St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

Readings:
Wisdom 9:13-18
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-17
Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17
Luke 14:25-33

Like a king making ready for battle or a contractor about to build a tower, we have to count the cost as we set out to follow Jesus.

Our Lord today is telling us upfront the sacrifice it will take. His words aren't addressed to His chosen few, the Twelve, but rather to the "great crowds" - to "anyone," to "whoever" wishes to be His disciple.

That only makes His call all the more stark and uncompromising. We are to "hate" our old lives, renounce all the earthly things we rely upon, to choose Him above every person and possession. Again He tells us that the things we have - even our family ties and obligations - can become an excuse, an obstacle that keeps us from giving ourselves completely to Him (see Luke 9:23-26, 57-62).

Jesus brings us the saving Wisdom we are promised in today's First Reading. He is that saving Wisdom.

Weighed down by many earthly concerns, the burdens of our body and its needs, we could never see beyond the things of this world, could never detect God's heavenly design and intention. So in His mercy He sent us His Spirit, His Wisdom from on High, to make straight our path to Him.

Jesus himself paid the price for to free us from the sentence imposed on Adam, which we recall in today's Psalm (see Genesis 2:7; 2:19). No more will the work of our hands be an affliction, no more are we destined to turn back to dust.

Like Onesimus in today's Epistle, we have been redeemed, given a new family and a new inheritance, made children of the father, brothers and sisters in the Lord.

We are free now to come after Him, to serve Him - no longer slaves to the ties of our past lives. In Christ, all our yesterdays have passed. We live in what the Psalm today beautifully describes as the daybreak of His kindness. For He has given us wisdom of heart, taught us to number our days aright.

Direct download: C_23_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:22am EDT

Readings:
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Psalm 68:4-7,10-11
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24
Luke 14:1, 7-14

We come to the wedding banquet of heaven by way of humility and charity. This is the fatherly instruction we hear in today's First Reading, and the message of today's Gospel.

Jesus is not talking simply about good table manners. He is revealing the way of the kingdom, in which the one who would be greatest would be the servant of all (see Luke 22:24-27).


This is the way He showed us, humbling Himself to come among us as a man (see Philippians 2:5-8), as one who serves, as the bearer of glad tidings to the poor (see Luke 4:18).

This is the way, too, that the Father has shown us down through the ages - filling the hungry, sending the rich away empty, lifting up the lowly, pulling down the proud (see Luke 1:52-53).

We again call to mind the Exodus in today's Psalm - how in His goodness the Lord led the Israelites from imprisonment to prosperity, rained down bread from heaven, made them His inheritance, becoming a "Father of orphans."

We now too have gained a share of His inheritance. We are to live humbly, knowing we are are not worthy to receive from His table (see Luke 6:7; 15:21). We are to give alms, remembering we were ransomed from sin by the price of His blood (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Lord promises that if we are humble we will be exalted and find favor with God; that if we are kind to those who can never repay us, we will atone for sins, and find blessing in the resurrection of the righteous.

We anticipate the fulfillment of those promises in every Eucharist, today's Epistle tells us. In the Mass, we enter the festal gathering of the angels and the firstborn children of God, the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem in which Jesus is the high priest, the King who calls us to come up higher (see Proverbs 25:6-7).

 

Direct download: C_22_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:53am EDT

 

Readings:

Isaiah 66:18-21

Psalm 117:1, 2

Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus doesn't answer the question put to Him in this Sunday’s Gospel. It profits us nothing to speculate on how many will be saved. What we need to know is what He tells us today - how to enter into salvation and how urgent it is to strive now, before the Master closes the door.

Jesus is "the narrow gate," the only way of salvation, the path by which all must travel to enter the kingdom of the Father (see John 14:6).

In Jesus, God has come - as He promises in this week’s First Reading - to gather nations of every language, to reveal to them His glory.

Eating and drinking with them, teaching in their streets, Jesus in the Gospel is slowly making His way to Jerusalem. There, Isaiah's vision will be fulfilled: On the holy mountain He will be lifted up (see John 3:14), will draw to Himself bretheren from among all the nations - to worship in the heavenly Jerusalem, to glorify Him for His kindness, as we sing in Sunday’s Psalm.

In God's plan, the kingdom was proclaimed first to the Israelites and last to the Gentiles (see Romans 1:16; Acts 3:25-26), who in the Church have come from the earth's four corners to make up the new people of God (see Isaiah 43:5-6; Psalm 107:2-3).

Many however will lose their place at the heavenly table, Jesus warns. Refusing to accept His narrow way they will weaken, render themselves unknown to the Father (see Isaiah 63:15-16).

We don't want to be numbered among those of drooping hands and weak knees (see Isaiah 35:3). So we must strive for that narrow gate, a way of hardship and suffering - the way of the beloved Son.

As this week’s Epistle reminds us, by our trials we know we are truly God's sons and daughters. We are being disciplined by our afflictions, strengthened to walk that straight and narrow path - that we may enter the gate, take our place at the banquet of the righteous.

Direct download: C_21_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:33am EDT

Readings:

Jeremiah 38:4–6, 8–10
Psalm 40:2–4, 18

Hebrews 12:1–4
Luke 12:49–53

Our God is a consuming fire, the Scriptures tell us (see Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24).

And in this week’s Gospel, Jesus uses the image of fire to describe the demands of discipleship.

The fire he has come to cast on the earth is the fire that he wants to blaze in each of  our hearts. He made us from the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7), and filled us with the fire of the Holy Spirit in baptism (see Luke 3:16).

We were baptized into his death (see Romans 6:3). This is the baptism our Lord speaks of in the Gospel this week. The baptism with which He must be baptized is His passion and death, by which He accomplished our redemption and sent forth the fire of the Spirit on the earth (see Acts 2:3). 

The fire has been set, but it is not yet blazing. We are called to enter deeper into the consuming love of God. We must examine our consciences and our actions, submitting ourselves to the revealing fire of God’s Word (see 1 Corinthians 3:13).

In our struggle against sin, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our own blood, Paul tells us in this week’s Epistle. We have not undergone the suffering that Jeremiah suffers in the First Reading this week. 

But this is what true discipleship requires. To be a disciple is to be inflamed with the love of the God. It is to have an unquenchable desire for holiness and zeal for the salvation of our brothers and sisters.

Being His disciple does not bring peace in the false way that the world proclaims peace (see Jeremiah 8:11). It means division and hardship. It may bring us to conflict with our own flesh and blood.

But Christ is our peace (see Ephesians 2:14). By his cross, he has lifted us up from the mire of sin and death—as he will rescue the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:10).

And as we sing in the Psalm this week, we trust in our deliverer.

Direct download: C_20_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:21am EDT

 

Readings:

Wisdom 18:6-9

Psalm 33:1,12,18-22

Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19

Luke 12:35-40

We are born of the faith of our fathers, descending from a great cloud of witnesses whose faith is attested to on every page of Scripture (see Hebrews 12:1). We have been made His people, chosen for His own inheritance, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm.

The Liturgy this week sings the praises of our fathers, recalling the defining moments in our "family history." In the Epistle, we remember the calling of Abraham; in the First Reading we relive the night of the Exodus and the summons of the holy children of Israel.

Our fathers, we are told, trusted in the Word of God, put their faith in His oaths, convinced that what He promised, He would do.

None of them lived to see His promises made good. For it was not until Christ and His Church that Abraham's descendants were made as countless as the stars and sands (see Galatians 3:16-17,29). It was not until His Last Supper and the Eucharist that "the sacrifice...the divine institution" of that first Passover was truly fulfilled.

And we now too await the final fulfillment of what God has promised us in Christ. As Jesus tells us in this week’s Gospel, we should live with our loins girded - as the Israelites tightened their belts, cinched up their long robes and ate their Passover standing, vigilant and ready to do His will (see Exodus 12:11; 2 Kings 4:29).

The Lord will come at an hour we do not expect - will knock on our door (see Revelation 3:20), inviting us to the wedding feast in the better homeland, the heavenly one that our fathers saw from afar, and which we begin to taste in each Eucharist.

As they did, we can wait with "sure knowledge," His Word like a lamp lighting our path (see Psalm 119:105). Our God is faithful and if we wait in faith, hope in His kindness, and love as we have been loved, we will receive His promised blessing, be delivered from death.

Direct download: C_19_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:21am EDT

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