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

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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.
    

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