St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 

Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20

1 Peter 3:15-18

John 14:15-21

Jesus will not leave us alone. He won't make us children of God in Baptism only to leave us "orphans," He assures us in today's Gospel (see Romans 8:14-17) . 

He asks the Father to give us His Spirit, to dwell with us and keep us united in the life He shares with the Father. 

We see the promised gift of His Spirit being conferred in today's First Reading. 

The scene from Acts apparently depicts a primitive Confirmation rite. Philip, one of the first deacons (see Acts 6:5), proclaims the Gospel in the non-Jewish city of Samaria. The Samaritans accept the Word of God (see Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13) and are baptized. 

It remains for the Apostles to send their representatives, Peter and John, to pray and lay hands on the newly baptized - that they might receive the Holy Spirit. This is the origin of our sacrament of Confirmation (see Acts 19:5-6), by which the grace of Baptism is completed and believers are sealed with the Spirit promised by the Lord. 

We remain in this grace so long as we love Christ and keep His commandments. And strengthened in the Spirit whom Jesus said would be our Advocate, we are called to bear witness to our salvation - to the tremendous deeds that God has done for us in the name of His Son. 

In today's Psalm, we celebrate our liberation. As He changed the sea into dry land to free the captive Israelites, Christ suffered that He might lead us to God, as we hear in today's Epistle. 

This is the reason for our hope - the hope that sustains us in the face of a world that cannot accept His truth, the hope that sustains us when we are maligned and defamed for His name's sake. 

Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit, Paul tells us today. And as He himself promises: "Because I live, you will live." 

Exodus and Easter 

Israel's exodus from Egypt forms the background for many of the readings we hear in Easter. 

On the Third Sunday, both the Gospel and Epistle describe Jesus "redeeming" or "ransoming" Israel (see Luke 24:21; 1 Peter 1:18). The Greek word in both is only used elsewhere to refer to Israel's redemption from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 7:8). In the First Reading, Jesus is said to work "mighty deeds, wonders and signs" (see Acts 2:22) - the same words used to describe Moses' work (see Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 34:10-12).

Moses told the Israelites not to fear but to trust that God would go before and find them a place in the promised land (see Deuteronomy 1:29-32). Jesus uses the same words in the Fifth Sunday's Gospel. He also quotes Moses to claim that His words are God's words and His works are God's works (see Deuteronomy 18:18; 34:10-12).

There is much more exodus imagery in this month's readings. The point is to show us that Jesus' death and resurrection marked a new exodus (see Luke 9:31). The Christian life is like the sojourning of the Israelites in the wilderness. We have passed through the waters of Baptism and are now fed with bread from heaven as we make our way to the promised land of eternal life (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Peter 1:4).

Direct download: A_6_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 6:1-7

Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

1 Peter 2:4-9

John 14:1-12 (see also "Exodus and Easter")

By His death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in His Father's house. 

His Father's house is no longer a temple made by human hands. It is the spiritual house of the Church, built on the living stone of Christ's body. 

As Peter interprets the Scriptures in today's Epistle, Jesus is the "stone" destined to be rejected by men but made the precious cornerstone of God's dwelling on earth (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).

Each of us is called to be a living stone in God's building (see 1 Corinthians 3:9,16). In this edifice of the Spirit, we are to be "holy priests" offering up "spiritual sacrifices" - all our prayer, work and intentions - to God. 

This is our lofty calling as Christians. This is why Christ led us out of the darkness of sin and death as Moses led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. 

God's covenant with Israel made them a royal and priestly people who were to announce His praises (see Exodus 19:6). By our faith in Christ's new covenant, we have been made heirs of this chosen race, called to glorify the Father in the temple of our bodies (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:1). 

In today's First Reading, we see the spiritual house of the Church being built up, as the Apostles consecrate seven deacons so they can devote themselves more fully to the "ministry of the Word."

The Lord's Word is upright and all His works trustworthy, we sing in today's Psalm. So we can trust Jesus when He tells us never to be troubled, but to believe that His Word and works come from the Father. 

His Word continues its work in the world through the Church. We see its beginnings today in Jerusalem. It is destined to spread with influence and power (see Acts 19:20), and to become the imperishable seed by which every heart is born anew (see 1 Peter 1:23). 

Direct download: A_5_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:59pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 2:14, 36-41

Psalm 23:1-6

1 Peter 2:20-25

John 10:1-10

Easter's empty tomb is a call to conversion.

By this tomb, we should know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, as Peter preaches in today's First Reading. 

He is the "Lord," the divine Son that David foresaw at God's right hand (see Psalms 110:1,3; 132:10-11; Acts 2:34). And He is the Messiah that God had promised to shepherd the scattered flock of the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23; 37:24).

As we hear in today's Gospel, Jesus is that Good Shepherd, sent to a people who were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mark 6:34; Numbers 27:16-17). He calls not only to the children of Israel, but to all those far off from Him - to whomever the Lord wishes to hear His voice. 

The call of the Good Shepherd leads to the restful waters of Baptism, to the anointing oil of Confirmation, and to the table and overflowing cup of the Eucharist, as we sing in today's Psalm.

Again on this Sunday in Easter, we hear His voice calling us His own. He should awaken in us the response of those who heard Peter's preaching. "What are we to do?" they cried. 

We have been baptized. But each of us goes astray like sheep, as we hear in today's Epistle. We still need daily to repent, to seek forgiveness of our sins, to separate ourselves further from this corrupt generation. 

We are called to follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd of our souls. By His suffering He bore our sins in His body to free us from sin. But His suffering is also an example for us. From Him we should learn patience in our afflictions, to hand ourselves over to the will of God.

Jesus has gone ahead, driven us through the dark valley of evil and death. His Cross has become the narrow gate through which we must pass to reach His empty tomb - the verdant pastures of life abundant.

Direct download: A_4_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:34pm EDT

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