St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:-12,7-8, 10-13
Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6
Matthew 2:1-12


An "epiphany" is an appearance. In today's readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.

Herod, in today's Gospel, asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. The answer Matthew puts on their lips says much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise - one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting "a ruler of Israel" who will "shepherd his flock" and whose "greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth" (see Micah 5:1-3).

Those promises of Israel's king ruling the nations resound also in today's Psalm. The psalm celebrates David's son, Solomon. His kingdom, we sing, will stretch "to the ends of the earth," and the world's kings will pay Him homage. That's the scene too in today's First Reading, as nations stream from the East, bearing "gold and frankincense" for Israel's king.

The Magi's pilgrimage in today's Gospel marks the fulfillment of God's promises. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, are following the star that Balaam predicted would rise along with the ruler's staff over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17).

Laden with gold and spices, their journey evokes those made to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba and the "kings of the earth" (see 1 Kings 10:2,25; 2 Chronicles 9:24). Interestingly, the only other places where frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together are in songs about Solomon (see Song of Songs 3:6, 4:6,14).

One greater than Solomon is here (see Luke 11:31). He has come to reveal that all peoples are "co-heirs" of the royal family of Israel, as today's Epistle teaches.

His manifestation forces us to choose: Will we follow the signs that lead to Him as the wise Magi did? Or will we be like those priests and the scribes who let God's words of promise become dead letters on an ancient page?

 

 

Direct download: C_Epiphany_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:51am EST

Lecturas: Sirácida 3, 2-6,12-14 Salmo 128, 1-5 Colosenses 3, 12-21 Lucas 2, 41-52 ¿Porque quiso Jesús hacerse un bebé, tener una madre y un padre, y vivir casi toda su vida en una familia sencilla? En parte, lo hizo para revelar el plan de Dios de que toda la gente viva como una “sagrada familia”, congregada en su Iglesia (cfr. 2Co 6, 16-18).  En la Sagrada Familia de Jesús, Maria y José, Dios nos enseña nuestro verdadero hogar. Quiere que vivamos como sus hijos, “elegidos, santos y bien amados”, como dice la primera lectura.   Los consejos familiares que escuchamos en las lecturas de hoy-- para madres, padres e hijos—son muy sólidos y prácticos. Los hogares felices son el fruto de quienes son fieles al Señor, como cantamos en el salmo de hoy. Más aún,  la liturgia nos invita a ver cómo, mediante nuestras obligaciones y relaciones familiares, nos convertimos en heraldos de la familia de Dios que Él mismo quiere establecer en la tierra.   Jesús nos enseña esto en el Evangelio de hoy. El estar sujeto a sus padres terrenales fluye directamente de su obediencia a la voluntad de su Padre celestial. No aparecen los nombres de José y María, pero la lectura se refiere a ellos tres veces como “sus padres”, y también separadamente, como su “madre” y su “padre”. Se pone un énfasis especial en los lazos familiares de Jesús. Pero estos vínculos son remarcados solamente para dar paso a la enseñanza que Jesús dará con las primeras palabras que pronuncie en el evangelio de San Lucas de hoy, que la paternidad de Dios es más importantes que el parentesco terrenal.     En lo que Jesús llama “la casa de mi Padre”, cada familia encuentra su verdadero sentido y propósito (cfr. Ef 3, 15). El “Templo” del que nos habla el Evangelio hoy es la casa de Dios; su morada (cfr. Lc 19, 46). Pero es también una imagen de la Iglesia, que es la familia de Dios (cfr. Ef 2,19-22); Hb 3,3-6; 10,21).  

En nuestros hogares, debemos edificar esa casa, esa familia, este templo vivo de Dios. Hasta que Él ponga de nuevo su nueva morada entre nosotros, y diga de cada persona “Yo seré su Dios y el será mi hijo” (Ap 21, 3.7).

 

Direct download: C_Holy_Family_Spn_2015.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:11pm EST

Readings:
Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Psalm 128:1-5
Colossians 3:12-21
Luke 2:41-52


Why did Jesus choose to become a baby born of a mother and father and to spend all but His last years living in an ordinary human family? In part, to reveal God's plan to make all people live as one "holy family" in His Church (see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, God reveals our true home. We're to live as His children, "chosen ones, holy and beloved," as the First Reading puts it.

The family advice we hear in today's readings - for mothers, fathers and children - is all solid and practical. Happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord, we sing in today's Psalm. But the Liturgy is inviting us to see more, to see how, through our family obligations and relationships, our families become heralds of the family of God that He wants to create on earth.

Jesus shows us this in today's Gospel. His obedience to His earthly parents flows directly from His obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. Joseph and Mary aren't identified by name, but three times are called "his parents" and are referred to separately as his "mother" and "father." The emphasis is all on their "familial" ties to Jesus. But these ties are emphasized only so that Jesus, in the first words He speaks in Luke's Gospel, can point us beyond that earthly relationship to the Fatherhood of God.

In what Jesus calls "My Father's house," every family finds its true meaning and purpose (see Ephesians 3:15). The Temple we read about in the Gospel today is God's house, His dwelling (see Luke 19:46). But it's also an image of the family of God, the Church (see Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-6; 10:21).

In our families we're to build up this household, this family, this living temple of God. Until He reveals His new dwelling among us, and says of every person: "I shall be his God and he will be My son" (see Revelation 21:3,7).

 

 

Direct download: C_Holy_Family_2015.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:04pm EST

Readings:

Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
Hebrews 5:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 (see also “The ‘New Ark’”)


On this last Sunday before Christmas, the Church's Liturgy reveals the true identity of our Redeemer:
He is, as today's First Reading says, the "ruler...whose origin is from...ancient times." He will come from Bethlehem, where David was born of Jesse the Ephrathite and anointed king (see Ruth 4:11-17; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 17:1; Matthew 2:6).

God promised that an heir of David would reign on his throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89; Psalm 132:11-12).

Jesus is that heir, the One the prophets promised would restore the scattered tribes of Israel into a new kingdom (see Isaiah 9:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-25,30; 37:35). He is "the shepherd of Israel," sung of in today's Psalm. From His throne in heaven, He has "come to save us."

Today's Epistle tells us that He is both the Son of David and the only "begotten" Son of God, come "in the flesh" (see also Psalm 2:7). He is also our "high priest," from the mold of the mysterious Melchisedek, "priest of God Most High," who blessed Abraham at the dawn of salvation history (see Psalm 110:4; Genesis 14:18-20).

All this is recognized by John when he leaps for joy in his mother's womb. Elizabeth, too, is filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. She recognizes that in Mary "the mother of my Lord" has come to her. We hear in her words another echo of the Psalm quoted in today's Epistle (see Psalm 2:7). Elizabeth blesses Mary for her faith that God's Word would be fulfilled in her.

Mary marks the fulfillment not only of the angel's promise to her, but of all God's promises down through history. Mary is the one they await in today's First Reading - "she who is to give birth." She will give birth this week, at Christmas. And the fruit of her womb should bring us joy - she is the mother of our Lord.

 

The New 'Ark'

The Church in her liturgy and tradition has long praised Mary as "the Ark of the New Covenant." We see biblical roots for this in the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (Cycle C).

Compare Mary's visitation to Elizabeth with the story of David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and you'll hear interesting echoes.

As Mary "set out" for the hill country of Judah, so did David (see Luke 1:19; 2 Samuel 6:2). David, upon seeing the Ark, cries out "How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?" Elizabeth says the same thing about "the mother of my Lord" (see Luke 1:43; 2 Samuel 6:9).

John leaps in Elizabeth's womb, as David danced before the Ark (see Luke 1:41; 2 Samuel 6:16). And as the Ark stayed three months in "the house of Obed-edom," Mary stays three months in "the house of Zechariah" (see Luke 1:40,56; 2 Samuel 6:11).

The Greek word Luke uses to describe Elizabeth's loud cry of joy (anaphoneo) isn't used anywhere else in the New Testament. And it's found in only five places in the Greek Old Testament - every time used to describe "exultation" before the Ark (see 1 Chronicles 15:28; 16:4-5; 2 Chronicles 5:13).

Coincidences? Hardly. The old Ark contained the tablets of the Law, the manna from the desert and the priestly staff of Aaron (see Hebrews 9:4). In Mary, the new Ark, we find the Word of God, the Bread of Life and the High Priest of the new people of God (see also Catechism, no. 2676).

 

 

Direct download: C_4_Advent_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:13am EST

Readings:
Zephaniah 3:14-18
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18


The people in today's Gospel are "filled with expectation." They believe John the Baptist might be the Messiah they've been waiting for. Three times we hear their question: "What then should we do?"

The Messiah's coming requires every man and woman to choose - to "repent" or not. That's John's message and it will be Jesus' too (see Luke 3:3; 5:32; 24:47).

"Repentance" translates a Greek word, metanoia (literally, "change of mind"). In the Scriptures, repentance is presented as a two-fold "turning" - away from sin (see Ezekiel 3:19; 18:30) and toward God (see Sirach 17:20-21; Hosea 6:1).

This "turning" is more than attitude adjustment. It means a radical life-change. It requires "good fruits as evidence of your repentance" (see Luke 3:8). That's why John tells the crowds, soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, honesty and social justice.

In today's Liturgy, each of us is being called to stand in that crowd and hear the "good news" of John's call to repentance. We should examine our lives, ask from our hearts as they did: "What should we do?" Our repentance should spring, not from our fear of coming wrath (see Luke 3:7-9), but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.

This theme resounds through today's readings: "Rejoice!...The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all," we hear in today's Epistle. In today's Responsorial, we hear again the call to be joyful, unafraid at the Lord's coming among us.

In today's First Reading, we hear echoes of the angel's Annunciation to Mary. The prophet's words are very close to the angel's greeting (compare Luke 1:28-31). Mary is the Daughter Zion - the favored one of God, told not to fear but to rejoice that the Lord is with her, "a mighty Savior."

She is the cause of our joy. For in her draws near the Messiah, as John had promised: "One mightier than I is coming."

Direct download: C_3_Advent_15.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:49am EST

Lecturas: Baruc 5, 1-9 Salmo 126, 1-6 Fiplipenses 1, 4-6, 8-11 Lucas 3, 1-6   El salmo de hoy nos pinta un escenario de ensueño: un camino lleno de antiguos cautivos, ahora liberados, que regresan a casa (Sión-Jerusalén), sus bocas llenas de risa y sus lenguas de cantos.   Es una estampa gloriosa del pasado de Israel, un “nuevo éxodo”: la liberación del exilio en Babilonia. El salmista la trae a la memoria en un momento de incertidumbre y ansiedad; pero no lo hace motivado por la nostalgia. Al recordar que, en el pasado, “el Señor ha hecho maravillas”, más bien hace un acto de fe y esperanza. Dios vendrá a Israel para socorrerle en su necesidad actual y hará cosas aún más grandes en el futuro.   Ese es el tema central de las lecturas del Adviento: recordar los hechos salvíficos de nuestro Dios, tanto en la historia de Israel como en la venida de Jesús. Esta remembranza pretende estimular nuestra fe y llenarnos de confianza sabiendo que, como dice la epístola de hoy, “quien inició en ustedes la Buena obra la irá consumando” hasta que Él venga de nuevo en su gloria.   La liturgia nos enseña que cada uno de nosotros, como Israel durante el exilio, es conducido a la cautividad por sus pecados, necesitado de salvación y conversión mediante la Palabra del Santo (cfr. Ba 5,5). Las lecciones que nos da la historia de la salvación nos  enseñan que, como Dios liberó una y otra vez a Israel, también en su misericordia nos liberará de nuestros afectos desordenados si, arrepentidos, volvemos a Él.   Ese es el mensaje de Juan, presentado en el Evangelio de hoy como el último de los grandes profetas (cfr. Jr 1, 1-4, 11). Pero Juan es mucho mayor que los profetas (cfr. Lc 7, 27). Él esta preparando el camino, no solo a la nueva redención de Israel, sino también para la salvación de “toda carne” (cfr. Hch 28, 28).   Juan cita a Isaías (cfr. 40, 3) para decirnos que ha venido a construirnos un camino a casa; una senda que nos saca del desierto del pecado y de la alineación. Un camino por el cual  seguiremos a Jesús y peregrinaremos alegremente, sabiendo que Dios nos recuerda, como dice la primera lectura de hoy.

Direct download: C_2_Advent_Spn_2015.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:18pm EST

Readings:

Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126:1-6
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11
Luke 3:1-6

Today's Psalm paints a dream-like scene - a road filled with liberated captives heading home to Zion (Jerusalem), mouths filled with laughter, tongues rejoicing.

It's a glorious picture from Israel's past, a "new exodus," the deliverance from exile in Babylon. It's being recalled in a moment of obvious uncertainty and anxiety. But the psalmist isn't waxing nostalgic.

Remembering "the Lord has done great things" in the past, he is making an act of faith and hope - that God will come to Israel in its present need, that He'll do even greater things in the future.

This is what the Advent readings are all about: We recall God's saving deeds - in the history of Israel and in the coming of Jesus. Our remembrance is meant to stir our faith, to fill us with confidence that, as today's Epistle puts it, "the One who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it" until He comes again in glory.

Each of us, the Liturgy teaches, is like Israel in her exile - led into captivity by our sinfulness, in need of restoration, conversion by the Word of the Holy One (see Baruch 5:5). The lessons of salvation history should teach us that, as God again and again delivered Israel, in His mercy He will free us from our attachments to sin, if we turn to Him in repentance.

That's the message of John, introduced in today's Gospel as the last of the great prophets (compare Jeremiah 1:1-4,11). But John is greater than the prophets (see Luke 7:27). He's preparing the way, not only for a new redemption of Israel, but for the salvation of "all flesh" (see also Acts 28:28).

John quotes Isaiah (40:3) to tell us he's come to build a road home for us, a way out of the wilderness of sin and alienation from God. It's a road we'll follow Jesus down, a journey we'll make, as today's First Reading puts it, "rejoicing that [we're] remembered by God." 

Direct download: C_2_Advent_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:17pm EST

 

Readings:

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25:4-5,8-10,14

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

Every Advent, the Liturgy of the Word gives our sense of time a reorientation. There’s a deliberate tension in the next four weeks’ readings - between promise and fulfillment, expectation and deliverance, between looking forward and looking back.

 

In today’s First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah focuses our gaze on the promise God made to David, some 1,000 years before Christ. God says through the prophet that He will fulfill this promise by raising up a “just shoot,” a righteous offspring of David, who will rule Israel in justice (see 2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 33:17; Psalm 89:4-5; 27-38).

 

Today’s Psalm, too, sounds the theme of Israel’s ancient expectation: “Guide me in Your truth and teach Me. For You are God my Savior and for You I will wait all day.”

 

We look back on Israel’s desire and anticipation knowing that God has already made good on those promises by sending His only Son into the world. Jesus is the “just shoot,” the God and Savior for Whom Israel was waiting.

 

Knowing that He is a God who keeps His promises lends grave urgency to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.

 

Urging us to keep watch for His return in glory, He draws on Old Testament images of chaos and instability – turmoil in the heavens (see Isaiah 13:11,13; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10); roaring seas (see Isaiah 5:30; 17:12); distress among the nations (see Isaiah 8:22/14:25) and terrified people (see Isaiah 13:6-11).

 

He evokes the prophet Daniel’s image of the Son of Man coming on a cloud of glory to describe His return as a “theophany,” a manifestation of God (see Daniel 7:13-14).

 

Many will cower and be literally scared to death. But Jesus says we should greet the end-times with heads raised high, confident that God keeps His promises, that our “redemption is at hand,” that ‘the kingdom of God is near” (see Luke 21:31)

 

 

Direct download: C_1_Advent_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:19pm EST

Readings:

Daniel 7:13-14

Psalm 93:1-2,5
Revelation 1:5-8

John 18:33-37


 

What’s the truth Jesus comes to bear witness to in this last Gospel of the Church’s year?

It’s the truth that in Jesus, God keeps the promise He made to David - of an everlasting kingdom, of an heir who would be His Son, “the first born, highest of the kings of the earth” (see 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89:27-38).

 

Today’s Second Reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, quotes these promises and celebrates Jesus as “the faithful witness.” The reading hearkens back to Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would “witness to the peoples” that God is renewing His “everlasting covenant” with David (see Isaiah 55:3-5).

 

But as Jesus tells Pilate, there’s far more going on here than the restoration of a temporal monarchy. In the Revelation reading, Jesus calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega,” the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He’s applying to Himself a description that God uses to describe Himself in the Old Testament - the first and the last, the One Who calls forth all generations (see Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12).

 

“He has made the world,” today’s Psalm cries, and His dominion is over all creation (see also John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). In the vision of Daniel we hear in today’s First Reading, He comes on “the clouds of heaven” - another sign of His divinity - to be given “glory and kingship” forever over all nations and peoples.

 

Christ is King and His Kingdom, while not of this world, exists in this world in the Church. We are a royal people. We know we have been loved by Him and freed by His blood and transformed into “a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father” (see also Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9).

 

As a priestly people, we share in His sacrifice and in His witness to God’s everlasting covenant. We belong to His truth and listen to His voice, waiting for Him to come again amid the clouds.

Direct download: B_2015_Christ_the_King.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:55pm EST

Readings:

Daniel 12:1-3

Psalm 16:5,8-11

Hebrews 10:11-14,18

Mark 13:24-32

 

In this, the second-to-the-last week of the Church year, Jesus has finally made it to Jerusalem.

 

Near to His passion and death, He gives us a teaching of hope--telling us how it will be when He returns again in glory.

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from the end of a long discourse in which He describes tribulations the likes of which haven’t been seen “since the beginning of God’s creation” (see Mark 13:9). He describes what amounts to a dissolution of God’s creation, a “devolution” of the world to its original state of formlessness and void.

 

First, human community--nations and kingdoms--will break down (see Mark 13:7-8). Then the earth will stop yielding food and begin to shake apart (13:8). Next, the family will be torn apart from within and the last faithful individuals will be persecuted (13:9-13). Finally, the Temple will be desecrated, the earth emptied of God’s presence (13:14).

 

In today’s reading, God is described putting out the lights that He established in the sky in the very beginning--the sun, the moon and the stars (see also Isaiah 13:10; 34:4). Into this “uncreated” darkness, the Son of Man, in Whom all things were made, will come.

 

Jesus has already told us that the Son of Man must be humiliated and killed (see Mark 8:31). Here He describes His ultimate victory, using royal-divine images drawn from the Old Testament--clouds, glory, and angels (see Daniel 7:13). He shows Himself to be the fulfillment of all God’s promises to save “the elect,” the faithful remnant (see Isaiah 43:6; Jeremiah 32:37).

 

As today’s First Reading tells us, this salvation will include will include the bodily resurrection of those who sleep in the dust.

 

We are to watch for this day, when His enemies are finally made His footstool, as today’s Epistle envisions. We can wait in confidence knowing, as we pray in today’s Psalm, that we will one day delight at His right hand forever.

Direct download: B_33_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:10pm EST