St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Many saints and Church leaders have seen a connection between Christ's words in the Gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King (see Matthew 25:31-43) and His promise to be present in the Eucharist (see Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20).

For instance, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say of her work with the destitute: "In Holy Communion we have Christ under the appearance of bread. In our work we find Him under the appearance of flesh and blood. It is the same Christ. 'I was hungry, I was naked, I was sick, I was homeless.'"

St. John Chrysostom, the great patriarch of Eastern Catholicism, said the same thing in the fourth century: "Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore Him when He is naked. Do not pay Him homage in the temple clad in silk only then to neglect Him outside where He suffers cold and nakedness. He who said: 'This is my body' is the same One who said: 'You saw me hungry and you gave me no food', and 'Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me' . . . What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices, when He is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying His hunger, and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well."

The Church year ends today with a vision of the end of time. The scene in the Gospel is stark and resounds with Old Testament echoes.

The Son of Man is enthroned over all nations and peoples of every language (see Daniel 7:13-14). The nations have been gathered to see His glory and receive His judgment (see Isaiah 66:18; Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in today's First Reading, judging as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.

Each of us will be judged upon our performance of the simple works of mercy we hear in the Gospel today.

These works, as Jesus explains today, are reflections or measures of our love for Him, our faithfulness to His commandment that we love God with all our might and our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:36-40).

Our faith is dead, lifeless, unless it be expressed in works of love (see James 2:20; Galatians 5:6). And we cannot say we truly love God, whom we cannot see, if we don't love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20).

The Lord is our shepherd, as we sing in today's Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 5:1).

He healed our sickness (see Luke 6:19), freed us from the prison of sin and death (see Romans 8:2,21), welcomed us who were once strangers to His covenant (see Ephesians 2:12,19). He clothed us in baptism (see Revelation 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:3-4), and feeds us with the food and drink of His own body and blood.

At "the end," He will come again to hand over His kingdom to His Father, as Paul says in today's Epistle.

Let us strive to be following Him in right paths, that this kingdom might be our inheritance, that we might enter into the eternal rest promised for the people of God (see Hebrews 4:1,9-11).

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_Christ_the_King_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Lecturas
Ezequiel 34,11-12.15-17
Salmo 23,1-3.5-6
1 Corintios 15, 20-26. 28
Mateo25, 31-46

Esta semana termina el año litúrgico con una visión del final de los tiempos. La escena descrita por el Evangelio es cruda y en ella resuenan ecos del Antiguo Testamento.

Sunday’s First Reading, judging as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.
El Hijo del Hombre es entronizado sobre todas las naciones y pueblos de toda lengua (cf. Dn 7,13-14). Las naciones han sido reunidas para ver su gloria y recibir su juicio (cf. Is 66,18; So 3,8). El Rey es el pastor divino que Ezequiel prevé en la primera lectura del domingo; Él juzga así como el pastor separa las ovejas de las cabras.

Cada uno de nosotros será juzgado según cómo realice las sencillas obras de misericordia que escuchamos en el Evangelio.

Estas obras, como Jesús explica hoy, son reflejo o medida de nuestro amor a Él; son nuestra fidelidad a su mandamiento de amar a Dios con todas nuestras fuerzas y al prójimo como a nosotros mismos (cf. Mt 22, 36-40).

Nuestra fe está muerta, no tiene vida, a menos de que la expresemos con obras de amor (cf. St 2,20; Ga 5,6). Y no podemos decir que amamos verdaderamente a Dios a quien no vemos, si no amamos a nuestro prójimo, a quien sí vemos (cf. 1Jn 4,20).

El Señor es nuestro pastor, como cantamos en el salmo del domingo. Y hemos de seguir su guía e imitar su ejemplo (cf. 1Co 1,11; Ef 5,1).

Él ha sanado nuestras enfermedades (cf. Lc 6,19), nos ha liberado de la cárcel del pecado y de la muerte (cf. Rm 8,2.21), nos ha dado la bienvenida a nosotros que una vez fuimos extraños a su alianza (cf. Ef 2,12.19). Nos ha revestido en el bautismo (cf. Ap 5,5; 2Co 5, 3-4) y nos alimenta con la comida y la bebida de su propio Cuerpo y Sangre.

“Al final” vendrá de nuevo para entregar su reino a su Padre, como dice San Pablo en la epístola de esta semana.

Luchemos por seguirle en el camino correcto para que su reino sea nuestra heredad; para que podamos entrar en el descanso eterno prometido al pueblo de Dios (cf. Hb 4,1.9-11).

Direct download: A_Christ_King_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Lecturas:
Proverbios 31,10-13.19-20.30-31
Salmo 128, 1-5
1 Tesalonicenses 5, 1-6
Mateo 25, 14-30

El día del Señor viene, advierte San Pablo en la epístola del domingo. Lo que importa no es el tiempo o el momento, sino lo que Dios nos encuentre haciendo con la nueva vida y las gracias que Él nos ha dado.

Esto mismo se encuentra en el corazón de la parábola que Cristo narra en el Evangelio de esta semana. Jesús es el Señor. Al morir, resucitar y ascender al cielo, aparentemente se ha ido por largo tiempo.

Por nuestro bautismo, Él nos ha confiado a cada uno de nosotros una porción de su“hacienda”: una participación de su vida divina (cf. 2P 1,4). Nos ha dado talentos y responsabilidades según la medida de nuestra fe (cf. Rm 12,3.8).

Hemos de ser como la loable esposa de la primera lectura, y como la mujer fiel de la que cantamos en el salmo. Como ellas, debemos vivir en el “temor de Dios”: con reverencia, admiración y gratitud por los maravillosos dones que nos ha dado. Ese es el principio de la sabiduría (cf. Hch 9,31; Pr 1,7).

Ese no es el “temor” del siervo inútil que aparece esta semana en la parábola de Jesús. El suyo es el miedo de un esclavo que se empequeñece ante su señor cruel; el miedo de quien rechaza la relación con Dios a la que Él mismo nos llama.

Dios nos ha llamado a ser siervos de confianza, colaboradores suyos (cf. 1Co 3,9) que usen sus talentos para servirse unos a otros y a su Reino, como buenos administradores de su gracia (cf. 1P 4,10).

En ello, cada uno de nosotros tiene un papel diferente que jugar.

Aunque a los siervos buenos de la parábola se les dio diferente cantidad de talentos, cada uno “duplicó” los que se le habían entregado. Y cada uno de ellos mereció la misma recompensa por su fidelidad: compartir la alegría de su señor y tener una mayor responsabilidad a su cargo.

Por tanto, en nuestra Eucaristía, dispongámonos a rendir mucho más de lo que se nos ha dado, haciéndolo todo para la gloria de Dios (cf. 1Co 10,31), para que también nos acerquemos a Él con amor y confianza cuando venga a saldar cuentas con nosotros.

Direct download: A_33_Ordinary_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Readings:
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

The day of the Lord is coming, Paul warns in today's Epistle. What matters isn't the time or the season, but what the Lord finds us doing with the new life, the graces He has given to us.

This is at the heart of Jesus' parable in today's Gospel. Jesus is the Master. Having died, risen, and ascended into heaven, He appears to have gone away for a long time.

By our baptism, He has entrusted to each of us a portion of His "possessions," a share in His divine life (see 2 Peter 1:4). He has given us talents and responsibilities, according to the measure of our faith (see Romans 12:3,8).

We are to be like the worthy wife in today's First Reading, and the faithful man we sing of in today's Psalm. Like them, we should walk in the "fear of the Lord" - in reverence, awe, and thanksgiving for His marvelous gifts. This is the beginning of wisdom (see Acts 9:31; Proverbs 1:7).

This is not the "fear" of the useless servant in today's parable. His is the fear of a slave cowering before a cruel master, the fear of one who refuses the relationship that God calls us to.

He has called us to be trusted servants, fellow workers (see 1 Corinthians 3:9), using our talents to serve one another and His kingdom as good stewards of His grace (see 1 Peter 4:10).

In this, we each have a different part to play.

Though the good servants in today's parable were given different numbers of talents, each "doubled" what he was given. And each earned the same reward for his faithfulness - greater responsibilities and a share of the Master's joy.

So let us resolve again in this Eucharist to make much of what we've been given, to do all for the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). That we, too, may approach our Master with confidence and love when He comes to settle accounts.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_33rd_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Readings:
Wisdom 6:12-16
Psalm 63:2-8
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Matthew 25:1-13

According to marriage customs of Jesus' day, a bride was first "betrothed" to her husband but continued for a time to live with her family. Then, at the appointed hour, some months later, the groom would come to claim her, leading her family and bridal party to the wedding feast that would celebrate and inaugurate their new life together.

This is the background to the parable of the last judgment we hear in today's Gospel.

In the parable's symbolism, Jesus is the Bridegroom (see Mark 2:19). In this, He fulfills God's ancient promise to join himself forever to His chosen people as a husband cleaves to his bride (see Hosea 2:16-20). The virgins of the bridal party represent us, the members of the Church.

We were "betrothed" to Jesus in baptism (see 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27) and are called to lives of holiness and devotion until He comes again to lead us to the heavenly wedding feast at the end of time (see Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-4).

As St. Paul warns in today's Epistle, Jesus is coming again, though we know not the day nor the hour.

We need to keep vigil throughout the dark night of this time in which our Bridegroom seems long delayed. We need to keep our souls' lamps filled with the oil of perseverance and desire for God - virtues that are extolled in today's First Reading and Psalm.

We are to seek Him in love, meditating upon His kindness, calling upon His name, striving to be ever more worthy of Him, to be found without spot or blemish when He comes.

If we do this, we will be counted as wise and the oil for our lamps will not run dry (see 1 Kings 17:16). We will perceive the Bridegroom, the Wisdom of God (see Proverbs 8:22-31,35; 9:1-5), hastening toward us, beckoning us to the table He has prepared, the rich banquet which will satisfy our souls.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_32nd_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Readings:
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10
Psalm 131:1-3
1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13
Matthew 23:1-12

Though they were Moses' successors, the Pharisees and scribes exalted themselves, made their mastery of the law a badge of social privilege. Worse, they had lorded the law over the people (see Matthew 20:25). Like the priests Malachi condemns in today's First Reading, they caused many to falter and be closed off from God.

In a word, Israel's leaders failed to be good spiritual fathers of God's people. Moses was a humble father-figure, preaching the law but also practicing it - interceding and begging God's mercy and forgiveness of the people's sins (see Exodus 32:9-14; Psalm 90).

And Jesus reminds us today that all fatherhood - in the family or in the people of God - comes from the our Father in heaven (see Ephesians 3:15).

He doesn't mean we're to literally call no man "father." He himself referred to Israel's founding fathers (see John 7:42); the apostles taught about natural fatherhood (see Hebrews 12:7-11), and described themselves as spiritual fathers (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-16)

The fatherhood of the apostles and their successors, the Church's priests and bishops, is a spiritual paternity given to raise us as God's children. Our fathers give us new life in baptism, and feed us the spiritual milk of the gospel and the Eucharist (see 1 Peter 2:2-3). That's why Paul, in today's Epistle, can also compare himself to a nursing mother.

God's fatherhood likewise transcends all human notions of fatherhood and motherhood. Perhaps that's why the Psalm chosen for today includes one of the rare biblical images of God's maternal care (see Isaiah 66:13).

His only Son has shown us the Father (see John 14:9) coming to gather His children as a hen gathers her young (see Matthew 23:37). We're all brothers and sisters, our Lord tells us today. And all of us - even our spiritual fathers - are to trust in Him, humbly, like children on our mothers' laps.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_31st_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Readings:
Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51
1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament law but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17)

And in today's Gospel, He reveals that love - of God and of neighbor - is the fulfillment of the whole of the law (see Romans 13:8-10).

Devout Israelites were to keep all 613 commands found in the Bible's first five books. Jesus says today that all these, and all the teachings of the prophets, can be summarized by two verses of this law (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).

He seems to summarize the two stone tablets on which God was said to have engraved the ten commandments (see Exodus 32:15-16). The first tablet set out three laws concerning the love of God - such as the command not to take His name in vain; the second contained seven commands regarding love of neighbor, such as those against stealing and adultery.

Love is the hinge that binds the two tablets of the law. For we can't love God, whom we can't see, if we don't love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20-22).

But this love we are called to is far more than simple affection or warm sentiment. We must give ourselves totally to God - loving with our whole beings, with all our heart, soul and mind. Our love for our neighbor must express itself in concrete actions, such as those set out in today's First Reading.

We love because He first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). As we sing in today's Psalm, He has been our deliverer, our strength when we could not possibly defend ourselves against the enemies of sin and death.

We love in thanksgiving for our salvation. And in this become imitators of Jesus, as Paul tells us in today's Epistle - laying down our lives daily in ways large and small, seen and unseen; our lives offered as a continual sacrifice of praise (see John 15:12-13; Hebrews 13:15).

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_30th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Lecturas:
Éxodo 22, 20-26
Salmo 18, 2-4.47.51
1 Tesalonicenses 1, 5-10
Mateo 22, 34-40

Jesús no vino a abolir el Antiguo Testamento, sino a cumplirlo (cf. Mt 5,17).

Y Él, en el Evangelio de hoy, revela que en el amor –a Dios y al prójimo- está el cumplimiento de toda la ley (cf. Rm 13,8-10).

Los israelitas devotos habían de cumplir los 613 mandamientos que se encuentran en los primeros cinco libros de la Biblia. Jesús dice hoy que todos ellos, así como la enseñanza de los profetas, se pueden resumir en dos versículos de la Ley (cf. Dt 6,5; Lv 19,18).

Jesús parece así resumir las dos tablas de piedra en las que Dios dejó grabado los diez mandamientos (cf. Ex 32, 15-16). La primera tabla exponía tres leyes concernientes al amor a Dios –como el mandamiento de no tomar su nombre en vano. La segunda contenía siete mandamientos sobre el amor al prójimo, como aquellos sobre el robo y el adulterio.

El amor es la bisagra que une las dos tablas de la ley. Pues no podemos amar a Dios, a quien no vemos, si no amamos a nuestro prójimo, a quien sí vemos (cf. 1Jn 4,20-22).

Pero este amor al que estamos llamados es mucho más que un simple afecto o un sentimiento cariñoso. Debemos darnos totalmente a Dios, amando con todo nuestro ser, con todo nuestro corazón, alma y mente. Nuestro amor al prójimo debe expresarse en acciones concretas, como las expuestas en la primera lectura.

Amamos porque Él nos amó primero (cf. Jn 4,19). Como cantamos en el salmo de hoy, Él ha sido nuestro libertador, nuestra fortaleza cuando no podíamos en modo alguno defendernos contra los enemigos del pecado y de la muerte.

Amamos al dar gracias por nuestra salvación. Y en esto nos convertimos en imitadores de Jesús, como San Pablo nos dice en la epístola de hoy, dejando de lado nuestra vida diariamente en lo grande y en lo pequeño, en lo que se ve y en lo oculto, ofreciéndola como continuo sacrificio de alabanza (cf. Jn 15,12-13; Hb 13,14).

Direct download: A_30_Ordinary_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Lecturas:
Isaías 45, 1.4-6
Salmo 96, 1.3-5.7-10
1 Tesalonicenses 1, 1-5
Mateo 22, 15-21

El Señor es el rey de toda la tierra, como cantamos en el salmo de este domingo. Los gobiernos ascienden y caen con su permiso, y no tienen más autoridad que la que les ha sido dada desde arriba (cf. Jn 19,11; Rm 13,1).

En efecto, Dios le dice a todo gobernante lo que hoy le dice al rey Ciro en la primera lectura: “Te he llamado…aunque no me conocías”.

El Señor ha levantado a Ciro para restablecer a los israelitas desde el exilio, y para reconstruir Jerusalén (cf. Esd 1,1-4). A lo largo de la historia de la salvación, Dios ha utilizado gobernantes extranjeros para bien de su pueblo elegido. El corazón del faraón fue endurecido para revelar el poder de Dios (cf. Rm 9,17). Los ejércitos invasores fueron usados para castigar a Israel por sus pecados (cf. 2 M 6,7-16).

En modo parecido, la ocupación romana que existía en tiempo de Jesús era una sentencia por la falta de fe de Israel. Las famosas palabras de Cristo en el Evangelio de esta semana: “Dar al César lo que es del César” son un recordatorio de ello. Y esas mismas palabras nos llaman, también a nosotros, a mantener firme nuestra lealtad.

Sólo Dios es nuestro rey. Su reino no es de este mundo (cf. Jn 18,36) pero comienza aquí en su Iglesia, que habla de su gloria entre todos los pueblos. Ciudadanos del cielo (cf. Flp 3,20), estamos llamados a ser luz para el mundo (cf. Mt 5,14), activos en la fe, esforzados en el amor y pacientes en la esperanza, como aconseja la epístola de hoy.

A nuestro gobierno le debemos la preocupación por el bien común y la obediencia a las leyes, siempre y cuando no entren en conflicto con los mandamientos de Dios interpretados por la Iglesia (cf. Hch 5,29).

Pero a Dios le debemos todo. La moneda lleva la imagen del César. Pero nosotros llevamos la imagen misma de Dios (cf. Gn 1,27). A Él le debemos nuestras vidas: nuestro corazón, mente, alma y fortaleza ofrecidos como sacrificio vivo de amor (cf. Rm 12,1-2).

Deberíamos rezar por nuestros líderes, que como Ciro hacen la voluntad de Dios (cf. 1Tm 2,1-2), hasta que desde el alba hasta el ocaso, toda la humanidad sepa que Jesús es el Señor.

Direct download: A_29_Ordinary_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Readings:
Isaiah 45:1,4-6
Psalm 96:1,3-5, 7-10
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Matthew 22:15-21

The Lord is king over all the earth, as we sing in today's Psalm. Governments rise and fall by His permission, with no authority but that given from above (see John 19:11; Romans 13:1).

In effect, God says to every ruler what he tells King Cyrus in today's First Reading: "I have called you . . . though you knew me not."

The Lord raised up Cyrus to restore the Israelites from exile, and to rebuild Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1-4). Throughout salvation history, God has used foreign rulers for the sake of His chosen people. Pharaoh's heart was hardened to reveal God's power (see Romans 9:17). Invading armies were used to punish Israel's sins (see 2 Maccabees 6:7-16).

The Roman occupation during Jesus' time was, in a similar way, a judgment on Israel's unfaithfulness. Jesus' famous words in today's Gospel: "Repay to Caesar" are a pointed reminder of this. And they call us, too, to keep our allegiances straight.

The Lord alone is our king. His kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36) but it begins here in His Church, which tells of His glory among all peoples. Citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20), we are called to be a light to the world (see Matthew 5:14) - working in faith, laboring in love, and enduring in hope, as today's Epistle counsels.

We owe the government a concern for the common good, and obedience to laws - unless they conflict with God's commandments as interpreted by the Church (see Acts 5:29).

But we owe God everything. The coin bears Caesar's image. But we bear God's own image (see Genesis 1:27). We owe Him our very lives - all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, offered as a living sacrifice of love (see Romans 12:1-2).

We should pray for our leaders, that like Cyrus they do God's will (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2) - until from the rising of the sun to its setting, all humanity knows that Jesus is Lord.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_29th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST