St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Isaiah 8:23-9:3

Psalm 27:1,4,13-14

1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17

Matthew 4:12-23

Today's Liturgy gives us a lesson in ancient Israelite geography and history.

Isaiah's prophecy in today's First Reading is quoted by Matthew in today's Gospel. Both intend to recall the apparent fall of the everlasting kingdom promised to David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89; Psalm 132:11-12).

 

Eight centuries before Christ, that part of the kingdom where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived was attacked by the Assyrians and the tribes were hauled off into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

It marked the beginning of the kingdom's end. It finally crumbled in the sixth century B.C., when Jerusalem was seized by Babylon and the remaining tribes were driven into exile (see 2 Kings 24:14).

Isaiah prophesied that Zebulun and Naphtali, the lands first to be degraded, would be the first to see the light of God's salvation. Jesus today fulfills that prophecy - announcing the restoration of David's kingdom at precisely the spot where the kingdom began to fall.

His gospel of the Kingdom includes not only the twelve tribes of Israel but all the nations - symbolized by the "Galilee of the Nations." Calling His first disciples, two fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, He appoints them to be "fishers of men" - gathering people from the ends of the earth.

They are to preach the gospel, Paul says in today's Epistle, to unite all peoples in the same mind and in the same purpose - in a worldwide kingdom of God.

By their preaching, Isaiah's promise has been delivered. A world in darkness has seen the light. The yoke of slavery and sin, borne by humanity since time began, has been smashed.

And we are able now, as we sing in today's Psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord, to worship Him in the land of the living.

Direct download: A_3_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:43pm EST

Readings:

Isaiah 49:3,5-6

Psalm 40:2,4,7-10

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

John 1:29-34

 Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah in today's First Reading.

 He tells us of the mission given to Him by the Father from the womb: "'You are My servant,' He said to Me."

 

Servant and Son, our Lord was sent to lead a new exodus - to raise up the exiled tribes of Israel, to gather and restore them to God. More than that, He was to be a light to the nations, that God's salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (see Acts 13:46-47).

 Before the first exodus, a lamb was offered in sacrifice and its blood painted on the Israelites' door posts. The blood of the lamb identified their homes and the Lord "passed over" these in executing judgment on the Egyptians (see Exodus 12:1-23,27).

 In the new exodus, Jesus is the "Lamb of God," as John beholds Him in the Gospel today (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Our Lord sings of this in today's Psalm. He has come, He says, to offer His body to do the will of God (see Hebrews 10:3-13).

 The sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, and sin-offerings given after the first exodus had no power to take away sins (see Hebrews 10:4). They were meant not to save but to teach (see Galatians 3:24). In offering these sacrifices, the people were to learn self-sacrifice - that they were made for worship, to offer themselves freely to God and to delight in His will.

 Only Jesus could make that perfect offering of himself. And through His sacrifice, He has given us ears open to obedience, made it possible for us to hear the Father's call to holiness, as Paul says in today's Epistle.

 He has made us children of God, baptized in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14). And we are to join our sacrifice to His, to offer our bodies - our lives - as living sacrifices in the spiritual worship of the Mass (see Romans 12:1).

Direct download: A_2_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:56pm EST

Direct download: 01_Prepare_the_Way_of_the_King.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:36pm EST

Readings:

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus presents himself for John's baptism in today's Gospel, not because He is a sinner, but to fulfill the word of God proclaimed by His prophets. He must be baptized to reveal that He is the Christ ("anointed one") - the Spirit-endowed Servant promised by Isaiah in today's First Reading.

His baptism marks the start of a new world, a new creation. As Isaiah prophesied, the Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove - as the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep in the beginning (see Genesis 1:2).

As it was in the beginning, at the Jordan also the majestic voice of the Lord thunders above the waters. The Father opens the heavens and declares Jesus to be His "beloved son."

God had long prepared the Israelites for His coming, as Peter preaches in today's Second Reading. Jesus was anticipated in the "beloved son" given to Abraham (see Genesis 22:2,12,26), and in the calling of Israel as His "first-born son" (see Exodus 4:22-23). Jesus is the divine son begotten by God, the everlasting heir promised to King David (see Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14).

He is "a covenant of the people [Israel]" and "a light to the nations," Isaiah says. By the new covenant made in His blood (see 1 Corinthians 11:25), God has gathered the lost sheep of Israel together with whoever fears Him in every nation.

Christ has become the source from which God pours out his Spirit on Israelites and Gentiles alike (see Acts 10:45). In Baptism, all are anointed with that same Spirit, made beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, we are Christians - literally "anointed ones."

We are the "sons of God" in today's Psalm - called to give glory to His name in His temple. Let us pray that we remain faithful to our calling as His children, that our Father might call us what he calls His Son - "my beloved. . . in whom I am well pleased."

Direct download: A_Baptism_of_Lord.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:58pm EST

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