St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:

Genesis 2:18-24

Psalm 128:1-6
Hebrews 2:9-11

Mark 10:2-16

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a trick question.

 

The “lawfulness” of divorce in Israel was never at issue. Moses had long ago allowed it (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). But Jesus points His enemies back before Moses, to “the beginning,” interpreting the text we hear in today’s First Reading.

 

Divorce violates the order of creation, He says. Moses permitted it only as a concession to the people’s “hardness of heart”—their inability to live by God’s covenant Law. But Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, to reveal its true meaning and purpose, and to give people the grace to keep God’s commands.

 

Marriage, He reveals, is a sacrament, a divine, life-giving sign. Through the union of husband and wife, God intended to bestow His blessings on the human family—making it fruitful, multiplying it until it filled the earth (see Genesis 1:28).

 

That’s why today’s Gospel moves so easily from a debate about marriage to Jesus’ blessing of children. Children are blessings the Father bestows on couples who walk in His ways, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

Marriage also is a sign of God’s new covenant. As today’s Epistle hints, Jesus is the new Adam—made a little lower than the angels, born of a human family (see Romans 5:14; Psalm 8:5-7). The Church is the new Eve, the “woman” born of Christ’s pierced side as He hung in the sleep of death on the cross (see John 19:34; Revelation 12:1-17).

 

Through the union of Christ and the Church as “one flesh,” God’s plan for the world is fulfilled (see Ephesians 5:21-32). Eve was “mother of all the living” (see Genesis 3:20). And in baptism, we are made sons and daughters of the Church, children of the Father, heirs of the eternal glory He intended for the human family in the beginning.

 

The challenge for us is to live as children of the kingdom, growing up ever more faithful in our love and devotion to the ways of Christ and the teachings of His Church.

Direct download: B_27_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:02pm EST

Readings:

Numbers 11:25–29  

Psalm 19:8,10,12–14

James 5:1–6  

Mark 9:38–48

 

Today’s Gospel begins with a scene that recalls a similar moment in the history of Israel, the episode recalled in today’s First Reading. The seventy elders who receive God’s Spirit through Moses prefigure the ministry of the apostles.

 

Like Joshua in the First Reading, John makes the mistake of presuming that only a select few are inspired and entrusted to carry out God’s plans. The Spirit blows where it wills (see John 3:8), and God desires to bestow His Spirit on all the people of God, in every nation under heaven (see Acts 2:5, 38).

 

God can and will work mighty deeds through the most unexpected and unlikely people. All of us are called to perform even our most humble tasks, such as giving a cup of water, for the sake of His name and the cause of His kingdom.

 

John believes he is protecting the purity of the Lord’s name. But, really, he’s only guarding his own privilege and status. It’s telling that the apostles want to shut down the ministry of an exorcist. Authority to drive out demons and unclean spirits was one of the specific powers entrusted to the Twelve (see Mark 3:14–15; 6:7, 13).

 

Cleanse me from my unknown faults, we pray in today’s Psalm. Often, like Joshua and John, perhaps without noticing it, we cloak our failings and fears under the guise of our desire to defend Christ or the Church.

 

But as Jesus says today, instead of worrying about who is a real Christian and who is not, we should make sure that we ourselves are leading lives worthy of our calling as disciples (see Ephesians 1:4).

 

Does the advice we give, or the example of our actions, give scandal—causing others to doubt or lose faith? Do we do what we do with mixed motives instead of seeking only the Father’s will? Are we living, as this Sunday’s Epistle warns, for our own luxury and pleasure, and neglecting our neighbors?

 

We need to keep meditating on His Law, as we sing in today’s Psalm. We need to pray for the grace to detect our failings and to overcome them.

Direct download: B_26_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:26pm EST

Readings:

Wisdom 2:12,17-20

Psalm 54:3-8

James 3:16-4:3

Mark 9:30-37  (see also "Finding Christ in the Psalms")

 

In today's First Reading, it's like we have our ears pressed to the wall and can hear the murderous grumblings of the elders, chief priests and scribes - who last week Jesus predicted would torture and kill Him (see Mark 8:31; 10:33-34).

 

The liturgy invites us to see this passage from the Book of Wisdom as a prophecy of the Lord's Passion. We hear His enemies complain that "the Just One" has challenged their authority, reproached them for breaking the law of Moses, for betraying their training as leaders and teachers.

 

And we hear chilling words that foreshadow how they will mock Him as He hangs on the cross: "For if the Just One be the Son of God, He will...deliver Him..." (compare Matthew 27:41-43).

 

Today's Gospel and Psalm give us the flip side of the First Reading. In both, we hear of Jesus' sufferings from His point of view. Though His enemies surround Him, He offers himself freely in sacrifice, trusting that God will sustain Him.

 

But the apostles today don't understand this second announcement of Christ's passion. They begin arguing over issues of succession -- over who among them is greatest, who will be chosen to lead after Christ is killed.

 

Again they are thinking not as God, but as human beings (see Mark 8:33). And again Jesus teaches the Twelve -- the chosen leaders of His Church -- that they must lead by imitating His example of love and self-sacrifice. They must be "servants of all," especially the weak and the helpless - symbolized by the child He embraces and places in their midst.

 

This is a lesson for us, too. We must have the mind of Christ, who humbled himself to come among us (see Philippians 2: 5-11). We must freely offer ourselves, making everything we do a sacrifice in praise of His name.

 

As James says in today's Epistle, we must seek wisdom from above, desiring humility not glory, and in all things be gentle and full of mercy. 

 

Finding Christ in the Psalms

 

Jesus taught His Apostles that the Book of Psalms speaks of Him and His mission. "Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled," He told them on the night of His Resurrection (see Luke 24:44).

 

Jesus applied specific Psalms to himself (see Matthew 21:42-44 and 22:41-46). So did the apostles in their preaching and writings (see Acts 2:25-35 and Hebrews 1:5-14).

 

This ancient practice continues in the liturgy. In the Psalms chosen for Sunday Mass readings, sometimes the Church invites us to hear a direct reference to Christ. Other times, we're invited to hear the voice of Christ crying out to the Father. And still other times, we hear the Father talking to the Son.

 

Psalm 54 is heard this way in the readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Originally sung by David when he was betrayed by the Ziphites (see 1 Samuel 23:19-25 and 26:1-3), we're invited to hear the Psalm as a confident appeal by Christ in His Passion: "Fierce men seek My life...Behold...the Lord sustains My life."

 

The same is true of the use of Psalm 116 in the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B). We hear our Lord's voice as He gives thanks that God has rescued Him, freed His soul from death and the snares of the nether world.

Direct download: B_25_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:42pm EST

Readings:

 Isaiah 50:4-9

 Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9

 James 2:14-18

 Mark 8:27-35 (see also "Finding Christ in the Psalms")

 In today's Gospel, we reach a pivotal moment in our walk with the Lord. After weeks of listening to His words and witnessing His deeds, along with the disciples we're asked to decide who Jesus truly is.

 Peter answers for them, and for us, too, when he declares: "You are the Messiah." 

 Many expected the Messiah to be a miracle worker who would vanquish Israel's enemies and restore the kingdom of David (see John 6:15).

 Jesus today reveals a different portrait. He calls himself the Son of Man, evoking the royal figure Daniel saw in his heavenly visions (see Daniel 7:13-14). But Jesus' kingship is not to be of this world (see John 18:36). And the path to His throne, as He reveals, is by way of suffering and death.

 Jesus identifies the Messiah with the suffering servant that Isaiah foretells in today's First Reading. The words of Isaiah's servant are Jesus' words -- as He gives himself to be shamed and beaten, trusting that God will be His help. We hear our Lord's voice again in today's Psalm, as He gives thanks that God has freed Him from the cords of death.

 As Jesus tells us today, to believe that He is the Messiah is to follow His way of self-denial -- losing our lives to save them, in order to rise with Him to new life. Our faith, we hear again in today's Epistle, must express itself in works of love (see Galatians 5:6).

 Notice that Jesus questions the apostles today "along the way." They are on the way to Jerusalem, where the Lord will lay down His life. We, too, are on a journey with the Lord.

 We must take up our cross, giving to others and enduring all our trials for His sake and the sake of the gospel.

 Our lives must be an offering of thanksgiving for the new life He has given us, until that day when we reach our destination, and walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Finding Christ in the Psalms

Jesus taught His Apostles that the Book of Psalms speaks of Him and His mission. "Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled," He told them on the night of His Resurrection (see Luke 24:44).

Jesus applied specific Psalms to himself (see Matthew 21:42-44 and 22:41-46). So did the apostles in their preaching and writings (see Acts 2:25-35 and Hebrews 1:5-14).

This ancient practice continues in the liturgy. In the Psalms chosen for Sunday Mass readings, sometimes the Church invites us to hear a direct reference to Christ. Other times, we're invited to hear the voice of Christ crying out to the Father. And still other times, we hear the Father talking to the Son.

Psalm 54 is heard this way in the readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Originally sung by David when he was betrayed by the Ziphites (see 1 Samuel 23:19-25 and 26:1-3), we're invited to hear the Psalm as a confident appeal by Christ in His Passion: "Fierce men seek My life...Behold...the Lord sustains My life." 

The same is true of the use of Psalm 116 in the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B). We hear our Lord's voice as He gives thanks that God has rescued Him, freed His soul from death and the snares of the nether world. 

 

Direct download: B_24_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:00am EST

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