St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

Today the child born on Christmas is revealed to be the long-awaited king of the Jews.

As the priests and scribes interpret the prophecies in today's Gospel, he is the ruler expected from the line of King David, whose greatness is to reach to the ends of the earth (see Micah 5:1-3; 2 Samuel 5:2).

Jesus is found with His mother, as David's son, Solomon, was enthroned alongside his Queen Mother (see 1 Kings 2:19). And the magi come to pay Him tribute, as once kings and queens came to Solomon (see 1 Kings 10:2,25).

His coming evokes promises that extend back to Israel's beginnings.

Centuries before, an evil king seeking to destroy Moses and the Israelites had summoned Balaam, who came from the East with two servants. But Balaam refused to curse Israel, and instead prophesied that a star and royal staff would arise out of Israel and be exalted above all the nations (see Numbers 22:21; 23:7; 24:7,17).

This is the star the three magi follow. And like Balaam, they too, refuse to be tangled in an evil king's scheme. Their pilgrimage is a sign - that the prophesies in today's First Reading and Psalm are being fulfilled. They come from afar, guided by God's light, bearing the wealth of nations, to praise Israel's God.

We celebrate today our own entrance into the family of God, and the fulfillment of God's plan that all nations be united with Israel as co-heirs to His Fatherly blessings, as Paul reveals in today's Epistle.

We too, must be guided by the root of David, the bright morning star (see Revelation 22:16), and the light of the world (see Isaiah 42:6; John 8:12).

As the magi adored Him in the manger, let us renew our vow to serve Him, placing our gifts - our intentions and talents - on the altar in this Eucharist. We must offer to Him our very lives in thanksgiving. No lesser gift will suffice for this newborn King.
    

Direct download: B_Epiphany.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:21pm EST

Readings

Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Psalm 128:1-5
Colossians 3:12-21
Luke 2:41-52

Why did Jesus choose to become a baby born of a mother and father and to spend all but His last years living in an ordinary human family? In part, to reveal God's plan to make all people live as one "holy family" in His Church (see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, God reveals our true home. We're to live as His children, "chosen ones, holy and beloved," as the First Reading puts it. 

The family advice we hear in today's readings - for mothers, fathers and children - is all solid and practical. Happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord, we sing in today's Psalm. But the Liturgy is inviting us to see more, to see how, through our family obligations and relationships, our families become heralds of the family of God that He wants to create on earth.

Jesus shows us this in today's Gospel. His obedience to His earthly parents flows directly from His obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. Joseph and Mary aren't identified by name, but three times are called "his parents" and are referred to separately as his "mother" and "father." The emphasis is all on their "familial" ties to Jesus. But these ties are emphasized only so that Jesus, in the first words He speaks in Luke's Gospel, can point us beyond that earthly relationship to the Fatherhood of God.

In what Jesus calls "My Father's house," every family finds its true meaning and purpose (see Ephesians 3:15). The Temple we read about in the Gospel today is God's house, His dwelling (see Luke 19:46). But it's also an image of the family of God, the Church (see Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-6; 10:21).

In our families we're to build up this household, this family, this living temple of God. Until He reveals His new dwelling among us, and says of every person: "I shall be his God and he will be My son" (see Revelation 21:3,7).

Direct download: B_Holy_Family.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 8:00am EST

Reflecting on the legacy of Saint John Paul II, Scott Hahn challenges us to stop thinking of the New Evangelization as just another program, and instead think of it as a way of life, both for the Church and for individuals.

“The Church exists to evangelize,” Hahn reminds us.  He also stresses the importance of living every moment as a witness.

“Our friendship with others is where someone will potentially encounter Christ and the Catholic Faith,” he explains.

Direct download: 01_John_Paul_II_and_the_New_Evangelization.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:46pm EST

Direct download: 3_LS_09_-_Pitre_-_Priestly_Identity_of_the_144000.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02pm EST

Feast of Christ the King 

When the End Comes

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

Matthew 25:31-46

The Church year ends this week 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 66:18Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in Sunday’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.
  
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 2:20Galatians 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 Sunday’s Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11Ephesians 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 3:52 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 the Epistle this week.
  
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: A_Christ_King.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:43pm 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: A_33_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:30pm EST

Readings 

Ezekiel 47:1-28-9,12 
 
Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9
 
1 Corinthians 3:9-1116-17 
 

John 2:13-22 



Why commemorate a church dedication that happened in fourth-century Rome? First, because St. John Lateran is no ordinary church—it’s the cathedral church of the Pope and still known as “the mother of all the world’s churches.”

But more than that, because God has from all time intended the church building to be a symbol of His Church and our bodies. This is what the readings for today’s feast invite us to consider. God’s prototype for the church is the Jerusalem Temple, described in this week’s First Reading and Psalm. It’s God’s “holy dwelling,” site of His presence in our midst, source of “living waters”—of all life and blessing. But God intended the Temple to give way to the Body of Christ. That’s what our Lord’s words and actions in Sunday’s Gospel are intended to dramatize. Christ’s Body is now the dwelling of God’s “glory” among us (see John 1:14). It’s the new source of living waters (John 4:10,147:37-3919:34), the living bread (John 6:51), the new sanctuary where people will worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:21,23). By Baptism, we are joined to His Body in the Church (see 1 Corinthians 12:13). Sunday’s Epistle says the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and makes us “God’s building…the temple of God” (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9). Jesus drove out the sellers of oxen, sheep and doves, signaling an end to the animal sacrifices that formed the worship of the old Temple. In the spiritual worship of the new Temple, we offer our bodies—our whole beings—as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). Like living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) built on the cornerstone of Christ (see Mark 12:10Acts 4:11), together we are called to build up the new Temple of God, the Church.

As the Jerusalem Temple was, so the Church will always be under construction—until at last it is perfected in the new Jerusalem, our mother Church, come down from heaven (see Revelation 21:3,10,2222:1Galatians 4:26).

Direct download: Week_2_Novemeber_2008.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

Readings:

Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 23:1-6 
Romans 6:3-9 
John 6:37-40

When St. Paul talked about the resurrection of the dead with the philosophers at Athens, many laughed and mocked him (Acts 17:32). The Gospel, he would later write, is “foolishness” to the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18).

Yet this week’s First Reading tells us that it is foolish to think that the souls of the just are dead. Instead, theirs is a “hope full of immortality.”

By His resurrection, Jesus frees the human race from the fear of death—from the terrible fear of the unknown, of our own disintegration—that holds us in a kind of slavery (seeHebrews 2:14-15).

Because He has walked the dark valley of death before us, because He has promised to walk alongside us, we can take “courage” and “fear no evil,” in the words of this week’s Psalm.

This is God’s will for us, the reason Jesus came into the world, according to Sunday’s Gospel: that we will recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and by believing in Him be raised to eternal life.

If we believe in Him, we will follow Him, as the Psalmist says: He will refresh our souls in the waters of Baptism, anoint our heads with the oil of Confirmation, and set before us the table of the Eucharist.

There our cups will be filled to overflowing. And by these mysteries of His kindness and goodness, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord” in this life and in the life to come.

The First Reading seems to allude to the doctrine of Purgatory, to the souls of the just being chastised, purified as gold in a furnace and made worthy of God (see 1 Cor. 3:11–12). This reading also tells us of the glory of the saints, who will share in the rule of Christ, judging and ruling over the nations (see Luke 22:30). Through the “newness of life” we have in the sacraments, this week’s Epistle adds, we “grow into union with Him,” confident that we will be “united with Him in the Resurrection.”

Direct download: Week_1_Novemeber_2008.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:00pm 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: A_30_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:34pm 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: A_29_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:21pm EST