St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

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

Isaiah 25:6-10
Psalm 23:1-6
Philippians 4:12-1419-20
Matthew 22:1-14

Our Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel is again a fairly straightforward outline of salvation history.

God is the king (see Matthew 5:35), Jesus the bridegroom (see Matthew 9:15), the feast is the salvation and eternal life that Isaiah prophesies in today’s First Reading. The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God’s servants, the prophets (see Isaiah 7:25). For refusing repeated invitations and even killing His prophets, Israel has been punished, its city conquered by foreign armies.

Now, Jesus makes clear, God has sending new servants, His apostles, to call not only Israelites, but all people - good and bad alike - to the feast of His kingdom. This an image of the Church, which Jesus elsewhere compares to a field sown with both wheat and weeds, and a fishing net that catches good fish and bad (see Matthew 13:24-4347-50).

We have all been called to this great feast of love in the Church, where, as Isaiah foretold, the veil that once separated the nations from the covenants of Israel has been destroyed, where the dividing wall of enmity has been torn down by the blood of Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-14).

As we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord has led us to this feast, refreshing our souls in the waters of baptism, spreading the table before us in the Eucharist. As Paul tells us in today’s Epistle, in the glorious riches of Christ, we will find supplied whatever we need.

And in the rich food of His body, and the choice wine of His blood, we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem, when God will destroy death forever (seeHebrews 12:22-24).

But are we dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness (see Revelation 19:8)? Not all who have been called will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus warns. Let us be sure that we’re living in a manner worthy of the invitation we’ve received (see Ephesians 4:1).

Direct download: A_28_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:26pm EST

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