St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
Psalm 24:1-61
John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

 

The first reading focuses us for today’s solemnity. In the Book of Revelation, St. John reports “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Revelation 7:9).

 

This is Good News. Salvation has come not only for Israel, but for the Gentiles as well. Here is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, that by his seed all the nations of the world would bless themselves (see Genesis 22:18).

 

The Church celebrates many famous Christians on their individual memorials, but today she praises God for all His “holy ones,” His saints. That is the title St. Paul preferred when he addressed his congregations.

 

Divinized by baptism, they were already “saints,” by the grace of God (see Colossians 1:2). They awaited, however, the day when they could “share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12).

 

And so do we, as the Scriptures give us reasons for both celebration and hope. In our second reading, St. John tells us that to be “saints” means to be “children of God”—and then he adds: “so we are”! Note that he speaks in the present tense.

 

Yet John also says that we have unfinished business to tend. We are already God’s children, but “what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” Thus we work out our salvation: “Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as He is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

 

We do this as we share the life of Christ, who defined earthly beatitude for us. We are “blessed,” he says, when we are poor, when we mourn, when we are persecuted for his sake. It is then we should “Rejoice and be glad, for [our] reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

 

Until then, we pray with the Psalmist: “Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.” Salvation has come through Abraham’s seed, but it belongs to all nations. For “the Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it’ (Psalm 24:1).

Direct download: Solemnity_of_All_Saints.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:36pm EDT

Readings:

2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 6:1-15

 Today's liturgy brings together several strands of Old Testament expectation to reveal Jesus as Israel's promised Messiah and king, the Lord who comes to feed His people.

 Notice the parallels between today's Gospel and First Reading. Both Elisha and Jesus face a crowd of hungry people with only a few "barley" loaves. We hear similar words about how impossible it will be to feed the crowd with so little. And in both the miraculous multiplication of bread satisfies the hungry and leaves food left over.

The Elisha story looks back to Moses, the prophet who fed God's people in the wilderness (see Exodus 16). Moses prophesied that God would send a prophet like him (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). The crowd in today's Gospel, witnessing His miracle, identifies Jesus as that prophet.

 The Gospel today again shows Jesus to be the Lord, the good shepherd, who makes His people lie down on green grass and spreads a table before them (see Psalm 23:1,5).

 The miraculous feeding is a sign that God has begun to fulfill His promise, which we sing of in today's Psalm - to give His people food in due season and satisfy their desire (see Psalm 81:17).

 But Jesus points to the final fulfillment of that promise in the Eucharist. He does the same things He does at the Last Supper - He takes the loaves, pronounces a blessing of thanksgiving (literally, "eucharist"), and gives the bread to the people (see Matthew 26:26). Notice, too, that 12 baskets of bread are left over, one for each of the apostles.

 These are signs that should point us to the Eucharist - in which the Church founded on the apostles continues to feed us with the living bread of His body.

 In this Eucharist, we are made one body with the Lord, as we hear in today's Epistle. Let us resolve again, then, to live lives worthy of such a great calling.

Direct download: B_17_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 7:35pm EDT

Readings:

Jeremiah 23:1-16

Psalms 23:1-6

Ephesians 2:13-18

Mark 6:30-34

 As the Twelve return from their first missionary journey in today's Gospel, our readings continue to reflect on the authority and mission of the Church.

 Jeremiah says in the First Reading that Israel's leaders, through godlessness and fanciful teachings, had mislead and scattered God's people. He promises God will send a shepherd, a king and son of David, to gather the lost sheep and appoint for them new shepherds (see Ezekiel 34:23).

 The crowd gathering on the green grass (see Mark 6:39) in today's Gospel is the start of the remnant that Jeremiah promised would be brought back to the meadow of Israel. The people seem to sense that Jesus is the Lord, the good shepherd (see John 10:11), the king they've been waiting for (see Hosea 3:1-5).

 Jesus is moved to pity, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. This phrase was used by Moses to describe Israel's need for a shepherd to succeed him (see Numbers 27:17). And as Moses appointed Joshua, Jesus appointed the Twelve to continue shepherding His people on earth.

 Jesus had said there were other sheep who did not belong to Israel's fold, but would hear His voice and be joined to the one flock of the one shepherd (see John 10:16). In God's plan, the Church is to seek out first the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and then to bring all nations into the fold (see Acts 13:36; Romans 1:16).

 Paul, too, in today's Epistle, sees the Church as a new creation, in which those nations who were once far off from God are joined as "one new person" with the children of Israel. 

 As we sing in today's Psalm, through the Church, the Lord, our good shepherd, still leads people to the verdant pastures of the kingdom, to the restful waters of baptism; He still anoints with the oil of confirmation, and spreads the Eucharistic table before all people, filling their cups to overflowing.    

Direct download: B_16_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:49pm EDT

Readings:

Job 38:1, 8-11
Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

"Do you not yet have faith?" Our Lord's question in today's Gospel frames the Sunday liturgies for the remainder of the year, which the Church calls "Ordinary Time."

In the weeks ahead, the Church's liturgy will have us journeying with Jesus and His disciples, reliving their experience of His words and deeds, coming to know and believe in Him as they did.

Notice that today's Psalm almost provides an outline for the Gospel. We sing of sailors caught in a storm; in their desperation, they call to the Lord and He rescues them.

Mark's Gospel today also intends us to hear a strong echo of the story of the prophet Jonah. He, too, was found asleep on a boat when a life-threatening storm broke out that caused his fellow travelers to pray for deliverance, and then to marvel when the storm abated (see Jonah 1:3-16).

But Jesus is something greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41). And Mark wants us to come to see what the apostles saw - that God alone has the power to rebuke the wind and the sea (see Isaiah 50:2; Psalm 18:16). This is the point of today's First Reading.

If even the wind and sea obey Him, shouldn't we trust Him in the chaos and storms of our own lives?

As with the apostles, the Lord has asked each of us to cross to the other side, to leave behind our old ways to travel with Him in the little ship of the Church.

In their fear today, they call Him, "Teacher." And it is only faith in His teaching that can save us from perishing. We should trust in Christ, and like Christ - who was able to sleep through the storm, confident that God was with Him (see Psalm 116:6; Romans 8:31).

We should live in thanksgiving for our salvation, as today's Epistle tells us - as new creations, no longer for ourselves but for Him who died for our sake.
    

Direct download: B_12_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:21pm EDT

Direct download: The_Bible_and_the_Spiritual_Life.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21am EDT

Direct download: 01_Dr._Brant_Pitre.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:33pm EDT

Direct download: 01_John_Paul_II__the_New_Evangelization.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:04pm EDT

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