St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-3

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18

Romans 8:35,37-39

Matthew 14:13-21

In Jesus and the Church, Isaiah's promises in today's First Reading are fulfilled. All who are thirsty come to the living waters of baptism (see John 4:14). The hungry delight in rich fare - given bread to eat and wine to drink at the Eucharistic table. 

This is the point, too, of today's Gospel. The story of Jesus' feeding of the 5,000 brims with allusions to the Old Testament. Jesus is portrayed as a David-like shepherd who leads His flock to lie down on green grass as He spreads the table of the Messiah's banquet before them (see Psalm 23). 

Jesus is shown as a new Moses, who likewise feeds vast crowds in a deserted place. Finally, Jesus is shown doing what the prophet Elisha did - satisfying the hunger of the crowd with a few loaves and having some left over (see 2 Kings 4:42-44). 

Matthew also wants us to see the feeding of the 5,000 as a sign of the Eucharist. Notice that Jesus performs the same actions in the same sequence as at the Last Supper - He takes bread, says a blessing, breaks it, and gives it (see Matthew 26:26). 

Jesus instructed His apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. And the ministry of the Twelve is subtly stressed in today's account. Before He performs the miracle, Jesus instructs the Twelve to give the crowd "some food yourselves." Indeed, the apostles themselves distribute the bread blessed by Jesus (see Matthew 15:36). 

And the leftovers are enough to fill precisely 12 baskets - corresponding to each of the apostles, the pillars of the Church (see Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14).

In the Church, as we sing in today's Psalm, God gives us food in due season, opens His hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing. Now, as Paul reminds us in today's Epistle, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Direct download: A_18_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:59pm EST

1 Kings 3:5,7-12     

Psalm 119:57,72,76-77,127-130 

Romans 8:28-30      

Matthew 13:44-52 

What is your new life in Christ worth to you? 

Do you love His words more than gold and silver, as we sing in today’s Psalm? Would you, like the characters in the Gospel today, sell all that you have in order to possess the kingdom He promises to us? If God were to grant any wish, would you follow Solomon’s example in today’s First Reading—asking not for a long life or riches, but for wisdom to know God’s ways and to desire His will? 

The background for today’s Gospel, as it has been for the past several weeks, is the rejection of Jesus’ preaching by Israel. The kingdom of heaven has come into their midst, yet many cannot see that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises, a gift of divine compassion given that they—and we, too—might live. 

We too must ever discover the kingdom anew, to find it as a treasure - a pearl of great price. By comparison with the kingdom, we must count all else as rubbish (see Philippians 3:8). And we must be willing to give up all that we have—all our priorities and plans—in order to gain it. 

Jesus’ Gospel discloses what Paul, in today’s Epistle, calls the purpose of God’s plan (see Ephesians 1:4). That purpose is that Jesus be the firstborn of many brothers. 

His words give understanding to the simple, the childlike. As Solomon does today, we must humble ourselves before God, giving ourselves to His service. Let our prayer be for an understanding heart, one that desires only to do His will. 

We are called to love God, to delight in His law, and to forsake every false way. And we are to conform ourselves daily ever more closely to the image of His Son. 

 

If we do this, we can approach His altar as a pleasing sacrifice, confident that all things work for the good—that we whom He has justified, will also one day be glorified.

Direct download: A_17_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:06pm EST

Readings:

Wisdom 12:13,16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Romans 8:26-27
Matthew 13:24-43 

God is always teaching His people, we hear in today’s First Reading. 

And what does He want us to know? That He has care for all of us, that though He is a God of justice, even those who defy and disbelieve Him may hope for His mercy if they turn to Him in repentance. 

This divine teaching continues in the three parables that Jesus tells in the Gospel today. Each describes the emergence of the kingdom of God from the seeds sown by His works and preaching. The kingdom’s growth is hidden - like the working of yeast in bread; it’s improbable, unexpected—as in the way the tall mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds. 

Again this week’s readings sound a note of questioning: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does He permit some to reject the Word of His kingdom?

Because, as we sing in today’s Psalm, God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. He is just, Jesus assures us - evildoers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace at the end of the age. But by His patience, God is teaching us—that above all He desires repentance, and the gathering of all nations to worship Him and to glorify His name. 

Even though we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit will intercede for us, Paul promises in today’s Epistle. But first we must turn and call upon Him, we must commit ourselves to letting the good seed of His Word bear fruit in our lives. 

So we should not be deceived or lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin. 

 

For now, He makes His sun rise on the good and the bad (see Matthew 5:45). But the harvest draws near. Let’s work that we might be numbered among the righteous children—who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

Direct download: A_16_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:18pm EST

Readings:

Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65:10-14

Romans 8:18-23      

Matthew 13:1-23 

Today’s readings, like last week’s, ask us to meditate on Israel’s response to God’s Word—and our own. Why do some hear the word of the kingdom, yet fail to accept it as a call to conversion and faith in Jesus? That question underlies today’s Gospel, especially. 

Again we see, as we did last week, that the kingdom’s mysteries are unfolded to those who open their hearts, making of them a rich soil in the which the Word can grow and bear fruit. 

As we sing in today’s Psalm, in Jesus, God’s Word has visited our land, to water the stony earth of our hearts with the living waters of the Spirit (see John 7:38; Revelation 22:1). 

The firstfruit of the Word is the Spirit of love and adoption poured into our hearts in baptism, making us children of God, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle (see Romans 5:5; 8:15-16). In this, we are made a “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), the firstfruits of a new heaven and a new earth (see 2 Peter 3:13). 

Since the first humans rejected God’s Word, creation has been enslaved to futility (see Genesis 3:17-19; 5:29). But God’s Word does not go forth only to return to Him void, as we hear in today’s First Reading. 

His Word awaits our response. We must show ourselves to be children of that Word. We must allow that Word to accomplish God’s will in our lives. As Jesus warns today, we must take care lest the devil steal it away or lest it be choked by worldly concerns. 

In the Eucharist, the Word gives himself to us as bread to eat. He does so that we might be made fertile, yielding fruits of holiness. 

 

And we await the crowning of the year, the great harvest of the Lord’s Day (see Mark 4:29; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:10)—when His Word will have achieved the end for which it was sent.

Direct download: A_15_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:59pm EST

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