St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:
Is 49: 1–6
Ps 139: 1–3, 13–15
Acts 13:22–26
Lk 1:57–66, 80

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The people in this week’s Gospel are frightened and amazed by the mysterious events surrounding the birth of John. Only his mother and father, Elizabeth and Zechariah, know what this child will be. John the Baptist was fashioned in secret, knit by God in his mother’s womb, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm. From the womb he was set apart, formed to be God’s servant, as Isaiah declares in this week’s
First Reading.

The whole story of John’s birth is thick with Old Testament echoes, especially echoes of the story of Abraham. God appeared to Abraham promising that his wife would bear him a son; He announced the son’s name and the role Isaac would play in salvation history (see Genesis 17:1, 16, 19).

The same thing happened to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Through His angel, God announced John’s birth to this righteous yet barren couple. He made them call John a special name—and told them the special part John would play in fulfilling His plan for history (see Luke 1:5–17).

As Paul says in today’s Second Reading, John was to herald the fulfillment of all God’s promises to the children of Abraham (Luke 1:55, 73). John was to bring the word of salvation to all the people of Israel. More than that, he was to be a light to the nations—to all those groping in the dark for God.

We often associate John with his fiery preaching (see Matthew 3:7–12). But there was a deep humility at the heart of his mission. Paul alludes to that when he quotes John’s words about not being worthy to unfasten the sandals of Christ’s feet. John said, “[Christ] must increase. I must decrease” (John 3:30).

We must have that same attitude as we seek to follow Jesus. The repentance John preached was a turning away from sin and selfishness and a turning of our whole hearts to the Father.

We must decrease so that, like John, we can grow strong in the Spirit, until Christ is made manifest in each of us.

Direct download: C_Birth_John_Baptist.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

 

 

Ezek 17:22-24                             

Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16                 

2 Cor 5:6-10  

Mark 4:26-34

 Through the oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel, God gave his people reason to hope. It would have been a cryptic message to his hearers, long centuries before the Lord’s coming. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would “put forth branches and bear fruit.” Who could have predicted that the tree would be a cross, on the hill of Calvary, and that the fruit would be salvation?

 

 Ezekiel foresees salvation coming to “birds of every kind” -- thus, not just to the Chosen People of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, who will “take wing” through their new life in Christ. God indeed will “lift high the lowly tree,” as he solemnly promises at the conclusion of the passage from the prophet.

 

 Such salvation surpasses humanity’s most ambitious dreams. And so we express our gratitude in the Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It is indeed good to give thanks, and better still to give thanks with praise. The Psalmist speaks of those who are just upon the earth, but looks to God as the source and measure of justice, of righteousness. Like Ezekiel, he evokes the image of a flourishing tree to describe the lives of the just. The image, again, suggests the cross as the measure of righteousness.

 

 The cross is a challenge to those who would rather “flourish” according to worldly terms. It is a sign of contradiction. And so Saint Paul repeatedly emphasizes, to the Corinthians, the necessity of courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proved in our deeds. The Apostle reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifested itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”

 

 Faith. Courage. God himself will empower the works he expects from us; though we may freely choose to correspond to his grace.

 

 In the prophetic oracles, in the Psalms that were sung in Jerusalem, he scattered the small seed that sprang up and became the mustard tree, large enough to accommodate all the birds of the sky, just as Ezekiel had foretold.

 

 He gave this doctrine to disciples, as he still does today, in terms they were able to understand, and he provided a full explanation. In the sacraments he provides still more: the grace of faith and the courage we need to live in the world as children of God    

Direct download: B_11_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In today’s Gospel Jesus has just been healing and casting out demons in Galilee. Along with the crowds, who flock to Him so that He can’t even take a break to eat, come people who do not understand what He is doing. Even His friends think He has lost His mind and needs to be taken away for a while. But the scribes who came down from Jerusalem are not just honestly mistaken; they accuse Him of being possessed by the prince of demons.

The reality is just the opposite. Jesus is revealing Himself as the one promised in our first reading. He is the seed of the woman who has come to crush the head of the demonic serpent. In the parable of the strong man, Jesus reveals that He has come not just to punish the devil but to free those bound by him. As St. Bede explains, “The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and His goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church.”

The scribes blaspheme by attributing this work of the Holy Spirit to demons. Jesus adds a statement that shocks us at first: “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.” That does not mean that there are any limits to the mercy of God (CCC 1864). Rather, the only sin that cannot be forgiven is the deliberate refusal to accept the mercy offered through the Holy Spirit.

Instead, we must imitate those who sat at Jesus’ feet. For, as He said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Direct download: B_10_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:12pm EDT

Solemnidad del Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo

 Lecturas:

 

Éxodo 24, 3-8

Salmo 116,12-13, 15-18

Hebreos 9,11-15

Marcos 14,12-16, 22-26

 Las lecturas de este día se ubican en el contexto de la Pascua. La primera de ellas recuerda la Antigua Alianza efectuada en el Sinaí después de la primera pascua y del éxodo.

 

 Al rociar la sangre de la Alianza sobre los Israelitas, Moisés sim­bolizaba el deseo de Dios de hacerlos parte de su familia, de su sangre.

 

 Citando a Moisés en el Evangelio de este domingo, Jesús da una nueva dimensión a este símbolo de la Alianza, elevándolo a una realidad extraordinaria : En la Nueva Alianza hecha con la Sangre de Cristo, podemos verdaderamente hacernos uno con su Cuerpo y Sangre.

 

 La primera alianza hecha con Moisés e Israel en el Sinaí fue apenas una sombra de la Alianza, nueva y mayor, hecha por Cristo con toda la humanidad en el Cenáculo (cfr. Hb 10,1).

 

 La Pascua que Jesús celebra con sus doce apóstoles actualiza y hace real lo que solamente fue un símbolo : el sacrificio de Moisés en el altar de doce pilares. Lo que Jesús hace hoy es establecer a su Iglesia como la Nueva Israel y su Eucaristía como el nuevo culto al Dios vivo.

 

 Al ofrecerse a Sí mismo a Dios por el Espíritu Santo, Jesús libera a Israel de los pecados de la Antigua Alianza. Como escuchamos en la epístola de hoy, Él nos ha purificado por medio de su sangre, y nos ha hecho capaces de rendir un culto verdadero.

 

 Dios no quiere obras muertas ni sacrificios de animales. Quiere nuestra carne y sangre—es decir, nuestras vidas—consagradas a Él, ofrecidas como sacrificio viviente. Ese es el sacrificio de alabanza y acción de gracias del que habla el salmo de hoy. Esto es la Eucaristía.

 

 Lo que hacemos en memoria Suya es entregar nuestras vidas a Cristo y renovarle nuestro com­promiso de servirle y ser fieles a su Alianza.

 

 No hay otra cosa que podamos ofrecerle a cambio de la herencia eterna que él nos ha ganado. Por tanto, acerquémonos al altar para invocar su Nombre en acción de gracias y alzar «la copa de la victoria» (Sal 116,13).    

Direct download: B_Corpus_Christi_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

All of today's readings are set in the context of the Passover. The First Reading recalls the old covenant celebrated at Sinai following the first Passover and the exodus.

In sprinkling the blood of the covenant on the Israelites, Moses was symbolizing God's desire in this covenant to make them His family, His "blood" relations.

Quoting Moses' words in today's Gospel, Jesus elevates and transforms this covenant symbol to an extraordinary reality. In the new covenant made in the blood of Christ, we truly become one with His body and blood.

The first covenant made with Moses and Israel at Sinai was but a shadow of this new and greater covenant made by Christ with all humankind in that upper room (see Hebrews 10:1).

The Passover that Jesus celebrates with His 12 apostles "actualizes," makes real, what could only be symbolized by Moses' sacrifice at the altar with 12 pillars. What Jesus does today is establish His Church as the new Israel, and His Eucharist as the new worship of the living God.

In offering himself to God through the Spirit, Jesus delivered Israel from the transgressions of the first covenant. And, as we hear in today's Epistle, by His blood He purified us, and made us capable of true worship.

God does not want dead works or animal sacrifices. He wants our own flesh and blood, our own lives, consecrated to Him, offered as a living sacrifice. This is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that we sing of in today's Psalm. This is the Eucharist.

What we do in memory of Him is to pledge our lives to Him, to renew our promise to live by the words of His covenant and to be His servants.

There is no other return we can offer to Him for the eternal inheritance He has won for us. So let us approach the altar, calling upon His name in thanksgiving, taking up the cup of salvation. 

Direct download: B_Corpus_Christi.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4- 6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God's new covenant and made a new creation.

In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in His divine nature through His body and blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season - Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.

These feasts should be intimate reminders of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, to be His children (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

Today's readings illuminate how all God's words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God's blessing in Jesus Christ - the blessing we inherited in baptism, and renew in each Eucharist.

By God's word the heavens and earth were filled with His kindness, we sing in today's Psalm. Out of love, God called Abraham and chose his descendants to be His own people, Moses says in today's First Reading (see Deuteronomy 4:20,37). Through the Israelites, He revealed to the nations that He alone is Lord and there is no other.

In Jesus, God's word took flesh as a son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And Jesus reveals in the Gospel today that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that He desires to make all peoples His own.

As He led Israel out of Egypt, God freed us from slavery, Paul says in today's Epistle. As He adopted Israel (see Romans 9:4), He gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as "our Father."

As God's heirs, we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today. We are to fix our hearts on Him, and to observe all that He has commanded. The Eucharist is His pledge - that He will be with us until the end, that He will deliver us from death to live forever in the promised land of His kingdom. 

Direct download: B_Trinity.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Lecturas:
Deuteronomio 4, 32-34, 39-40
Salmo 33, 4-6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romanos 8, 14-17
Mateo 28, 16-20


El domingo pasado celebramos el envío del Espíritu Santo, que selló la Nueva Alianza de Dios y renovó todo lo creado.

En esta nueva creación, somos ya parte de la familia de Dios, quien se ha revelado como Trinidad de amor. Compartimos su naturaleza divina por medio de la recepción de su Cuerpo y Sangre (cfr. 2 Pe 1,14) Ese es el sentido de las tres celebraciones que coronan el tiempo pascual : Pentecostés, la Solemnidad de la Santísima Trinidad y Corpus Christi.

Estas fiestas deben recordarnos, en lo más íntimo de nuestro corazón, cuán profundamente nos ama Dios ; y cómo El nos escogió desde antes de la fundación del mundo para ser Sus hijos (cfr. Ef 1, 4-5).

Las lecturas de este domingo nos muestran que todas las palabras y obras de Dios estaban encaminadas a revelar el misterio de la Santísima Trinidad y a traernos su bendición en Jesucristo, la cual heredamos por el bautismo y renovamos en cada Eucaristía.

Mediante su palabra, el Señor llenó los cielos y la tierra de su divina bondad, como cantamos en el salmo de hoy. Movido por el amor, Dios escogió a Abraham, y de sus descendientes constituyó a su propio pueblo, como recuerda Moisés en la primera lectura (cfr. Dt 4, 20-37) A través de los Israelitas, Él reveló a las naciones que es el Único Señor.

La Palabra de Dios se encarnó en Jesús, «hijo de Abraham» (Mt 1,1). Él nos enseña, en el Evangelio de este domingo, que el único Dios es Padre, Hijo y Espíritu y que desea hacer suyos a todos los pueblos.

Como hizo con Israel al sacarlo de Egipto, Dios nos liberó de la esclavitud; eso es lo que San Pablo nos dice en la epístola de hoy. Así como adoptó a los israelitas como hijos, (cfr. Rm 9, 4), ahora nos da su Espíritu, gracias al cual podemos reconocerlo como «Padre nuestro».

Como herederos de Dios, hoy asumimos los compromisos de Moisés y Jesús. Debemos poner nuestros corazones en Él y hacer todo lo que nos ha mandado. La Eucaristía es el cumplimiento de su promesa de estar con nosotros hasta el fin del mundo; es la garantía de que Él nos librará de la muerte para vivir por siempre en la tierra prometida de su Reino.

Direct download: B_Trinity_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

 Readings:

Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
John 20:19-23


The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history.

The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God's chosen people, in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-11).

In today's First Reading the mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (see Acts 1:14).

The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Corinthians 3:2-8; Romans 8:2).

The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which He made all things, as we sing in today's Psalm.

In the beginning, the Spirit came as a "mighty wind" sweeping over the face of the earth (see Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as "a strong, driving wind" to renew the face of the earth.

As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (see Genesis 2:7), in today's Gospel we see the New Adam become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:45,47).

Like a river of living water, for all ages He will pour out His Spirit on His body, the Church, as we hear in today's Epistle (see also John 7:37-39).

We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a "new creation" in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity - fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.

Direct download: B_Pentecost.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Lecturas:
Hechos 2,1-11
Salmo 104,1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corintios 12, 3-7, 12-13
Juan 20,19-23

El don del Espíritu Santo al nuevo Pueblo de Dios es el acontecimiento que corona el plan de salvación del Padre.

La fiesta judía de Pentecostés convocaba a todos los judíos devotos a Jerusalén, para celebrar su nacimiento como pueblo escogido de Dios, bajo la Ley dada a Moisés en el Sinaí (cfr. Lv 23,15-21; Dt 16, 9-11).

La primera lectura de hoy nos muestra cómo los misterios prefigurados en esa fiesta se cumplen en el momento en que se derrama el Espíritu sobre María y los Apóstoles (cfr.Hch 2,14).

El Espíritu sella la nueva Ley y el nuevo pacto traído por Jesús, escrito no sobre tablas de piedra, sino sobre los corazones de los creyentes, según lo que prometieron los profetas (cfr. Jr 31,31-34; 2 Co 3, 2-8; Rm 8,2).

El Espíritu es revelado como el aliento dador de vida del Padre, la Voluntad por medio de la cual Él hizo todas las cosas, como nos dice el salmo de hoy.

En el principio, el Espíritu era “viento de Dios” que “aleteaba por encima de las aguas” (Gn 1,2). Y en la nueva creación de Pentecostés, ese mismo Espíritu viene como un “viento fuerte, impetuoso” para renovar la faz de la tierra.

Así como Dios modeló al primer hombre a partir del barro y lo llenó con su Espíritu (cfr. Gn 2,7), en el Evangelio de hoy vemos al Nuevo Adán que comparte el Espíritu vivificador, soplando sobre los apóstoles y dándoles nueva vida (cfr. 1 Co 15, 45.47).

Como río de agua viva para todas las generaciones, Él derramará su Espíritu mediante su Cuerpo, la Iglesia, como nos dice la epístola de hoy (ver también Jn 7, 37-39).

Recibimos ese Espíritu en los sacramentos; por el Bautismo somos hechos una “nueva creación” (cfr. 2 Co 5,17; Ga 6, 15).

Alimentándonos del único Espíritu en la Eucaristía (cfr. 1 Co 10, 4), somos los primeros frutos de una nueva humanidad, nacida de cada nación que existe bajo el cielo, sin distinciones de lengua, raza o condición social. Somos gente nacida del Espíritu.

Direct download: B_Pentecost_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26

Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20

1 John 4:11-16

 John 17:11-19

 Today’s First Reading begins by giving us a time-frame—the events take place during the days between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost. We’re at the same point in our liturgical year. On Thursday we celebrated His being taken up in glory, and next Sunday we will celebrate His sending of the Spirit upon the Church.

 Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel today also captures the mood of departure and the anticipation. He is telling us today how it will be when He is no longer in the world.

 By His ascension, the Lord has established His throne in heaven, as we sing in today’s Psalm. His kingdom is His Church, which continues His mission on earth.

 Jesus fashioned His kingdom as a new Jerusalem, and a new house of David (see Psalm 122:4-5; Revelation 21:9-14). He entrusted this kingdom to His twelve apostles, who were to preside at the Eucharistic table, and to rule with Him over the restored twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:29-30).

 The twelve apostles symbolize the twelve tribes and hence the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel (see Galatians 6:16).That’s why it is crucial to replace Judas—so that the Church in its fullness receives the Spirit at Pentecost.

 Peter’s leadership of the apostles is another key element of the Church as it is depicted today. Notice that Peter is unquestionably in control, interpreting the Scriptures, deciding a course of action, even defining the nature of the apostolic ministry.

 No one has ever seen God, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Yet, through the Church founded on His apostles, the witnesses to the resurrection, the world will come to know and believe in God’s love, that He sent His Son to be our savior.

 Through the Church, Jesus’ pledge still comes to us—that if we love, God will remain with us in our trials and protects us from the evil one. By His word of truth He will help us grow in holiness, the perfection of love.    

Direct download: B_7_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT