St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19
Psalm 71: 1-6,15-17
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30


God's words in today's First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a "prophet to the nations" (see Luke 1:31-33).

Like the prophets before Him, Jesus too faces hostility. In today's Gospel, the crowd in His hometown synagogue quickly turns on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origins - that He's more than just "the son of Joseph."

The sign He gives them is that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. From their colorful careers Jesus draws two stories. In each, the prophets bypass "many...in Israel" to bestow God's blessings on non-Israelites who had faith that the prophets were men of God (see 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14). "None...not one" in Israel was found deserving, Jesus emphasizes.

His point isn't lost on His audience. They know He's likening them to the "many...in Israel" in the days of the prophets. That's why they try to shove Him off the cliff. As He promised to protect Jeremiah, the Lord delivers Jesus from those who would crush Him.

And as were Elijah and Elisha, Jesus is sent to proclaim God's gift of salvation - not exclusively to one nation or people, but to all who realize in faith that from the womb God alone is their hope, their rescuer, their "rock of refuge," as we sing in today's Psalm.

Prophecies, Paul tells us in today's Epistle, are partial and pass away "when the perfect comes." In Jesus, the word of the prophets has been brought to perfection, fulfilled in those who have ears to hear, as He declares in today's Gospel.

Greater than the gifts of faith and hope, Jesus shows us how to love as He loved, to love God as our Father, as One Who formed us in the womb and destined us to hear His saving Word.

This is the salvation, the "mighty works of the Lord," that we, as the Psalmist, are thankful to proclaim daily in the Eucharist. 

Direct download: C_4_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:59pm EST

Direct download: Pitre_Romans_8.mp3
Category:The Gospel According to St. Paul -- posted at: 4:22pm EST

Readings:
Nehemiah 8:2-6,10
Psalms 19:8-10,15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21


The meaning of today's Liturgy is subtle and many-layered.

We need background to understand what's happening in today's First Reading.

Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15-17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).

The stage was set for the renewal of the covenant and the re-establishment of the Law of Moses as the people's rule of life. That's what's going on in today's First Reading, as Ezra reads and interprets (see Nehemiah 8:8) the Law and the people respond with a great "Amen!"

Israel, as we sing in today's Psalm, is rededicating itself to God and His Law. The scene seems like the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus reads from in today's Gospel.

Read all of Isaiah 61. The "glad tidings" Isaiah brings include these promises: the liberation of prisoners (61:1); the rebuilding of Jerusalem, or Zion (61:3-4; see also Isaiah 60:10); the restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests (61:6; Exodus 19:6) and the forging of an everlasting covenant (61:8; Isaiah 55:3). It sounds a lot like the First Reading.

Jesus, in turn, declares that Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in Him. The Gospel scene, too, recalls the First Reading. Like Ezra, Jesus stands before the people, is handed a scroll, unrolls it, then reads and interprets it (compare Luke 4:16-17,21 and Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10).

We witness in today's Liturgy the creation of a new people of God. Ezra started reading at dawn of the first day of the Jewish new year (see Leviticus 23:24). Jesus too proclaims a "sabbath," a great year of Jubilee, a deliverance from slavery to sin, a release from the debts we owe to God (see Leviticus 25:10).

The people greeted Ezra "as one man." And, as today's Epistle teaches, in the Spirit the new people of God - the Church - is made "one body" with Him.

Direct download: C_3_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:00pm EST

"Today is the feast of St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr. I have a special devotion to little Agnes. Both my mom and my eldest daughter are named for her. I visit her relics whenever I’m in Rome. " ~ Mike Aquilina

Listen to Mike Aquilina talks with Bruce & Kris McGregor on Spirit Catholic Radio KVSS about one of his favorite saints.

Direct download: St._Agnes.mp3
Category:Fathers of the Church -- posted at: 5:49pm EST

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI made headlines when he added a new name to the official list of figures given the title "Doctor of the Church": St. Hildegard of Bingen. Who was she? Why did the Holy Father choose to declare her a doctor of the Church at this time?

In this episode of <a href="http://www.thesacredpage.com/" title="The Sacred Page Podcast">The Sacred Page Podcast</a> I am joined with Leroy Huizenga who has done a good deal of work on St. Hildegard.  At the Society of Biblical Literature last year, he presented a paper entitled, "St. Hildegard of Bingen's Premodern and Postmodern Paul." In fact, for a fantastic overview of St. Hildegard, <a href="http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/10/st-hildegard-of-bingen-doctor-of-the-church" title="see this excellent piece written by Leroy over at First Things">see this excellent piece written by Leroy over at First Things</a>. 

As you'll learn here, she fought heretics, but opposed burning them at the stake; she wrote the only surviving medical treatise of her time; she related visions of Christ. . . in short, St. Hildegard was a truly fascinating figure!

Dr. Huizenga is a <a href="http://www.salvationhistory.com/personnel/Dr.+Leroy+Huizenga" title="Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center">Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center</a> and a Professor of Scripture at the University of St. Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he also serves as the Director of the Christian Leadership Center. To learn more about him and his work check out his <a href="http://www.leroyhuizenga.com/" title="website">website</a>. Also, I'd encourage you to follow him on Twitter: @LHuizenga 


Readings:

Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 96:1-3, 7-10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-12 (see also "’On the Hour’”)

Think of these first weeks after Christmas as a season of "epiphanies." The Liturgy is showing us Who Jesus is and what He has revealed about our relationship with God.

Last week and the week before, the imagery was royal and filial - Jesus is the newborn king of the Jews who makes us co-heirs of Israel's promise, beloved children of God. Last week in the Liturgy we went to a Baptism.

This week we're at a wedding.

We're being shown another dimension of our relationship with God. If we're sons and daughters of God, it's because we've married into the family.

Have you ever wondered why the Bible begins and ends with a wedding - Adam and Eve's in the garden and the marriage supper of the Lamb (compare Genesis 2:23-24 and Revelation 19:9; 21:9; 22:17)?

Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the covenant relationship God desires with His chosen people. He is the Groom, humanity His beloved and sought-after bride. We see this reflected beautifully in today's First Reading.

When Israel breaks the covenant she is compared to an unfaithful spouse (see Jeremiah 2:20-36; 3:1-13). But God promises to take her back, to "espouse" her to Him forever in an everlasting covenant (see Hosea 2:18-22).

That's why in today's Gospel, Jesus performs His first public "sign" at a wedding feast.

Jesus is the divine Bridegroom (see John 3:29), calling us to His royal wedding feast (see Matthew 22:1-14). By His New Covenant, He will become "one flesh" with all humanity in the Church (see Ephesians 5:21-33). By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to a Husband (see 2 Corinthians 11:2).

The new wine that Jesus pours out at today's feast is the gift of the Holy Spirit given to His bride and body, as today's Epistle says. This is the "salvation" announced to the "families of nations" in today's Psalm. 

Direct download: C_2_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:43pm EST

Readings:

Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 |  Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10  |  Acts 10:34-38 |  Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The Liturgy last week revealed the mystery of God's plan - that in Jesus all peoples, symbolized by the Magi, have been made "co-heirs" to the blessings promised Israel. This week, we're shown how we claim our inheritance.

Jesus doesn't submit to John's baptism as a sinner in need of purification. He humbles Himself to pass through Jordan's waters in order to lead a new "exodus" - opening up the promised land of heaven so that all peoples can hear the words pronounced over Jesus today, words once reserved only for Israel and its king: that each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God (see Genesis 22:2; Exodus 4:22; Psalm 2:7).

Jesus is the chosen servant Isaiah prophesies in today's First Reading, anointed with the Spirit to make things right and just on earth. God puts His Spirit upon Jesus to make Him "a covenant of the people," the liberator of the captives, the light to the nations. Jesus, today's Second Reading tells us, is the One long expected in Israel, "anointed...with the Holy Spirit and power."

The word Messiah means "one anointed" with God's Spirit. King David was "the anointed of the God of Jacob" (see 2 Samuel 23:1-17; Psalm 18:51; 132:10,17). The prophets taught Israel to await a royal offshoot of David, upon whom the Spirit would rest (see Isaiah 11:1-2; Daniel 9:25).

That's why the crowds are so anxious at the start of today's Gospel. But it isn't John they're looking for. God confirms with His own voice what the Angel earlier told Mary - Jesus is the Son of the Most High, come to claim the throne of David forever (see Luke 1:32-33).

In the Baptism that He brings, the voice of God will hover over the waters as fiery flame, as we sing in today's Psalm. He has sanctified the waters, made them a passage-way to healing and freedom - a fountain of new birth and everlasting life. 

Direct download: C_Baptism_of_Lord.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:06pm EST

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