St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Habakkuk 1:2-3;2:2-4
Psalm 95:1-2,6-9
2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14
Luke 17:5-10

Because of his faith, the just man shall live. We hear in today's First Reading the original prophetic line made so central by St. Paul (see Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

We are to live by faith in Christ who loved us and gave himself on the Cross for us (see Galatians 2:20).

The world, though, can seem to us as seventh-century Judah seemed to Habakkuk - in the control of God's enemies. The strife and discord we face in our own lives can sometimes cause us to wonder, as the prophet does, why God doesn't seem to hear or intervene when we cry for help.

We can't let our hearts be hardened by the trials we undergo. As today's Psalm reminds us: Israel forgot His mighty works, lost faith in the sound words of His promise. They tested God in the desert, demanding a sign.

But God didn't redeem Israel from Egypt only to let them die in the desert. And He didn't ransom us from futility only to abandon us in our trials. He is our God and we are the people He shepherds always - though at times His mercy and justice seem long delayed.

If we call on the Lord, as the Apostles do in today's Gospel, He will increase our faith, will stir to a flame the Holy Spirit who has dwelt within us since Baptism.

As Paul tells us in today's Epistle, the Lord will always give us the love and self-control we need to bear our share of hardship for the Gospel - with a strength that can come from God alone.

Our task is to continue doing what He has commanded - to love and to build up His kingdom - trusting that His vision still presses on to its fulfillment.

For His vision still has its time. One day, though we are but "unprofitable servants," we will be invited to eat and drink at our Master's table. It is that day we anticipate with each celebration of the Eucharist.

Direct download: C_27_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:59pm EST

Readings:

Amos 6:1, 4-7
Psalm 146:7-10
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31 (see also 'Who is the Rich Man')

The rich and powerful are visited with woe and exile in today's Liturgy - not for their wealth but for their refusal to share it; not for their power but for their indifference to the suffering at their door.

The complacent leaders in today's First Reading feast on fine foods and wines, reveling while the house of Joseph, the kingdom of Israel (see Amos 5:6), collapses around them.

The rich man in today's Gospel also lives like a king - dressed in royal purple and fine linen (see 1 Maccabees 8:14).

The rich man symbolizes Israel's failure to keep the Old Covenant, to heed the commandments of Moses and the prophets. This is the sin of the rulers in today's First Reading. Born to the nation God favored first, they could claim Abraham as their father. But for their failure to give - their inheritance is taken away.

The rulers are exiled from their homeland. The rich man is punished with an exile far greater - eternity with a "great chasm" fixed between himself and God.

In this world, the rich and powerful make a name for themselves (see Genesis 11:4) and dine sumptuously, while the poor remain anonymous, refused an invitation to their feasts.

But notice that the Lord today knows Lazarus by name, and Joseph in his sufferings - while the leaders and the rich man have no name.

Today's Liturgy is a call to repentance - to heed the warning of One who was raised from the dead. To lay hold of the eternal life He promises, we must pursue righteousness, keep the commandment of love, as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle.

"The Lord loves the just," we sing in today's Psalm.

And in this Eucharist we have a foretaste of the love that will be ours in the next life - when He will raise the lowly to the heavenly banquet with Abraham and the prophets (see Luke 13:28), where we too will rest our heads on the bosom of our Lord (see John 13:23).

'Who is the Rich Man'

Very few of us can be numbered among the rich and the powerful who have the power to exploit the poor.

So how are we to apply to our own lives the readings for the 25th and 26th Sundays in Ordinary Time (Cycle C), which are so preoccupied with questions of social justice, wealth and poverty?

These readings remind us that the law of love (see John 15:12; Romans 13:8) means that each of us in some way will be judged by the mercy we show to the poor.

As the rich man learns in the parable of Lazarus - the distance between ourselves and God in the next life may be the distance we put between ourselves and the poor in this life (see Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:8,14-17).

But we also need to hear these readings in context of the Gospel message in recent months. Recall that among the stories we've heard is that of the teacher who wanted to know, "Who is my neighbor?" (see Luke 10:25-37) and of the rich fool who tried to store up earthly treasures (see Luke 12:13-21).

We may not be "rich men" or exploiters of the poor, but each of us should take to heart the persistent message of the Liturgy - that what we have and desire to have can separate us from God and our neighbor; that our possessions can come to possess us; that true riches are to be found in sharing what we have with the poor; and that this will gain us what we truly desire - the inheritance of treasure in heaven.

Direct download: C_26_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:57pm EST

Readings:

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13

The steward in today's Gospel confronts the reality that he can't go on living the way he has been. He is under judgment, must give account for what he has done.

The exploiters of the poor in today's First Reading are also about to be pulled down, thrust from their stations (see Isaiah 22:19). Servants of mammon or money, they're so in love with wealth that they reduce the poor to objects, despise the new moons and sabbaths - the observances and holy days of God (see Leviticus 23:24; Exodus 20:8).

Their only hope is to follow the steward's path. He is no model of repentance. But he makes a prudent calculation - to use his last hours in charge of his master's property to show mercy to others, to relieve their debts.

He is a child of this world, driven by a purely selfish motive - to make friends and be welcomed into the homes of his master's debtors. Yet his prudence is commended as an example to us, the children of light (see 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8). We too must realize, as the steward does, that what we have is not honestly ours, but what in truth belongs to another, our Master.

All the mammon in the world could not have paid the debt we owe our Master. So He paid it for us, gave His life as a ransom for all, as we hear in today's Epistle.

God wants everyone to be saved, even kings and princes, even the lovers of money (see Luke 16:14). But we cannot serve two Masters. By his grace, we should choose to be, as we sing in today's Psalm - "servants of the Lord."

We serve Him by using what He has entrusted us with to give alms, to lift the lowly from the dust and dunghills of this world. By this we will gain what is ours, be welcomed into eternal dwellings, the many mansions of the Father's house (see John 14:2). 

Direct download: C_25_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:42pm EST

Readings:

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

The episode in today's First Reading has been called "Israel's original sin." Freed from bondage, born as a people of God in the covenant at Sinai, Israel turned aside from His ways, fell to worshipping a golden calf.

Moses implores God's mercy, as Jesus will later intercede for the whole human race, as He still pleads for sinners at God's right hand and through the ministry of the Church.

Israel's sin is the sin of the world. It is your sin and mine. Ransomed from death and made His children in Baptism, we fall prey to the idols of this world. We remain a "stiff-necked people," resisting His will for us like an ox refuses the plowman's yoke (see Jeremiah 7:26).

Like Israel, in our sin we push God away, reject our divine sonship. Once He called us "my people" (see Exodus 3:10; 6:7). But our sin makes us "no people," people He should, in justice, disown (see Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Peter 2:10).

Yet in His mercy, He is faithful to the covenant He swore by His own self in Jesus. In Jesus, God comes to Israel and to each of us - as a shepherd to seek the lost (see Ezekiel 34:11-16), to carry us back to the heavenly feast, the perpetual heritage promised long ago to Abraham's children.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," Paul cries in today's Epistle. These are the happiest words the world has ever known. Because of Jesus, as Paul himself can testify, even the blasphemer and persecutor can seek His mercy.

As the sinners do in today's Gospel, we draw near to listen to Him. In this Eucharist, we bring Him the acceptable sacrifice we sing of in today's Psalm - our hearts, humbled and contrite.

In the company of His angels and saints, we rejoice that He has wiped out our offense, celebrate with Him - that we have turned from the evil way that we might live (see Ezekiel 18:23). 

Direct download: C_24_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:02pm EST

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