we read today’s story of a king who is prepared to forgive the debt that his slave has incurred, only to resort to torture when that slave fails to forgive his fellow slave?...'

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 18:15-20

'As we celebrate this first Sunday of the Season of Creation, we are conscious of the need for the human community to be reconciled with Earth and with all that inhabits our common home. The theme for the 2020 Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth”. The Earth needs a rest from the effects of so much industrial activity, from the proliferation of single use plastic, from reliance on fossil fuels, from mindless consumption. The planet needs a “Rest” of biblical proportions, a Jubilee. Ironically, Covid-19 has given the planet a rest in some respects...'

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 22:34-40

'Until fairly recently, the Jewishness of Jesus was often downplayed, even ignored. Today’s gospel passage has Jesus affirming the most central of Jewish traditions, namely the command of Deuteronomy 6 known as the Shema (so called from the first word in the statement meaning “hear”). The words of the Shema are recited repeatedly every day by every faithful Jew...'

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Matthew 22:15-21

'The emergence of a common enemy is often the catalyst for sworn enemies to unite. In first century Palestine, Pharisees were the respected religious teachers of the law and Herodians represented secular Jewish power and wealth. They despised each other on both religious and political grounds. When faced with a perceived threat to their authority, however, they united in opposition. Jesus of Nazareth becomes the threat that unites them. His teaching and healing draw the crowds and threaten their authority...'

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 22:1-14

'The increasing wealth of the few and the growing divide between rich and poor, particularly in the developing world, are challenging us all to consider our attitudes to the planet’s resources and to the economic system that maintains that imbalance. The economic divide is highlighted by the vulnerability to pandemic of those rendered poor and homeless in our world. Today’s gospel brings a warning...'

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 21:33-43

'Today is a triple celebration. It is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi and the closing Sunday in the Season of Creation. At the invitation of Pope Francis, we have focused for five weeks on the call to integral ecology, on hearing and responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. Among the most abandoned of Earth’s “poor” are those who are still enslaved...'

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

Mark 13:33-37

'As I write, I am watching the magpies in the yard, ever alert, rarely asleep, ready to protect their territory and their young. “Eyes wide open” is the proper stance, not just for the magpies, but for gospel people too...'

Feast of Christ the King, Year A

Matthew 25:31-46

'“It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of King.” These are the words of Pope Pius XI who established this feast between two world wars in the hope of counteracting the growing secularism “in public affairs and politics” and finding a way towards global peace. Peace would never be achieved, wrote Pope Pius XI, until and unless individuals and nations accept the “rule of our Saviour”...'

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 25:14-30

'In answer to my usual greeting, “G’day Muff, what are you up to?” my polymath brother-in-law, David (nicknamed Muff), would invariably reply, “Just contemplating the eternal verities!” The conversation that followed, usually over a glass of wine, would confirm the veracity of his response. Contemplating the eternal verities was a way of life for my brother-in-law until his all too early death 15 years ago...'

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 25:1-13

'How many times were you told as a child to be ready for an outing or for the arrival of visitors or for dinner or for something else when you simply wanted to stay as you were? There are times when it matters little whether we are ready or not. COVID-19 is teaching us that sometimes it really matters and today’s gospel parable depicts a situation where it is of crucial importance to be prepared. Wisdom resides in readiness, foolishness in failure to prepare...'

Feast of All Saints, Year A

Matthew 5:1-12

'We have become so familiar with the beatitudes that there is a danger of our listening only to the mellifluous flow of language and of failing to attend to the extraordinary present and future reversal that they offer to those who suffer injustice and to those who choose non-violent ways of addressing it. With pandemic sweeping the globe and affecting the dispossessed quite disproportionately, it is time to listen anew to these opening words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount...'

Feast of the Holy Family Year B

Luke 2:22-40

'The time between Christmas and New Year is usually family time, a good time to think about what family means. We try to connect with and enjoy the company of those with whom we have family ties, especially those who are alone or struggling in some way. Many parents value the extra time they are able to spend with their children over this period. This year, we are particularly grateful for any reunion after so many months of pandemic restrictions...'

Gospel Readings for Christmas Year B

Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-18)

'The readings for the Christmas liturgies vary from celebration to celebration. The gospel for Midnight Mass (Luke 2:1-14) comes from the great story-teller Luke, as does the gospel for the early morning Mass (Luke 2:15-20)...'

4th Sunday of Advent Year B

Luke 1:26-38

'We are all familiar with Luke’s story of the annunciation, a story that has inspired artists through the ages. God’s messenger, Gabriel, approaches a young Galilean Jewish woman, Mary of Nazareth, and greets her as God’s graced one. The angel’s greeting to Mary is unique. No other person in the Christian scriptures is addressed as “favoured one” or “graced one”. The Greek form kecharitōmenē contains within it the notion of grace, charis in Greek. It can also mean “mercied one”...'

3rd Sunday of Advent Year B

John 1:6-8, 19-28

'The first section of today’s gospel reading comes from the prologue of John’s gospel and offers comment on the identity of John the Baptizer. The second section revolves around a question that has already been answered in the prologue. In other words, the reader knows the answer to the question posed by the characters in the second section..'

2nd Sunday of Advent Year B

Mark 1:1-8

'The first verse of Mark’s gospel evokes the opening words of Genesis and thus situates the saving presence of Jesus the Christ in relation to the creation of earth and of all earth beings. The whole of Mark’s story of Jesus is presented as a beginning...'