St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18
Psalm 116:10, 15-19
Romans 8:31-34
Mark 9:2-10 (see also "Binding Isaac, Crucifying Jesus")

The Lenten season continues with another story of testing. Last Sunday, we heard the trial of Jesus in the desert. In this week's First Reading, we hear of how Abraham was put to the test.

The Church has always read this story as a sign of God's love for the world in giving His only begotten son.

In today's Epistle, Paul uses exact words drawn from this story to describe how God, like Abraham, did not withhold His only Son, but handed Him over for us on the cross (see Romans 8:32; Genesis 22:12,16).

In the Gospel today, too, we hear another echo. Jesus is called God's "beloved Son" - as Isaac is described as Abraham's beloved firstborn son.

These readings are given to us in Lent to reveal Christ's identity and to strengthen us in the face of our afflictions.

Jesus is shown to be the true son that Abraham rejoiced to see (see Matthew 1:1; John 8:56). In His transfiguration, He is revealed to be the "prophet like Moses" foretold by God - raised from among their own kinsmen, speaking with God's own authority (see Deuteronomy 18:15,19).

Like Moses, He climbs the mountain with three named friends and beholds God's glory in a cloud (see Exodus 24:1,9,15). He is the one prophesied to come after Elijah's return (see Sirach 48:9-10; Malachi 3:1,23-24).

And, as He discloses to the apostles, He is the Son of Man sent to suffer and die for our sins (see Isaiah 53:3).

As we sing in today's Psalm, Jesus believed in the face of His afflictions, and God loosed Him from the bonds of death (see Psalm 116:3).

His rising should give us the courage to face our trials, to offer ourselves totally to the Father - as He did, as Abraham and Isaac did.

Freed from death by His death, we come to this Mass to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and to renew our vows - as His servants and faithful ones. 

Direct download: B_2_Lent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:11pm EST

Readings:

Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25:4-9
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

Lent bids us to return to the innocence of baptism. As Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the deluge, we were saved through the waters of baptism, Peter reminds us in today's Epistle.

And God's covenant with Noah in today's First Reading marked the start of a new world. But it also prefigured a new and greater covenant between God and His creation (see Hosea 2:20; Isaiah 11:1-9).

We see that new covenant and that new creation begin in today's Gospel.

Jesus is portrayed as the new Adam - the beloved son of God (see Mark 1:11; Luke 3:38), living in harmony with the wild beasts (see Genesis 2:19-20), being served by angels (see Ezekiel 28:12-14).

Like Adam, He too is tempted by the devil. But while Adam fell, giving reign to sin and death (see Romans 5:12-14, 17-20), Jesus is victorious.

This is the good news, the "gospel of God" that He proclaims. Through His death, resurrection, and enthronement at the right hand of the Father, the world is once again made God's kingdom.

In the waters of baptism, each of us entered the kingdom of His beloved Son (see Colossians 1:13-14). We were made children of God, new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 4:3-7).

But like Jesus, and Israel before Him, we have passed through the baptismal waters only to be driven into the wilderness - a world filled with afflictions and tests of our faithfulness (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, 9,13; Deuteronomy 8:2,16).

We are led on this journey by Jesus. He is the Savior - the way and the truth we sing of in today's Psalm (see John 14:6). He feeds us with the bread of angels (see Psalm 78:25; Wisdom 16:20), and cleanses our consciences in the sacrament of reconciliation.

As we begin this holy season, let us renew our baptismal vows - to repent and believe the gospel.
    

Direct download: B_1_Lent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:23pm EST

Readings:

Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32:1-2, 5, 11
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Mark 1:40-45


In the Old Testament, leprosy is depicted as punishment for disobedience of God's commands (see Numbers 12:12-15; 2 Kings 5:27; 15:5).

Considered "unclean" - unfit to worship or live with the Israelites, lepers are considered "stillborn," the living dead (see Numbers 12:12). Indeed, the requirements imposed on lepers in today's First Reading - rent garments, shaven head, covered beard - are signs of death, penance, and mourning (see Leviticus 10:6; Ezekiel 24:17).

So there's more to the story in today's Gospel than a miraculous healing.

When Elisha, invoking God's name, healed the leper, Naaman, it proved there was a prophet in Israel (see 2 Kings 5:8). Today's healing reveals Jesus as far more than a great prophet - He is God visiting His people (see Luke 7:16).

Only God can cure leprosy and cleanse from sin (see 2 Kings 5:7); and only God has the power to bring about what He wills (see Isaiah 55:11; Wisdom 12:18).

The Gospel scene has an almost sacramental quality about it.

Jesus stretches out His hand - as God, by His outstretched arm, performed mighty deeds to save the Israelites (see Exodus 14:6; Acts 4:30). His ritual sign is accompanied by a divine word ("Be made clean"). And, like God's word in creation ("Let there be"), Jesus' word "does" what He commands (see Psalm 33:9).

The same thing happens when we show ourselves to the priest in the sacrament of penance. On our knees like the leper, we confess our sins to the Lord, as we sing in today's Psalm. And through the outstretched arm and divine word spoken by His priest, the Lord takes away the guilt of our sin.

Like the leper we should rejoice in the Lord and spread the good news of His mercy. We should testify to our healing by living changed lives. As Paul says in today's Epistle, we should do even the littlest things for the glory of God and that others may be saved.

Direct download: B_6_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:03pm EST

Readings:

Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalm 147:1-6
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Mark 1:29-39


In today's First Reading, Job describes the futility of life before Christ.

His lament reminds us of the curse of toil and death placed upon Adam following his original sin (see Genesis 3:17-19). Men and women are like slaves seeking shade, unable to find rest. Their lives are like the wind that comes and goes.

But, as we sing in today's Psalm, He who created the stars, promised to heal the brokenhearted and gather those lost in exile from Him (see Isaiah 11:12; 61:1). We see this promise fulfilled in today's Gospel.

Simon's mother-in-law is like Job's toiling, hopeless humanity. She is laid low by affliction but too weak to save herself.

But as God promised to take His chosen people by the hand (see Isaiah 42:6), Jesus grasps her by the hand and helps her up. The word translated "help" is actually Greek for raising up. The same verb is used when Jesus commands a dead girl to arise (see Mark 5:41-42). It's used again to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 14:28; 16:7).

What Jesus has done for Simon's mother-in-law, He has done for all humanity - raised all of us who lay dead through our sins (see Ephesians 2:5).

Notice all the words of totality and completeness in the Gospel. The whole town gathers; all the sick are brought to Him. He drives out demons in the whole of Galilee. Everyone is looking for Christ.

We too have found Him. By our baptism, He healed and raised us to live in His presence (see Hosea 6:1-2).

Like Simon's mother-in-law, there is only one way we can thank Him for the new life He has given us. We must rise to serve Him and His gospel.

Our lives must be our thanksgiving, as Paul describes in today's Epistle. We must tell everyone the good news, the purpose for which Jesus has come - that others, too, may have a share in this salvation.

Direct download: B_5_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:12pm EST

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