St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (Sunday Bible Reflections)

Readings:
Exodus 17:8-13
Psalm 121:1-8
2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
Luke 18:1-8


The Lord is our guardian, beside us at our right hand, interceding for us in all our spiritual battles.

In today’s Psalm we’re told to lift our eyes to the mountains, that our help will come from Mount Zion and the Temple—the dwelling of the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Joshua and the Israelites, in today’s First Reading, are also told to look to the hilltops. They are to find their help there—through the intercession of Moses—as they defend themselves against their mortal foes, the Amalekites.

Notice the image: Aaron and Hur standing on each side of Moses, holding his weary arms so that he can raise the staff of God above his head. Moses is being shown here as a figure of Jesus, who also climbed a hilltop, and on Mount Calvary stretched out His hands between heaven and earth to intercede for us against the final enemy—sin and death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26).

By the staff of God, Moses bested Israel’s enemies (see Exodus 7:8–12; 8:1–2), parted the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:16) and brought water from the Rock (see Exodus 17:6).

The Cross of Jesus is the new staff of God, bringing about a new liberation from sin, bringing forth living waters from the body of Christ, the new Temple of God (see John 2:19–21; 7:37–39; 19:34; 1 Corinthians 10:4).

Like the Israelites and the widow in today’s Gospel, we face opposition and injustice—at times from godless and pitiless adversaries.

We, too, must lift our eyes to the mountains—to Calvary and the God who will guard us from all evil.

We must pray always and not be wearied by our trials, Jesus tells us today. As Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle, we need to remain faithful, to turn to the inspired Scriptures—given by God to train us in righteousness.

We must persist, so that when the Son of Man comes again in kingly power, He will indeed find faith on earth.

Direct download: C_29_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
2 Kings 5:14–17
Psalm 98:1–4
2 Timothy 2:8–13
Luke 17:11–19


A foreign leper is cleansed and in thanksgiving returns to offer homage to the God of Israel. We hear this same story in both the First Reading and Gospel today.

There were many lepers in Israel in Elisha’s time, but only Naaman the Syrian trusted in God’s Word and was cleansed (see Luke 5:12–14). Today’s Gospel likewise implies that most of the ten lepers healed by Jesus were Israelites—but only a foreigner, the Samaritan, returned.

In a dramatic way, we’re being shown today how faith has been made the way to salvation, the road by which all nations will join themselves to the Lord, becoming His servants, gathered with the Israelites into one chosen people of God, the Church (see Isaiah 56:3–8).

Today’s Psalm also looks forward to the day when all peoples will see what Naaman sees—that there is no God in all the earth except the God of Israel.

We see this day arriving in today’s Gospel. The Samaritan leper is the only person in the New Testament who personally thanks Jesus. The Greek word used to describe his “giving thanks” is the word we translate as “Eucharist.”

And these lepers today reveal to us the inner dimensions of the Eucharist and sacramental life.

We, too have been healed by our faith in Jesus. As Naaman’s flesh is made again like that of a little child, our souls have been cleansed of sin in the waters of Baptism. We experience this cleansing again and again in the Sacrament of Penance—as we repent our sins, beg and receive mercy from our Master, Jesus.

We return to glorify God in each Mass, to offer ourselves in sacrifice—falling on our knees before our Lord, giving thanks for our salvation.

In this Eucharist, we remember “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David,” Israel’s covenant king. And we pray, as Paul does in today’s Epistle, to persevere in this faith—that we too may live and reign with Him in eternal glory.

Direct download: C_28_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Habakkuk 1:2–3; 2:2–4
Psalm 95:1–2, 6–9
2 Timothy 1:6–8, 13–14
Luke 17:5–10


Because of his faith, the just man shall live. We hear in today’s First Reading the original prophetic line made so central by St. Paul (see Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

We are to live by faith in Christ who loved us and gave Himself on the Cross for us (see Galatians 2:20).

The world, though, can seem to us as seventh-century Judah seemed to Habakkuk—in the control of God’s enemies. The strife and discord we face in our own lives can sometimes cause us to wonder, as the prophet does, why God doesn’t seem to hear or intervene when we cry for help.

We can’t let our hearts be hardened by the trials we undergo. As today’s Psalm reminds us: Israel forgot His mighty works, lost faith in the sound words of His promise. They tested God in the desert, demanding a sign.

But God didn’t redeem Israel from Egypt only to let them die in the desert. And He didn’t ransom us from futility only to abandon us in our trials. He is our God and we are the people He shepherds always—though at times His mercy and justice seem long delayed.

If we call on the Lord, as the Apostles do in today’s Gospel, He will increase our faith, will stir to a flame the Holy Spirit who has dwelt within us since Baptism.

As Paul tells us in today’s Epistle, the Lord will always give us the love and self-control we need to bear our share of hardship for the Gospel—with a strength that can come from God alone.
Our task is to continue doing what He has commanded—to love and to build up His kingdom—trusting that His vision still presses on to its fulfillment.

For His vision still has its time. One day, though we are but “unprofitable servants,” we will be invited to eat and drink at our Master’s table. It is that day we anticipate with each celebration of the Eucharist.

Direct download: C_27_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Amos 6:1, 4–7
Psalm 146:7–10
1 Timothy 6:11–16
Luke 16:19–31

The rich and powerful are visited with woe and exile in today’s Liturgy—not for their wealth but for their refusal to share it; not for their power but for their
indifference to the suffering at their door.

The complacent leaders in today’s First Reading feast on fine foods and wines, reveling while the house of Joseph, the kingdom of Israel (see Amos 5:6), collapses around them.

The rich man in today’s Gospel also lives like a king—dressed in royal purple and fine linen (see 1 Maccabees 8:14).

The rich man symbolizes Israel’s failure to keep the Old Covenant, to heed the commandments of Moses and the prophets. This is the sin of the rulers in today’s First Reading. Born to the nation God favored first, they could claim Abraham as their father. But for their failure to give—their inheritance is taken away.

The rulers are exiled from their homeland. The rich man is punished with an exile far greater—eternity with a “great chasm” fixed between himself and God.

In this world, the rich and powerful make a name for themselves (see Genesis 11:4) and dine sumptuously, while the poor remain anonymous, refused an invitation to their feasts.

But notice that the Lord today knows Lazarus by name, and Joseph in his sufferings—while the leaders and the rich man have no name.

Today’s liturgy is a call to repentance—to heed the warning of One who was raised from the dead. To lay hold of the eternal life He promises, we must pursue righteousness, keep the commandment of love, as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle.

“The Lord loves the just,” we sing in today’s Psalm.

And in this Eucharist we have a foretaste of the love that will be ours in the next life—when He will raise the lowly to the heavenly banquet with Abraham and the prophets (see Luke 13:28), where we too will rest our heads on the bosom of our Lord (see John 13:23).

Direct download: C_26_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8
1 Timothy 2:1-8
Luke 16:1-13

The steward in today's Gospel confronts the reality that he can't go on living the way he has been. He is under judgment, must give account for what he has done.

The exploiters of the poor in today's First Reading are also about to be pulled down, thrust from their stations (see Isaiah 22:19). Servants of mammon or money, they're so in love with wealth that they reduce the poor to objects, despise the new moons and Sabbaths—the observances and holy days of God (see Leviticus 23:24; Exodus 20:8).

Their only hope is to follow the steward's path. He is no model of repentance. But he makes a prudent calculation—to use his last hours in charge of his master's property to show mercy to others, to relieve their debts.

He is a child of this world, driven by a purely selfish motive—to make friends and be welcomed into the homes of his master's debtors. Yet his prudence is commended as an example to us, the children of light (see 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8). We too must realize, as the steward does, that what we have is not honestly ours, but what in truth belongs to another, our Master.

All the mammon in the world could not have paid the debt we owe our Master. So He paid it for us, gave His life as a ransom for all, as we hear in today's Epistle.

God wants everyone to be saved, even kings and princes, even the lovers of money (see Luke 16:14). But we cannot serve two Masters. By his grace, we should choose to be, as we sing in today's Psalm—”servants of the Lord.”

We serve Him by using what He has entrusted us with to give alms, to lift the lowly from the dust and dunghills of this world. By this we will gain what is ours, be welcomed into eternal dwellings, the many mansions of the Father's house (see John 14:2).

Direct download: C_25_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Exodus 32:7–11, 13–14
Psalm 51:3–4, 12–13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12–17
Luke 15:1–10


The episode in today’s First Reading has been called “Israel’s original sin.” Freed from bondage, born as a people of God in the covenant at Sinai, Israel turned aside from His ways and fell to worshipping a golden calf.

Moses implores God’s mercy, just as Jesus will later intercede for the whole human race. Just as He still pleads for sinners at God’s right hand and through the ministry of the Church.

Israel’s sin is the sin of the world. It is your sin and mine. Ransomed from death and made His children in Baptism, we fall prey to the idols of this world. We remain a “stiff-necked people,” resisting His will for us like an ox refuses the plowman’s yoke (see Jeremiah 7:26).

Like Israel, in our sin we push God away and reject our divine sonship. Once He called us “my people” (see Exodus 3:10; 6:7). But our sin makes us “no people,” people He should, in justice, disown (see Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Peter 2:10).

Yet in His mercy, He is faithful to the covenant He swore by His own self in Jesus. In Jesus, God comes to Israel and to each of us—as a shepherd to seek the lost (see Ezekiel 34:11–16), to carry us back to the heavenly feast, the perpetual heritage promised long ago to Abraham’s children.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” Paul cries in today’s Epistle. These are the happiest words the world has ever known. Because of Jesus, as Paul himself can testify, even the blasphemer and persecutor can seek His mercy.

As the sinners do in today’s Gospel, we draw near to listen to Him. In this Eucharist, we bring Him the acceptable sacrifice we sing of in today’s Psalm—our hearts, humbled and contrite.

In the company of His angels and saints, we rejoice that He has wiped out our offense. We celebrate with Him that we have turned from the evil way that we might live (see Ezekiel 18:23).

Direct download: C_24_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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 up front 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, to 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; we 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 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. We have been 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, ready to be filled with His kindness. For He has given us wisdom of heart and taught us to number our days aright.

Direct download: C_23_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm 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, 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 have also gained a share of His inheritance. We are to live humbly, knowing we 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. It is 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: 12:00pm EDT

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), and He will draw to Himself brethren from among all the nations to worship in the heavenly Jerusalem, to glorify Him for His kindness, as we sing in today’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, rendering 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 and take our place at the banquet of the righteous.

Direct download: C_21_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm 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: 12:00pm 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. They were 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 now we 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. He 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 and be delivered from death.

Direct download: C_19_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21–23
Psalm 90:3–4, 5–6, 12–13, 14, 17
Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11
Luke 12:13–21


Trust in God—as the Rock of our salvation, as the Lord who made us His chosen people, as our shepherd and guide. This should be the mark of our following of Jesus.

Like the Israelites we recall in this week’s Psalm, we have made an exodus, passing through the waters of Baptism, freeing us from our bondage to sin. We too are on a pilgrimage to a promised homeland, the Lord in our midst, feeding us heavenly bread, giving us living waters to drink (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–4).

We must take care to guard against the folly that befell the Israelites, that led them to quarrel and test God’s goodness at Meribah and Massah.

We can harden our hearts in ways more subtle but no less ruinous. We can put our trust in possessions, squabble over earthly inheritances, kid ourselves that what we have we deserve, store up treasures and think they’ll afford us security and rest.

All this is “vanity of vanities,” a false and deadly way of living, as this week’s First Reading tells us.

This is the greed that Jesus warns against in this week’s Gospel. The rich man’s anxiety and toil expose his lack of faith in God’s care and provision. That’s why Paul calls greed “idolatry” in the Epistle this week. Mistaking having for being, possession for existence, we forget that God is the giver of all that we have. We exalt the things we can make or buy over our Maker (see Romans 1:25).

Jesus calls the rich man a “fool”—a word used in the Old Testament for someone who rebels against God or has forgotten Him (see Psalm 14:1).

We should treasure most the new life we have been given in Christ and seek what is above, the promised inheritance of heaven. We have to see all things in the light of eternity, mindful that He who gives us the breath of life could at any moment—this night even—demand it back from us.

Direct download: C_18_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Genesis 18:20–32
Psalm 138:1–3, 6–8
Colossians 2:12–14
Luke 11:1–13

Though we be “but dust and ashes,” we can presume to draw near and speak boldly to our Lord, as Abraham dares in this week’s First Reading.

But even Abraham—the friend of God (see Isaiah 41:8), our father in the faith (see Romans 4:12)—did not know the intimacy that we know as children of Abraham, heirs of the blessings promised to his descendants (see Galatians 3:7, 29).

The mystery of prayer, as Jesus reveals to His disciples in this week’s Gospel, is the living relationship of beloved sons and daughters with their heavenly Father. Our prayer is pure gift, made possible by the “good gift” of the Father—the Holy Spirit of His Son. It is the fruit of the New Covenant by which we are made children of God in Christ Jesus (see Galatians 4:6–7; Romans 8:15–16).

Through the Spirit given to us in Baptism, we can cry to Him as our Father—knowing that when we call He will answer.

Jesus teaches His disciples to persist in their prayer, as Abraham persisted in begging God’s mercy for the innocent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

For the sake of the one just Man, Jesus, God spared the city of man from destruction (see Jeremiah 5:1; Isaiah 53), “obliterating the bond against us,” as Paul says in this week’s Epistle.

On the Cross, Jesus bore the guilt of us all, canceled the debt we owed to God, the death we deserved to die for our transgressions. We pray as ones who have been spared, visited in our affliction, saved from our enemies.

We pray always a prayer of thanksgiving, which is the literal meaning of Eucharist. We have realized the promise of this week’s Psalm: We worship in His holy temple, in the presence of angels, hallowing His name.

In confidence we ask, knowing that we will receive, that He will bring to completion what He has done for us—raising us from the dead, bringing us to everlasting life along with Him.

Direct download: C_17_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Genesis 18:1–10
Psalm 15:2–5
Colossians 1:24–28
Luke 10:38–42


God wants to dwell with each of us personally, intimately—as the mysterious guests once visited Abraham’s tent, as Jesus once entered the home of Mary and Martha.

By his hospitality in this week’s First Reading, Abraham shows us how we are to welcome the Lord into our lives. His selfless service of his divine guests (see Hebrews 13:1) stands in contrast to the portrait of Martha drawn in this week’s Gospel.

Where Abraham is concerned only for the well-being of his guests, Martha speaks only of herself—“Do you not care that my sister has left me by myself? . . . Tell her to help me.” Jesus’ gentle rebuke reminds us that we risk missing the divine in the mundane, that we can fall into the trap of believing that God somehow needs to be served by human hands (see Acts 17:25).

Our Lord comes to us not to be served but to serve (see Matthew 20:28). He gave His life that we might know the one thing we need, the “better part,” which is life in the fellowship of God.

Jesus is the true Son promised today by Abraham’s visitors (see Matthew 1:1). In Him, God has made an everlasting covenant for all time, made us blessed descendants of Abraham (see Genesis
17:19, 21; Romans 4:16–17, 19–21).

The Church now offers us this covenant, bringing to completion the word of God, the promise of His plan of salvation, what Paul calls “the mystery hidden for ages.”

As once He came to Abraham, Mary, and Martha, Christ now comes to each of us in Word and Sacrament. As we sing in this week’s Psalm: He will make His dwelling with those who keep His Word
and practice justice (see also John 14:23).

If we do these things we will not be anxious or disturbed, will not have our Lord taken from us. We will wait on the Lord, who told Abraham and tells each of us: “I will surely return to you.”

Direct download: C_16_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Deuteronomy 30:10–14
Psalm 69:14, 17, 30–31, 33–34, 36–37
Colossians 1:15–20
Luke 10:25–37


We are to love God and our neighbor with all the strength of our being, as the scholar of the Law answers Jesus in this week’s Gospel.

This command is nothing remote or mysterious—it’s already written in our hearts, in the book of Sacred Scripture. “You have only to carry it out,” Moses says in this week’s First Reading.

Jesus tells His interrogator the same thing: “Do this and you will live.”

The scholar, however, wants to know where he can draw the line. That’s the motive behind his question: “Who is my neighbor?”

In his compassion, the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable reveals the boundless mercy of God—who came down to us when we were fallen in sin, close to dead, unable to pick ourselves up.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” this week’s Epistle tells us. In Him, the love of God has come very near to us. By the “blood of His Cross”—by bearing His neighbors’ sufferings in His own body, being Himself stripped and beaten and left for dead—He saved us from bonds of sin, reconciled us to God and to one another.

Like the Samaritan, He pays the price for us, heals the wounds of sin, pours out on us the oil and wine of the sacraments, entrusts us to the care of His Church, until He comes back for us.

Because His love has known no limits, ours cannot either. We are to love as we have been loved, to do for others what He has done for us—joining all things together in His Body, the Church.

We are to love like the singer of this week’s Psalm—like those whose prayers have been answered, like those whose lives have been saved, who have known the time of His favor, have seen God in His great mercy turn toward us.

This is the love that leads to eternal life, the love Jesus commands today of each of us—“Go and do likewise.”

Direct download: C_15_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20
Galatians 6:14-18
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20


Jesus has a vision in this week’s Gospel—Satan falling like lightning from the sky, the enemy vanquished by the missionary preaching of His Church.

Sent out by Jesus to begin gathering the nations into the harvest of divine judgment (see Isaiah 27:12–13; Joel 4:13), the 70 are a sign of the continuing mission of the Church.

Carrying out the work of the 70, the Church proclaims the coming of God’s kingdom, offers His blessings of peace and mercy to every household on earth—“every town and place He intended to visit.”

Our Lord’s tone is solemn today. For in the preaching of the Church “the kingdom of God is at hand,” the time of decision has come for every person. Those who do not receive His messengers will be doomed like Sodom.

But those who believe will find peace and mercy, protection and nourishment in the bosom of the Church, the Mother Zion we celebrate in this week’s beautiful First Reading, the “Israel of God” Paul blesses in this week’s Epistle.

The Church is a new family of faith (see Galatians 6:10) in which we receive a new name that will endure forever (see Isaiah 66:22), a name written in heaven.

In this week’s Psalm we sing of God’s “tremendous deeds among men” throughout salvation history. But of all the works of God, none has been greater than what He has wrought by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Changing the sea into dry land was but an anticipation and preparation for our passing over, for what Paul calls the “new creation.”

And as the exodus generation was protected in a wilderness of serpents and scorpions (see Deuteronomy 8:15), He has given His Church power now over “the full force of the Enemy.” Nothing will harm us as we make our way through the wilderness of this world, awaiting the Master of the harvest, awaiting the day when all on earth will shout joyfully to the Lord, sing praise to the glory of His name.

Direct download: C_14_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
1 Kings 19:16–21
Psalm 16:1–2, 5, 7–11
Galatians 5:1, 13–18
Luke 9:51–62


In today’s First Reading, God forgives “the reproach” of the generations who grumbled against Him after the Exodus. On the threshold of the promised land Israel can with a clean heart celebrate the Passover, the feast of God’s firstborn son (see Joshua 5:6–7; Exodus 4:22; 12:12–13).

Reconciliation is also at the heart of the story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of Israel and of the human race. But it is also the story of every believer.

In Baptism, we’re given a divine birthright, made “a new creation,” as Paul puts it in today’s Epistle. But when we sin, we’re like the Prodigal Son, quitting our Father’s house, squandering our inheritance in trying to live without Him.

Lost in sin, we cut ourselves off from the grace of sonship lavished upon us in Baptism. It is still possible for us to come to our senses, to make our way back to the Father, as the prodigal does.

But only He can remove the reproach and restore the divine sonship we have spurned. Only He can free us from the slavery to sin that causes us—like the Prodigal Son—to see God not as our Father but as our master, One we serve as slaves.

God wants not slaves but children. Like the father in today’s Gospel, He longs to call each of us “My son,” to share His life with us, to tell us: “Everything I have is yours.”

The Father’s words of longing and compassion still come to His prodigal children in the Sacrament of Penance. This is part of what Paul today calls “the ministry of reconciliation” entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles and the Church.

Reconciled like Israel, we take our place at the table of the Eucharist, the homecoming banquet the Father calls for His lost sons, the new Passover we celebrate this side of heaven. We taste the goodness of the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm, rejoicing that we who were dead are found alive again.

Direct download: C_13_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Genesis 14:18–20
Psalm 110:1–4
1 Corinthians 11:23–26
Luke 9:11–17

At the dawn of salvation history, God revealed our future in figures. That’s what’s going on in today’s First Reading: A king and high priest comes from Jerusalem (see Psalm 76:3), offering bread and wine to celebrate the victory of God’s beloved servant, Abram, over his foes.

By his offering, Melchizedek bestows God’s blessings on Abram. He is showing us, too, how one day we will receive God’s blessings and in turn “bless God”—how we will give thanks to Him for delivering us from our enemies, sin and death.

As Paul recalls in today’s Epistle, Jesus transformed the sign of bread and wine, making it a sign of His Body and Blood, through which God bestows upon us the blessings of His “new covenant.”

Jesus is “the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,” that God, in today’s Psalm, swears will rule from Zion, the new Jerusalem (see Hebrews 6:20–7:3).

By the miracle of loaves and fishes, Jesus in today’s Gospel again prefigures the blessings of the Eucharist.

Notice that He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to the Twelve. You find the precise order and words in the Last Supper (see Luke 22:19) and in His celebration of the Eucharist on the first Easter night (see Luke 24:30).

The Eucharist fulfills the offering of Melchizedek. It is the daily miracle of the heavenly high priesthood of Jesus.

It is a priesthood He conferred upon the Apostles in ordering them to feed the crowd, in filling exactly twelve baskets with leftover bread, in commanding them on the night He was handed over: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Through His priests He still feeds us in “the deserted place” of our earthly exile. And by this sign He pledges to us a glory yet to come. For as often as we share in His body and blood, we proclaim His victory over death, until He comes again to make His victory our own.

Direct download: C_Corpus_Christi_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Proverbs 8:22–31
Psalms 8:4–9
Romans 5:1–5
John 16:12–15


In today’s Liturgy we’re swept through time in glorious procession—from before earth and sky were set in place to the coming of the Spirit upon the new creation, the Church.

We begin in the heart of the Trinity, as we listen to the testimony of Wisdom in today’s First Reading. Eternally begotten, the first-born of God, He is poured forth from of old in the loving
delight of the Father.

Through Him the heavens were established, the foundations of the earth fixed. From before the beginning, He was with the Father as His “Craftsman,” the artisan by which all things were made. And He took special delight, He tells us, in the crowning glory of God’s handiwork—the human race, the “sons of men.”

In today’s Psalm, He comes down from heaven, is made a little lower than the angels, comes among us as “the Son of Man” (see Hebrews 2:6–10).

All things are put under His feet so that He can restore to humanity the glory for which we were made from the beginning, the glory lost by sin. He tasted death that we might be raised to life in the Trinity, that His name might be made glorious over all the earth.

Through the Son, we have gained grace and access in the Spirit to the Father, as Paul boasts in today’s Epistle (see Ephesians 2:18).

The Spirit, the Love of God, has been poured out into our hearts—a Spirit of adoption, making us children of the Father once more (see Romans 8:14–16).

This is the Spirit that Jesus promises in today’s Gospel.

His Spirit comes as divine gift and anointing (see 1 John 2:27), to guide us to all truth, to show us “the things that are coming,” the things that were meant to be from before all ages—that we will find peace and union in God, we will share the life of the Trinity, we will dwell in God as He dwells in us (see John 14:23; 17:21).

Direct download: C_Trinity_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 2:1–11
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3–7, 12–13
John 20:19–23


The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history.

The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God’s chosen people in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15–21; Deuteronomy 16:9–11).

In today’s First Reading the mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (see Acts 1:14).

The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised (see 2 Corinthians 3:2–8; Romans 8:2).

The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which He made all things, as we sing in today’s Psalm. In the beginning, the Spirit came as a “mighty wind” sweeping over the face of the earth (see Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as “a strong, driving wind” to renew the face of the earth.

As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (see Genesis 2:7), in today’s Gospel we see the New Adam become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47).

Like a river of living water, for all ages He will pour out His Spirit on His body, the Church, as we hear in today’s Epistle (see also John 7:37–39).

We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a “new creation” in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity—fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.

Direct download: C_Pentecost_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 7:55–60
Psalm 97:1–2, 6–7, 9
Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20
John 17:20–26


(In dioceses where Ascension is celebrated on Sunday, see also the reflection for the Ascension of the Lord.)

Jesus is praying for us in today’s Gospel. We are those who have come to believe in Him through the Word of the Apostles, handed on in His Church.

Jesus showed the Apostles His glory, and made known the Father’s name and the love He has had for us from “before the foundation of the world.”

He revealed that He and the Father are one (see John 14:9).

Jesus is the “first and the last” (see Isaiah 44:6), the root of David (see Isaiah 11:10; 2 Samuel 7:12), as today’s Second Reading declares.

Wrapped in clouds and darkness as God was at Sinai (see Exodus 19:16), He is “the king . . . the Most High over all the earth,” as we sing in today’s Psalm.

Exalted at God’s right hand, as Stephen sees in the First Reading, the Lord calls to us through the Church, His Bride.

He calls us to “the tree of life,” to communion with God. This is the goal of His love, His saving purpose from all eternity—that each of us enter into the life of Blessed Trinity, be “brought to perfection as one” with the Father and Son in the Spirit.

The story of Stephen, the first martyr, shows us how we are to answer His call.

Listen for the echoes of the Crucifixion: Stephen, like Jesus, sees the Son of Man in glory and dies with words of forgiveness and self-offering on his lips (compare Acts 7:56–60; Matthew 26:64–65; Luke 23:24, 46).

We, too, are to commend our spirits to the Father, to pray and offer our lives in love for our brethren, awaiting His coming in judgment. We renew our vows in every Mass, coming forward to receive the gift of His life.

We answer His call by crying out a call of our own: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”

And in our communion we answer our Lord’s prayer: “That they may all be one, as You, Father are in Me and I in You.

Direct download: C_7_Easter_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 15:1–2, 22–29
Psalm 67:2–3, 5–6, 8
Revelation 21:10–14, 22–23
John 14:23–29


The first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem we hear about in today’s First Reading, decided the shape of the Church as we know it.

Some Jewish Christians had wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and obey all the complex ritual and purity laws of the Jews.

The council called this a heresy, again showing us that the Church in the divine plan is meant to be a worldwide family of God, no longer a covenant with just one nation.

Today’s Liturgy gives us a profound meditation on the nature and meaning of the Church.

The Church is one, as we see in the First Reading: “the Apostles [bishops] and presbyters [priests], in agreement with the whole Church [laity].”

The Church is holy, taught and guided by the Spirit that Jesus promises the Apostles in the Gospel.

The Church is catholic, or universal, making known God’s ways of salvation to all peoples, ruling all in equity, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

And the Church, as John sees in the Second Reading, is apostolic—founded on the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

All these marks of the Church are underscored in the story of the council.

Notice that everybody, including Paul, looks to “Jerusalem [and] . . . the Apostles” to decide the Church’s true teaching. The Apostles, too, presume that Christian teachers need a “mandate from us.”

And we see the Spirit guiding the Apostles in all truth. Notice how they describe their ruling: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.”

Knowing these truths about the Church, our hearts should never be troubled. The Liturgy’s message today is that the Church is the Lord’s, watched over and guarded by the Advocate, the Holy Spirit sent by the Father in the name of the Son.

This should fill us with confidence, free us to worship with exultation, inspire us to rededicate our lives to His Name—to love Jesus in our keeping of His Word, to rejoice that He and the Father in the Spirit have made their dwelling with us.

Direct download: C_6_Easter_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 14:21-27
Psalm 145:8-13
Revelation 21:1-5
John 13:31-35


By God’s goodness and compassion, the doors of His kingdom have been opened to all who have faith, Jew or Gentile.

That’s the good news Paul and Barnabas proclaim in today’s First Reading. With the coming of the Church—the new Jerusalem John sees in today’s Second Reading—God is “making all things new.”

In His Church, the “old order” of death is passing away and God for all time is making His dwelling with the human race, so that all peoples “will be His people and God Himself will always be with them.” In this the promises made through His prophets are accomplished (see Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 25:8; 35:10).

The Church is “the kingdom for all ages” that we sing of in today’s Psalm. That’s why we see the Apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, ordaining “presbyters” or priests (see 1 Timothy 4:14; Titus 1:5).

Anointed priests and bishops will be the Apostles’ successors, ensuring that the Church’s “dominion endures through all generations” (see Philippians 1:1, note that the New American Bible translates episcopois, the Greek word for bishops, as “overseers”).

Until the end of time, the Church will declare to the world God’s mighty deeds, blessing His holy name and giving Him thanks, singing of the glories of His kingdom.

In His Church, we know ourselves as His “faithful ones,” as those Jesus calls “My little children” in today’s Gospel. We live by the new law, the “new commandment” that He gave in His final hours.

The love He commands of us is no human love but a supernatural love. We love each other as Jesus loved us in suffering and dying for us. We love in imitation of His love.

This kind of love is only made possible by the Spirit poured into our hearts at Baptism (see Romans 5:5), renewed in the sacrifice His priests offer in every Mass.

By our love we glorify the Father. And by our love all peoples will know that we are His people, that He is our God.

Direct download: C_5_Easter_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 13:14, 43–52
Psalm 100:1–3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14–17
John 10:27–30


Israel’s mission—to be God’s instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth (see Isaiah 49:6)—is fulfilled in the Church.

By the “Word of God” that Paul and Barnabas preach in today’s First Reading, a new covenant people is being born, a people who glorify the God of Israel as the Father of them all.

The Church for all generations remains faithful to the grace of God given to the Apostles and continues their saving work. Through the Church the peoples of every land hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him (see Luke 10:16).

The Good Shepherd of today’s Gospel is the enthroned Lamb of today’s Second Reading. In laying down His life for His flock, the Lamb brought to fulfillment a new Passover (see 1 Corinthians 5:7), by His blood freeing “every nation, race, people and tongue” from bondage to sin and death.

The Church is the “great multitude” John sees in his vision today. God swore to Abraham his descendants would be too numerous to count. And in the Church, as John sees, this promise is fulfilled (compare Revelation 7:9; Genesis 15:5).

The Lamb rules from the throne of God, sheltering His flock, feeding their hunger with His own Body and Blood, leading them to “springs of life-giving waters” that well up to eternal life (see John 4:14).

The Lamb is the eternal Shepherd-King, the son of David foretold by the prophets. His Church is the kingdom of all Israel that the prophets said would be restored in an everlasting covenant (see Ezekiel 34:23–31; 37:23–28).

It is not a kingdom any tribe or nation can jealously claim as theirs alone. The Shepherd’s Word to Israel is addressed now to all lands, calling all to worship and bless His name in the heavenly temple.

This is the delight of the Gentiles—that we can sing the song that once only Israel could sing, today’s joyful Psalm: “He made us, His we are—His people, the flock He tends.”

Direct download: C_4_Easter_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 5:27–32, 40–41
Psalm 30:2, 4–6, 11–13
Revelation 5:11–14
John 21:1–19


There are two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a “charcoal fire” is mentioned. One is in today’s Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.

The other is in the scene in the High Priest’s courtyard on Holy Thursday, where Peter and some guards and slaves warm themselves while Jesus is being interrogated inside (see John 18:18).

At the first fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted (see John 13:38; 18:15–18, 25–27).

Today’s charcoal fire becomes the scene of Peter’s repentance, as three times Jesus asks him to make a profession of love. Jesus’ thrice repeated command, “feed My sheep,” shows that Peter is being appointed as the shepherd of the Lord’s entire flock, the head of His Church (see also Luke 22:32).

Jesus’ question, “Do you love me more than these?” is a pointed reminder of Peter’s pledge to lay down his life for Jesus, even if the other Apostles might weaken (see John 13:37; Matthew 26:33; Luke 22:33).

Jesus then explains just what Peter’s love and leadership will require, foretelling Peter’s death by crucifixion (“you will stretch out your hands”).

Before His own death, Jesus had warned the Apostles that they would be hated as He was hated, that they would suffer as He suffered (see Matthew 10:16–19, 22; John 15:18–20; 16:2).

We see the beginnings of that persecution in today’s First Reading. Flogged as Jesus was, the Apostles nonetheless leave “rejoicing that they have been found worthy to suffer.”

Their joy is based on their faith that God will change their “mourning into dancing,” as we sing in today’s Psalm. By their sufferings, they know, they will be counted worthy to stand in heaven before “the Lamb that was slain,” a scene glimpsed in today’s Second Reading (see also Revelation 6:9–11).

Direct download: C_3_Easter_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 5:12–16
Psalm 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24
Revelation 1:9–13, 17–19
John 20:19–31


The prophet Daniel in a vision saw “One like the Son of Man” receive everlasting kingship (see Daniel 7:9–14). John is taken to heaven in today’s Second Reading where he sees Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, who appears as “One like a Son of Man.”

Jesus is clad in the robe of a High Priest (see Exodus 28:4; Wisdom 18:24) and wearing the gold sash of a king (see 1 Maccabees 10:89). He has been exalted by the right hand of the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

His risen body, which the Apostles touch in today’s Gospel, has been made a lifegiving Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 15:45).

As the Father anointed Him with the Spirit and power (see Acts 10:38), Jesus pours out that Spirit on the Apostles, sending them into the world “as the Father has sent Me.”

Jesus “breathes” the Spirit of His divine life into the Apostles—as God blew the “breath of life” into Adam (see Genesis 2:7), as Elijah’s prayer returned “the life breath” to the dead child (see 1 Kings 17:21–23), and as the Spirit breathed new life into the slain in the valley of bones (see Ezekiel 37:9–10).

His creative breath unites the Apostles—His Church—to His body, and empowers them to breathe His life into a dying world, to make it a new creation.

In today’s Gospel and First Reading, we see the Apostles fulfilling this mission with powers only God possesses—the power to forgive sins and to work “signs an wonders,” a biblical expression only used to describe the mighty works of God (see Exodus 7:3; 11:10; Acts 7:36).

Thomas and the others saw “many other signs” after Jesus was raised from the dead. They saw and they believed. They have been given His life, which continues in the Church’s Word and
sacraments, so that we who have not seen might inherit His blessings and “have life in His name.”

Direct download: Divine_Mercy_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 10:34, 37–43
Psalm 118:1–2, 16–17, 22–23
Colossians 3:1–4
John 20:1–9

Jesus is nowhere visible. Yet today’s Gospel tells us that Peter and John “saw and believed.”

What did they see? Burial shrouds lying on the floor of an empty tomb. Maybe that convinced them that He hadn’t been carted off by grave robbers, who usually stole the expensive burial linens and left the corpses behind.

But notice the repetition of the word “tomb”—seven times in nine verses. They saw the empty tomb and they believed what He had promised: that God would raise Him on the third day.

Chosen to be His “witnesses,” today’s First Reading tells us, the Apostles were “commissioned . . . to preach . . . and testify” to all that they had seen—from His anointing with the Holy Spirit at the Jordan to the empty tomb.

More than their own experience, they were instructed in the mysteries of the divine economy, God’s saving plan—to know how “all the prophets bear witness” to Him (see Luke 24:27, 44).

Now they could “understand the Scripture,” could teach us what He had told them—that He was “the Stone which the builders rejected,” that today’s Psalm prophesies His Resurrection and exaltation (see Luke 20:17; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11).

We are the children of the apostolic witnesses. That is why we still gather early in the morning on the first day of every week to celebrate this feast of the empty tomb, give thanks for “Christ our life,” as today’s Epistle calls Him.

Baptized into His death and Resurrection, we live the heavenly life of the risen Christ, our lives “hidden with Christ in God.” We are now His witnesses, too. But we testify to things we cannot see but only believe; we seek in earthly things what is above.

We live in memory of the Apostles’ witness, like them eating and drinking with the risen Lord at the altar. And we wait in hope for what the Apostles told us would come—the day when we too “will appear with Him in glory.”

Direct download: C_Easter_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 50:4–7
Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24
Philippians 2:6–11
Luke 22:14–23:56


“What is written about Me is coming to fulfillment,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel (see Luke 22:37).

Indeed, we have reached the climax of the liturgical year, the highest peak of salvation history, when all that has been anticipated and promised is to be fulfilled.

By the close of today’s long Gospel, the work of our redemption will have been accomplished, the new covenant will be written in the blood of His broken body hanging on the cross at the place called the Skull.

In His Passion, Jesus is “counted among the wicked,” as Isaiah had foretold (see Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed definitively as the Suffering Servant the prophet announced, the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in today’s First Reading and Psalm.

The taunts and torments we hear in these two readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (see Luke 22:63–65; 23:10–11, 16), as His hands and feet are pierced (see Luke 23:33), as enemies gamble for His clothes (see Luke 23:34), and as three times they dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Luke 23:35, 37, 39).

He remains faithful to God’s will to the end, does not turn back in His trial. He gives Himself freely to His torturers, confident that, as He speaks in today’s First Reading: “The Lord God is My help . . . I shall not be put to shame.”

Destined to sin and death as children of Adam’s disobedience, we have been set free for holiness and life by Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father’s will (see Romans 5:12–14, 17–19; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6).

This is why God greatly exalted Him. This is why we have salvation in His Name. Following His example of humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our lives, we know we will never be forsaken, that one day we too will be with Him in Paradise (see Luke 23:42). Seeing and Believing.

Direct download: C_Passion_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 43:16–21
Psalm 126:1–6
Philippians 3:8–14
John 8:1–11


The Liturgy this Lent has shown us the God of the Exodus. He is a mighty and gracious God, Who out of faithfulness to His covenant has done “great things” for His people, as today’s Psalm puts it.

But the “things of long ago,” Isaiah tells us in today’s First Reading, are nothing compared to the “something new” that He will do in the future.

Today’s First Reading and Psalm look back to the marvelous deeds of the Exodus. Both see in the Exodus a pattern and prophecy of the future, when God will restore the fortunes of His people fallen in sin. The readings today look forward to a still greater Exodus, when God will gather in the exiled tribes of Israel that had been scattered to the four winds, the ends of the
earth.

The new Exodus that Israel waited and hoped for has come in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like the adulterous woman in today’s Gospel, all have been spared by the Lord’s compassion. All have heard His words of forgiveness, His urging to repentance, to be sinners no more. Like Paul in today’s Epistle, Christ has taken possession of every one, claimed each as a child of our heavenly Father.

In the Church, God has formed a people for Himself to announce His praise, just as Isaiah said He would. And as Isaiah promised, He has given His “chosen people” living waters to drink in the desert wastelands of the world (see John 7:37–39).

But our God is ever a God of the future, not of the past. We are to live with hopeful hearts, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead,” as Paul tells us. His salvation, Paul says, is power in the present, “the power of His resurrection.”

We are to live awaiting a still greater and final Exodus, pursuing “the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling,” striving in faith to attain the last new thing God promises—”the resurrection of the dead.”

Direct download: C_5_Lent_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Joshua 5:9–12
Psalm 34:2–7
2 Corinthians 5:17–21
Luke 15:1–311–32

In today’s First Reading, God forgives “the reproach” of the generations who grumbled against Him after the Exodus. On the threshold of the promised land, Israel can with a clean heart celebrate the Passover, the feast of God’s firstborn son (see Joshua 5:6–7Exodus 4:2212:12–13).

Reconciliation is also at the heart of the story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of Israel and of the human race. But it is also the story of every believer.

In Baptism, we’re given a divine birthright, made “a new creation,” as Paul puts it in today’s Epistle. But when we sin, we’re like the Prodigal Son, quitting our Father’s house, squandering our inheritance in trying to live without Him.

Lost in sin, we cut ourselves off from the grace of sonship lavished upon us in Baptism. It is still possible for us to come to our senses, make our way back to the Father, as the prodigal does.

But only He can remove the reproach and restore the divine sonship we have spurned. Only He can free us from the slavery to sin that causes us—like the Prodigal Son—to see God not as our Father but as our master, One we serve as slaves.

God wants not slaves but children. Like the father in today’s Gospel, He longs to call each of us “My son,” to share His life with us, to tell us: “Everything I have is yours.”

The Father’s words of longing and compassion still come to His prodigal children in the Sacrament of Penance. This is part of what Paul today calls “the ministry of reconciliation” entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles and the Church.

Reconciled like Israel, we take our place at the table of the Eucharist, the homecoming banquet the Father calls for His lost sons, the new Passover we celebrate this side of heaven. We taste the goodness of the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm, rejoicing that we who were dead are found alive again.

Direct download: C_4_Lent_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Exodus 3:1–813–15
Psalm 103:1–46–811
1 Corinthians 10:1–610–12
Luke 13:1–9

 


In the Church, we are made children of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God who makes known His name and His ways to Moses in today’s First Reading.

Mindful of His covenant with Abraham (see Exodus 2:24), God came down to rescue His people from the slave drivers of Egypt. Faithful to that same covenant (see Luke 1:54–5572–73), He sent Jesus to redeem all lives from destruction, as today’s Psalm tells us.

Paul says in today’s Epistle that God’s saving deeds in the Exodus were written down for the Church, intended as a prelude and foreshadowing of our own Baptism by water, our liberation from sin, our feeding with spiritual food and drink.

Yet the events of the Exodus were also given as a “warning”—that being children of Abraham is no guarantee that we will reach the promised land of our salvation.

At any moment, Jesus warns in today’s Gospel, we could perish—not as God’s punishment for being “greater sinners”—but because, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we stumble into evil desires, fall into grumbling, forget all His benefits.

Jesus calls us today to “repentance”—not a one-time change of heart, but an ongoing, daily transformation of our lives. We’re called to live the life we sing about in today’s Psalm—blessing His holy name, giving thanks for His kindness and mercy.

The fig tree in His parable is a familiar Old Testament symbol for Israel (see Jeremiah 8:324:1–10). As the fig tree is given one last season to produce fruit before it is cut down, so too Jesus is giving Israel one final opportunity to bear good fruits as evidence of its repentance (see Luke 3:8).

Lent should be for us like the season of reprieve given to the fig tree, a grace period in which we let “the gardener,” Christ, cultivate our hearts, uprooting what chokes the divine life in us, strengthening us to bear fruits that will last into eternity.

Direct download: C_3_Lent_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Genesis 15:5–1217–18
Psalm 27:17–913–14
Philippians 3:17–4:1
Luke 9:28–36

 


In today’s Gospel, we go up to the mountain with Peter, John, and James. There we see Jesus “transfigured,” speaking with Moses and Elijah about His “exodus.”

The Greek word “exodus” means “departure.” But the word is chosen deliberately here to stir our remembrance of the Israelites’ flight from Egypt.

By His death and resurrection, Jesus will lead a new Exodus—liberating not only Israel but every race and people; not from bondage to Pharaoh, but from slavery to sin and death. He will lead all mankind, not to the territory promised to Abraham in today’s First Reading, but to the heavenly commonwealth that Paul describes in today’s Epistle.

Moses, the giver of God’s law, and the great prophet Elijah, were the only Old Testament figures to hear the voice and see the glory of God atop a mountain (see Exodus 24:15–181 Kings 19:8–18).

Today’s scene closely resembles God’s revelation to Moses, who also brought along three companions and whose face also shone brilliantly (see Exodus 24:134:29). But when the divine cloud departs in today’s Gospel, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains. He has revealed the glory of the Trinity—the voice of the Father, the glorified Son, and the Spirit in the shining cloud.

Jesus fulfills all that Moses and the prophets had come to teach and show us about God (see Luke 24:27). He is the “chosen One” promised by Isaiah (see Isaiah 42:1Luke 23:35), the “prophet
like me” that Moses had promised (see Deuteronomy 18:15Acts 3:22–237:37). Far and above that, He is the Son of God (see Psalm 2:7Luke 3:21–23).

“Listen to Him,” the Voice tells us from the cloud. If, like Abraham, we put our faith in His words, one day we too will be delivered into “the land of the living” that we sing of in today’s Psalm. We will share in His resurrection, as Paul promises, our lowly bodies glorified like His.

Direct download: C_2_Lent_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Deuteronomy 26:4–10
Psalm 91:1–210–15
Romans 10:8–13
Luke 4:1–13

 


In today’s epic Gospel scene, Jesus relives in His flesh the history of Israel.

We’ve already seen that, like Israel, Jesus has passed through water and been called God’s beloved Son (see Luke 3:22Exodus 4:22). Now, as Israel was tested for forty years in the wilderness, Jesus is led into the desert to be tested for forty days and nights (see Exodus 15:25).

He faces the temptations put to Israel: Hungry, He’s tempted to grumble against God for food (see Exodus 16:1–13). As Israel quarreled at Massah, He’s tempted to doubt God’s care (see Exodus 17:1–6). When the Devil asks for His homage, He’s tempted to do what Israel did in creating the golden calf (see Exodus 32).

Jesus fights the Devil with the Word of God, three times quoting from Moses’ lecture about the lessons Israel was supposed to learn from its wilderness wanderings (see Deuteronomy 8:36:166:12–15).

Why do we read this story on the first Sunday of Lent? Because like the biblical sign of forty (see Genesis 7:12Exodus 24:1834:281 Kings 19:8Jonah 3:4), the forty days of Lent are a time of trial and purification.

Lent is to teach us what we hear over and over in today’s readings. “Call upon me, and I will answer,” the Lord promises in today’s Psalm. Paul promises the same thing in today’s Epistle (quoting Deuteronomy 30:14Isaiah 28:16Joel 2:32).

This was Israel’s experience, as Moses reminds his people in today’s First Reading: “We cried to the LORD . . . and He heard.” But each of us is tempted, as Israel was, to forget the great deeds He works in our lives, to neglect our birthright as His beloved sons and daughters.

Like the litany of remembrance Moses prescribes for Israel, we should see in the Mass a memorial of our salvation, and “bow down in His presence,” offering ourselves in thanksgiving for all He has given us.

Direct download: C_1_Lent_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
1 Samuel 26:27–912–1322–23
Psalm 103:1–13
1 Corinthians 15:45–49
Luke 6:27–38

 


The story of David and Saul in today’s First Reading functions almost like a parable. Showing mercy to his deadly foe, David gives a concrete example of what Jesus expects to become a way of life for His disciples.

The new law Jesus gives in today’s Gospel would have us all become “Davids”—loving our enemies, doing good to those who would harm us, extending a line of credit to those who won’t ever repay us.

The Old Law required only that the Israelites love their fellow countrymen (see Leviticus 19:18). The new law Jesus brings makes us kin to every man and woman (see also Luke 10:29–36). His kingdom isn’t one of tribe or nationality. It’s a family. As followers of Jesus, we’re to live as He lived among us—as “children of the Most High” (see Luke 6:351:35).

As sons and daughters, we want to walk in the ways of our heavenly Father, to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Grateful for His mercy, we’re called to forgive others their trespasses because God has forgiven ours.

In the context of today’s liturgy, we’re all “Sauls”—by our sinfulness and pride we make ourselves enemies of God. But we’ve been spared a death we surely deserved to die because God has loved and shown mercy to His enemies, “the ungrateful and the wicked,” as Jesus says.

Jesus showed us this love in His Passion, forgiving His enemies as they stripped Him of cloak and tunic, cursed Him and struck Him on the cheek, condemned Him to death on a cross (see Luke 22:63–6523:34). “He redeems your life from destruction,” David reminds us in today’s Psalm.

That’s the promise, too, of today’s Epistle: that we who believe in the “last Adam,” Jesus, will rise from the dead in His image, as today we bear the image of the “first Adam,” who by his sin made God an enemy and brought death into the world (see 1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

Direct download: C_7_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Jeremiah 17:5–8
Psalm 1:1–46
1 Corinthians 15:1216–20
Luke 6:1720–26

 


The blessings and woes we hear in today’s Gospel mark the perfection of all the wisdom of the Old Testament.

That wisdom is summed up with marvelous symmetry in today’s First Reading and Psalm: Each declares that the righteous—those who hope in the Lord and delight in His Law—will prosper like a tree planted near living waters. The wicked, who put their “trust in human beings,” are cursed to wither and die.

Jesus is saying the same thing in the Gospel. The rich and poor are, for Him, more than members of literal economic classes. Their material state symbolizes their spiritual state.

The rich are “the insolent” of today’s Psalm, boasting of their self-sufficiency, the strength of their flesh, as Jeremiah says in the First Reading. The poor are the humble, who put all their hope and trust in the Lord.

We’ve already seen today’s dramatic imagery of reversal in Mary’s “Magnificat.” There, too, the rich are cast down while the hungry are filled and the lowly exalted (see Luke 1:45–55 also 16:19–31).

That’s the upside-down world of the Gospel: in poverty we gain spiritual treasure unimaginable; in suffering and even dying “on account of the Son of Man,” we find everlasting life.

The promises of the Old Testament were promises of power and prosperity—in the here and now. The promise of the New Covenant is joy and true freedom even amid the misery and toil of this life. But not only that. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we’re to be pitied if our hope is “for this life only.”

The blessings of God mean that we’ll laugh with the thanksgiving of captives released from exile (see Psalm 126:1–2), feast at the heavenly table of the Lord (see Psalm 107:3–9), “leap for joy” as John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb (see Luke 6:231:4144), and rise with Christ, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Direct download: C_6_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 138:1-5, 7-8

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

 

Simon Peter, the fisherman, is the first to be called personally by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.

His calling resembles Isaiah’s commissioning in the First Reading: Confronted with the holiness of the Lord, both Peter and Isaiah are overwhelmed by a sense of their sinfulness and inadequacy. Yet each experiences the Lord’s forgiveness and is sent to preach the good news of His mercy to the world.

 

No one is “fit to be called an apostle,” Paul recognizes in today’s Epistle. But by “the grace of God,” even a persecutor of the Church—as Paul once was—can be lifted up for the Lord’s service.

In the Old Testament, humanity was unfit for the  divine—no man could stand in God’s presence and live (see Exodus 33:20). But in Jesus, we’re made able to speak with Him face-to-face, taste His Word on our tongue.

Today’s scene from Isaiah is recalled in every Mass. Before reading the Gospel, the priest silently asks God to cleanse his lips that he might worthily proclaim His Word.

God’s Word comes to us as it came to Peter, Paul, Isaiah, and today’s Psalmist— as a personal call to leave everything and follow Him, to surrender our weaknesses in order to be filled with His strength.

Simon put out into deep waters even though, as a professional fisherman, he knew it would be foolhardy to expect to catch anything. In humbling himself before the Lord’s command, he was exalted—his nets filled to overflowing; later, as Paul tells us, he will become the first to see the risen Lord.

Jesus has made us worthy to receive Him in the company of angels in God’s holy Temple. On our knees like Peter, with the humility of David in today’s Psalm, we thank Him with all our hearts and join in the unending hymn that Isaiah heard around God’s altar: “Holy, holy, holy....” (see also Revelation 4:8).

Direct download: C_5_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19
Psalm 71: 1-6,15-17
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30


God's words in today's First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a "prophet to the nations" (see Luke 1:31-33).

Like the prophets before Him, Jesus too faces hostility. In today's Gospel, the crowd in His hometown synagogue quickly turns on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origins - that He's more than just "the son of Joseph."

The sign He gives them is that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. From their colorful careers Jesus draws two stories. In each, the prophets bypass "many...in Israel" to bestow God's blessings on non-Israelites who had faith that the prophets were men of God (see 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14). "None...not one" in Israel was found deserving, Jesus emphasizes.

His point isn't lost on His audience. They know He's likening them to the "many...in Israel" in the days of the prophets. That's why they try to shove Him off the cliff. As He promised to protect Jeremiah, the Lord delivers Jesus from those who would crush Him.

And as were Elijah and Elisha, Jesus is sent to proclaim God's gift of salvation - not exclusively to one nation or people, but to all who realize in faith that from the womb God alone is their hope, their rescuer, their "rock of refuge," as we sing in today's Psalm.

Prophecies, Paul tells us in today's Epistle, are partial and pass away "when the perfect comes." In Jesus, the word of the prophets has been brought to perfection, fulfilled in those who have ears to hear, as He declares in today's Gospel.

Greater than the gifts of faith and hope, Jesus shows us how to love as He loved, to love God as our Father, as One Who formed us in the womb and destined us to hear His saving Word.

This is the salvation, the "mighty works of the Lord," that we, as the Psalmist, are thankful to proclaim daily in the Eucharist.

Direct download: C_4_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

New Day Dawns

Readings:
Nehemiah 8:2-6,10
Psalms 19:8-10,15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21


The meaning of today's Liturgy is subtle and many-layered.

We need background to understand what's happening in today's First Reading.

Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15-17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).

The stage was set for the renewal of the covenant and the re-establishment of the Law of Moses as the people's rule of life. That's what's going on in today's First Reading, as Ezra reads and interprets (see Nehemiah 8:8) the Law and the people respond with a great "Amen!"

Israel, as we sing in today's Psalm, is rededicating itself to God and His Law. The scene seems like the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus reads from in today's Gospel.

Read all of Isaiah 61. The "glad tidings" Isaiah brings include these promises: the liberation of prisoners (61:1); the rebuilding of Jerusalem, or Zion (61:3-4; see also Isaiah 60:10); the restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests (61:6; Exodus 19:6) and the forging of an everlasting covenant (61:8; Isaiah 55:3). It sounds a lot like the First Reading.

Jesus, in turn, declares that Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in Him. The Gospel scene, too, recalls the First Reading. Like Ezra, Jesus stands before the people, is handed a scroll, unrolls it, then reads and interprets it (compare Luke 4:16-17,21 and Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10).

We witness in today's Liturgy the creation of a new people of God. Ezra started reading at dawn of the first day of the Jewish new year (see Leviticus 23:24). Jesus too proclaims a "sabbath," a great year of Jubilee, a deliverance from slavery to sin, a release from the debts we owe to God (see Leviticus 25:10).

The people greeted Ezra "as one man." And, as today's Epistle teaches, in the Spirit the new people of God - the Church - is made "one body" with Him.

Direct download: C_3_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 (or Acts 10:34-38 or Is 40:1-5, 9-11 or Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7)

Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10 (or Ps 104:1-4, 24-25, 27-30)

Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The Liturgy last week revealed the mystery of God's plan - that in Jesus all peoples, symbolized by the Magi, have been made "co-heirs" to the blessings promised Israel. This week, we're shown how we claim our inheritance.

Jesus doesn't submit to John's baptism as a sinner in need of purification. He humbles Himself to pass through Jordan's waters in order to lead a new "exodus" - opening up the promised land of heaven so that all peoples can hear the words pronounced over Jesus today, words once reserved only for Israel and its king: that each of us is a beloved son or daughter of God (see Genesis 22:2; Exodus 4:22; Psalm 2:7).

Jesus is the chosen servant Isaiah prophesies in today's First Reading, anointed with the Spirit to make things right and just on earth. God puts His Spirit upon Jesus to make Him "a covenant of the people," the liberator of the captives, the light to the nations. Jesus, today's Second Reading tells us, is the One long expected in Israel, "anointed...with the Holy Spirit and power."

The word Messiah means "one anointed" with God's Spirit. King David was "the anointed of the God of Jacob" (see 2 Samuel 23:1-17; Psalm 18:51; 132:10,17). The prophets taught Israel to await a royal offshoot of David, upon whom the Spirit would rest (see Isaiah 11:1-2; Daniel 9:25).

That's why the crowds are so anxious at the start of today's Gospel. But it isn't John they're looking for. God confirms with His own voice what the Angel earlier told Mary - Jesus is the Son of the Most High, come to claim the throne of David forever (see Luke 1:32-33).

In the Baptism that He brings, the voice of God will hover over the waters as fiery flame, as we sing in today's Psalm. He has sanctified the waters, made them a passage-way to healing and freedom - a fountain of new birth and everlasting life.

Direct download: C_Baptism_of_Lord_2016.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

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:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

 

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: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

1 Kings 1:10-16

Psalm 146:7-10

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12:28-24

 

We must live by the obedience of faith, a faith that shows itself in works of charity and self-giving (see Galatians 5:6). That’s the lesson of the two widows in today’s liturgy.

 

The widow in the First Reading isn’t even a Jew, yet she trusts in the word of Elijah and the promise of his Lord. Facing sure starvation, she gives all that she has, her last bit of food—feeding the man of God before herself and her family.

 

The widow in the Gospel also gives all that she has, offering her last bit of money to support the work of God’s priests in the Temple.

 

In their self-sacrifice, these widows embody the love that Jesus last week revealed as the heart of the Law and the Gospel. They mirror the Father’s love in giving His only Son, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross.

 

Again in today’s Epistle, we hear Christ described as a new high priest and the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah. On the cross, He made sacrifice once and for all to take away our sin and bring us to salvation (see Isaiah 53:12).

 

And again we are called to imitate His sacrifice of love in our own lives. We will be judged, not by how much we give—for the scribes and wealthy contribute far more than the widow. Rather, we will be judged by whether our gifts reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart and soul, mind and strength.

 

Are we giving all that we can to the Lord—not out of a sense of forced duty, but in a spirit of generosity and love (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7)?

 

Do not be afraid, the man of God tells us today. As we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord will provide for us, as he sustains the widow.

 

Today, let us follow the widows’ example, doing what God asks, confident that our jars of flour will not grow empty, nor our jugs of oil run dry.

Direct download: B_32_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:2-6

Psalm 18:2-4,47,57

Hebrews 7:23-28

Mark 12:28-34

Love is only law we are to live by. And love is the fulfillment of the Law that God reveals through Moses in today’s First Reading (see Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 5:43-48).

 

The unity of God—the truth that He is one God, Father, Son, and Spirit—means that we must love Him with one love, a love that serves Him with all our hearts and minds, souls and strength.

 

We love Him because He has loved us first. We love our neighbor because we can’t love the God we haven’t seen unless we love those made in His image and likeness, whom we have seen (see 1 John 4:19-21).

 

And we are called imitate the love that Christ showed us in laying His life down on the cross (see 1 John 3:16). As we hear in today’s Epistle, by His perfect sacrifice on the cross, He once and for all makes it possible for us to approach God.

 

There is no greater love than to lay down your life (see John 15:13). This is perhaps why Jesus tells the scribe in today’s Gospel that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

 

The scribe recognizes that the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the old Law were meant to teach Israel that it is love that He desires (see Hosea 6:6). The animals offered in sacrifice were symbols of the self-sacrifice, the total gift of our selves that God truly desires.

 

We are called today to examine our hearts. Do we have other loves that get in the way of our love for God? Do we love others as Jesus has loved us (see John 13:34-35)? Do we love our enemies and pray for those who oppose and persecute us (see Matthew 5:44)?

 

Let us tell the Lord we love Him, as we do in today’s Psalm. And let us take His Word to heart, that we might prosper and have life eternal in His kingdom, the heavenly homeland flowing with milk and honey.

Direct download: B_31_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-11

Psalm 33:4-5,18-20,22

Hebrews 4:14-16

Mark 10:35-45

 

The sons of Zebedee hardly know what they’re asking in today’s Gospel. They are thinking in terms of how the Gentiles rule, of royal privileges and honors.

 

But the road to Christ’s kingdom is by way of His cross. To share in His glory, we must be willing to drink the cup that He drinks.

 

The cup is an Old Testament image for God’s judgment. The wicked would be made to drink this cup in punishment for their sins (see Psalm 75:9; Jeremiah 25:15, 28; Isaiah 51:17). But Jesus has come to drink this cup on behalf of all humanity. He has come to be baptized—which means plunged or immersed—into the sufferings we all deserve for our sins (compare Luke 12:50).

 

In this He will fulfill the task of Isaiah’s suffering servant, whom we read about in today’s First Reading.

 

Like Isaiah’s servant, the Son of Man will give His life as an offering for sin, as once Israel’s priests offered sacrifices for the sins of the people (see Leviticus 5:17-19).

 

Jesus is the heavenly high priest of all humanity, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Israel’s high priests offered the blood of goats and calves in the temple sanctuary. But Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood (see Hebrews 9:12).

 

And by bearing our guilt and offering His life to do the will of God, Jesus ransomed “the many”—paying the price to redeem humanity from spiritual slavery to sin and death.

 

He has delivered us from death, as we rejoice in today’s Psalm.

 

We need to hold fast to our confession of faith, as today’s Epistle exhorts us. We must look upon our trials and sufferings as our portion of the cup He promised to those who believe in Him (see Colossians 1:24). We must remember that we have been baptized into His passion and death (see Romans 6:3).

 

In confidence, let us approach the altar today, the throne of grace, at which we drink the cup of His saving blood (see Mark 14:23-24).

Direct download: B_29_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

 

Readings:

Wisdom 7:7-11

Psalm 90:12-17

Hebrews 4:12-13

Mark 10:17-30

 

The rich young man in today’s Gospel wanted to know what we all want to know—how to live in this life so that we might live forever in the world to come. He sought what today’s Psalm calls “wisdom of heart.”

 

He learns that the wisdom he seeks is not a program of works to be performed, or behaviors to be avoided. As Jesus tells him, observing the commandments is essential to walking the path of salvation—but it can only get us so far.

 

The Wisdom of God is not precepts, but a person—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Wisdom whose Spirit was granted to Solomon in today’s First Reading. Jesus is the Word of God spoken of in today’s Epistle. And Jesus, as He reveals himself to the rich man today, is God.

 

In Jesus we encounter Wisdom, the living and effective Word of God. As He does with the rich man today, He looks upon each of us with love. That look of love, that loving gaze, is a personal invitation—to give up everything to follow Him.

 

Nothing is concealed from His gaze, as we hear in the Epistle. In His fiery eyes, the thoughts of our hearts are exposed, and each of us must render an account of our lives (see Revelation 1:14).

 

We must have the attitude of Solomon, preferring Wisdom to all else, loving Him more than even life itself. This preference, this love, requires a leap of faith. We will be persecuted for this faith, Jesus tells His disciples today. But we must trust in His promise—that all good things will come to us in His company.

 

What, then, are the “many possessions” that keep us from giving ourselves totally to God? What are we clinging to—material things, comfort zones, relationships? What will it take for us to live fully for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel?

 

Let us pray for the wisdom to enter into the kingdom of God. With the Psalmist, let us ask Him, “Teach us.”

Direct download: B_28_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Wisdom 2:12,17-20
Psalm 54:3-8
James 3:16-4:3
Mark 9:30-37

 


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 8:3110:33–34).

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.

Direct download: B_25_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 35:4-7

Psalm 146:7-10

James 2:1-5

Mark 7:31-37

 

The incident in today's Gospel is recorded only by Mark. The key line is what the crowd says at the end: "He has done all things well." In the Greek, this echoes the creation story, recalling that God saw all the things he had done and declared them good (see Genesis 1:31). 

 

Mark also deliberately evokes Isaiah's promise, which we hear in today's First Reading that God will make the deaf hear and the mute speak. He even uses a Greek word to describe the man's condition (mogilalon = "speech impediment") that's only found in one other place in the Bible—in the Greek translation of today's Isaiah passage, where the prophet describes the "dumb" singing.

 

The crowd recognizes that Jesus is doing what the prophet had foretold. But Mark wants us to see something far greater—that, to use the words from today's First Reading: "Here is your God."

 

Notice how personal and physical the drama is in the Gospel. Our focus is drawn to a hand, a finger, ears, a tongue, spitting. In Jesus, Mark shows us, God has truly come in the flesh.

 

What He has done is to make all things new, a new creation (see Revelation 21:1-5). As Isaiah promised, He has made the living waters of baptism flow in the desert of the world. He has set captives free from their sins, as we sing in today's Psalm. He has come that rich and poor might dine together in the Eucharistic feast, as James tells us in today's Epistle.

 

He has done for each of us what He did for that deaf mute. He has opened our ears to hear the Word of God, and loosed our tongues that we might sing praises to Him.

 

Let us then, in the Eucharist, again give thanks to our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. Let us say with Isaiah, Here is our God, He comes to save us. Let us be rich in faith, that we might inherit the kingdom promised to those who love Him.

Direct download: B_23_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8

Psalm 15:2-5

James 1:17-18,21-22,27

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

 

 

Today's Gospel casts Jesus in a prophetic light, as one having authority to interpret God's law.

 Jesus' quotation from Isaiah today is ironic (see Isaiah 29:13). In observing the law, the Pharisees honor God by ensuring that nothing unclean passes their lips. In this, however, they've turned the law inside out, making it a matter of simply performing certain external actions.

 The gift of the law, which we hear God giving to Israel in today's First Reading, is fulfilled in Jesus' gospel, which shows us the law's true meaning and purpose (see Matthew 5:17).

 The law, fulfilled in the gospel, is meant to form our hearts, to make us pure, able to live in the Lord's presence. The law was given that we might live and enter into the inheritance promised to us -- the kingdom of God, eternal life.

 Israel, by its observance of the law, was meant to be an example to surrounding nations. As James tells us in today's Epistle, the gospel was given to us that we might have new birth by the Word of truth. By living the Word we've received, we're to be examples of God's wisdom to those around us, the "first fruits" of a new humanity.

 This means we must be "doers" of the Word, not merely hearers of it. As we sing in today's Psalm and hear again in today's Epistle, we must work for justice, taking care of our brothers and sisters, and living by the truth God has placed in our hearts.

 The Word given to us is a perfect gift. We should not add to it through vain and needless devotions. Nor should we subtract from it by picking and choosing which of His laws to honor.

 "Hear me," Jesus says in today's Gospel. Today, we're called to examine our relationship to God's law.

 Is the practice of our religion a pure listening to Jesus, a humble welcoming of the Word planted in us and able to save our souls? Or are we only paying lip-service?    

Direct download: B_22_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 34:2-3, 16-23

Ephesians 5:21-32

John 6:60-69

 This Sunday's Mass readings conclude a four-week meditation on the Eucharist.

 The 12 apostles in today's Gospel are asked to make a choice -- either to believe and accept the new covenant He offers in His body and blood, or return to their former ways of life.

Their choice is prefigured by the decision Joshua asks the 12 tribes to make in today's First Reading.

 Joshua gathers them at Shechem -- where God first appeared to their father Abraham, promising to make his descendants a great nation in a new land (see Genesis 12:1-9). And he issues a blunt challenge -- either renew their covenant with God or serve the alien gods of the surrounding nations.

 We too are being asked today to decide whom we will serve. For four weeks we have been presented in the liturgy with the mystery of the Eucharist -- a daily miracle far greater than those performed by God in bringing the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

 He has promised us a new homeland, eternal life, and offered us bread from heaven to strengthen us on our journey. He has told us that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we will have no life in us.

 It is a hard saying, as many murmur in today's Gospel. Yet He has given us the words of eternal life.

 We must believe, as Peter says today, that He is the Holy One of God, who handed himself over for us, gave His flesh for the life of the world.

 As we hear in today's Epistle, Jesus did this that we might be sanctified, made holy, through the water and word of baptism by which we enter into His new covenant. Through the Eucharist, He nourishes and cherishes us, making us His own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh.

 Let us renew our covenant today, approaching the altar with confidence that, as we sing in today's Psalm, the Lord will redeem the lives of His servants.    

Direct download: B_21_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 34:2-3, 10-15

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58

 The Wisdom of God has prepared a feast, we hear in today's First Reading.

 We must become like children (see Matthew 18:3-4) to hear and accept this invitation. For in every Eucharist, it is the folly of the cross that is represented and renewed.

 To the world, it is foolishness to believe that the crucified Jesus rose from the dead. And for many, as for the crowds in today's Gospel, it is foolishness -- maybe even madness -- to believe that Jesus can give us His flesh to eat.

 Yet Jesus repeats himself with gathering intensity in the Gospel today. Notice the repetition of the words "eat" and "drink," and "my flesh" and "my blood." To heighten the unbelievable realism of what Jesus asks us to believe, John in these verses uses, not the ordinary Greek word for eating, but a cruder term, once reserved to describe the "munching" of feeding animals.

 The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). In His foolish love, He chooses to save those who believe that His flesh is true food, His blood, true drink.

 Fear of the Lord, the desire to live by His will, is the beginning of true wisdom, Paul says in today's Epistle (see Proverbs 9:10). And as we sing in today's Psalm, those who fear Him shall not want for any good thing.

Again today in the liturgy, we are called to renew our faith in the Eucharist, to forsake the foolishness of believing only what we can see with our eyes.

We approach, then, not only an altar prepared with bread and wine, but the feast of Wisdom, the banquet of heaven -- in which God our savior renews His everlasting covenant and promises to destroy death forever (see Isaiah 25:6-9).

Let us make the most of our days, as Paul says, always, in the Eucharist, giving thanks to God for everything in the name of Jesus, the bread c0me down from heaven. 

Direct download: B_20_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

1 Kings 19:4-8

Psalm 34:2-9

Ephesians 4:30-5:2

John 6:41-51

 

Sometimes we feel like Elijah in today's First Reading. We want to lie down and die, keenly aware of our failures, that we seem to be getting no better at doing what God wants of us.

 We can be tempted to despair, as the prophet was on his forty-day journey in the desert. We can be tempted to "murmur" against God, as the Israelites did during their forty years in the desert (see Exodus 16:2,7,8; 1 Corinthians 10:10).

 The Gospel today uses the same word, "murmur," to describe the crowds, who reenact Israel's hardheartedness in the desert.

 Jesus tells them that prophecies are being fulfilled in Him, that they are being taught by God. But they can't believe it. They can only see His flesh, that He is the "son" of Joseph and Mary.

 Yet if we believe, if we seek Him in our distress, He will deliver us from our fears, as we sing in today's Psalm.

 At the altar in every Eucharist, the angel of the Lord, the Lord himself (see Exodus 3:1-2), touches us. He commands us to take and eat His flesh given for the life of the world (see Matthew 26:26).

 This taste of the heavenly gift (see Hebrews 6:4-5) comes to us with a renewed command -- to get up and continue on the journey we began in baptism, to the mountain of God, the kingdom of heaven.

 He will give us the bread of life, the strength and grace we need -- as He fed our spiritual ancestors in the wilderness and Elijah in the desert.

 So let us stop grieving the Spirit of God, as Paul says in today's Epistle, in another reference to Israel in the desert (see Isaiah 63:10).

 Let us say to God as Elijah did, "Take my life." Not in the sense of wanting to die. But in giving ourselves as a sacrificial offering -- loving Him as He has loved us, on the cross and in the Eucharist. 

Direct download: B_19_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15

Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54

Ephesians 4:17, 20–24

John 6:24–35

 The journey of discipleship is a life-long exodus from the slavery of sin and death to the holiness of truth in Mount Zion, the promised land of eternal life.

 The road can get rough. And when it does, we can be tempted to complain like the Israelites in this week’s First Reading.

 We have to see these times of hardship as a test of what is in our hearts, a call to trust God more and to purify the motives for our faith (Deuteronomy 8:2–3).

 As Paul reminds us in this week’s Epistle, we must leave behind our old self-deceptions and desires and live according to the likeness of God in which we are made.

Jesus tells the crowd in this week’s Gospel that they are following him for the wrong reasons. They seek him because he filled their bellies. The Israelites, too, were content to follow God so long as there was plenty of food.

 Food is the most obvious of signs—because it is the most basic of our human needs.  We need our daily bread to live. But we cannot live by this bread alone. We need the bread of eternal life that preserves those who believe in him (Wisdom 16:20, 26).

 The manna in the wilderness, like the bread Jesus multiplied for the crowd, was a sign of God’s Providence—that we should trust that he will provide.

 These signs pointed to their fulfillment in the Eucharist, the abundant bread of angels we sing about in this week’s Psalm.

 This is the food that God longs to give us. This is the bread we should be seeking. But too often we don’t ask for this bread. Instead we seek the perishable stuff of our every day wants and anxieties. In our weakness we think these things are what we really need.

We have to trust God more. If we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all these things will be ours as well (Matthew 6:33).

Direct download: B_18_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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 twelve 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_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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 misled 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_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Amos 7:12-15

Psalms 85:9-14

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:7-13

 In commissioning the apostles in today's Gospel, Jesus gives them, and us, a preview of His Church's mission after the resurrection.

 His instructions to the Twelve echo those of God to the twelve tribes of Israel on the eve of their exodus from Egypt. The Israelites likewise were sent out with no bread and only one set of clothes, wearing sandals and carrying a staff (see Exodus 12:11; Deuteronomy 8:2-4). Like the Israelites, the apostles are to rely solely on the providence of God and His grace.

 Perhaps, also, Mark wants us to see the apostles' mission, the mission of the Church, as that of leading a new exodus - delivering peoples from their exile from God and bringing them to the promised land, the kingdom of heaven.

 Like Amos in today's First Reading, the apostles are not "professionals," who earn their bread by prophesying. Like Amos, they are simply men (see Acts 14:15) summoned from their ordinary jobs and sent by God to be shepherds of their brothers and sisters.

 Again this week, we hear the theme of rejection: Amos experiences it, and Jesus warns the apostles that some will not welcome or listen to them. The Church is called, not necessarily to be successful, but only to be faithful to God's command. 

 With authority and power given to it by Jesus, the Church proclaims God's peace and salvation to those who believe in Him, as we sing in today's Psalm.

 This word of truth, this gospel of salvation, is addressed to each of us, personally, as Paul proclaims in today's Epistle. In the mystery of God's will, we have been chosen from before the foundation of the world - to be His sons and daughters, to live for the praise of His glory.

 Let us, then, give thanks for the Church today, and for the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon us. Let us resolve to further the Church's mission - to help others hear the call to repentance and welcome Christ into their lives.

Direct download: B_15_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

As we’ve walked with the apostles in the Gospels in recent weeks, we’ve witnessed Jesus command the wind and sea, and order a little girl to arise from the dead.

But He seems to meet His match in His hometown of Nazareth. Today’s Gospel is blunt: “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”

Why not? Because of the people’s lack of faith. They acknowledged the wisdom of His words, the power of His works. But they refused to recognize Him as a prophet come among them, a messenger sent by God.

All they could see was how much “this man” was like them - a carpenter, the son of their neighbor, Mary, with brothers and sisters.

Of course, Mary was ever-virgin, and had no other children. The Gospel refers to Jesus’ brothers as Paul refers to all Israelites as his brothers, the children of Abraham (see Romans 9:3,7).

That’s the point in today’s Gospel, too. Like the prophet Ezekiel in today’s First Reading, Jesus was sent by God to the rebellious house of Israel, where He found His own brothers and sisters obstinate of heart and in revolt against God. 

The servant is not above the Master (see Matthew 10:24). As His disciples, we too face the mockery and contempt we hear of in today’s Psalm. And isn’t it often hardest to live our faith among those in our own families, those who think they really know us, who define us by the people we used to be - before we chose to walk with Jesus?

As Paul confides in today’s Epistle, insults and hardships are God’s way of teaching us to rely solely on His grace.

Jesus will work no mighty deeds in our lives unless we abandon ourselves to Him in faith. Blessed then are those who take no offense in Him (see Luke 7:23). Instead, we must look upon Him with the eyes of servants - knowing that the son of Mary is also the Lord enthroned in the heavens.

Direct download: B_14_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24

Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13

2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

 God, who formed us in His imperishable image, did not intend for us to die, we hear in today's First Reading. Death entered the world through the devil's envy and Adam and Eve's sin; as a result, we are all bound to die.

 But in the moving story in today's Gospel, we see Jesus liberate a little girl from the possession of death.

 On one level, Mark is recounting an event that led the disciples to understand Jesus' authority and power over even the final enemy, death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). On another level, however, this episode is written to strengthen our hope that we too will be raised from the dead, along with all our loved ones who sleep in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:18).

 Jesus commands the girl to "Arise!" - using the same Greek word used to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 16:6). And the consoling message of today's Gospel is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. If we believe in Him, even though we die, we will live (see John 15:25-26).

 We are called to have the same faith as the parents in the Gospel today - praying for our loved ones, trusting in Jesus' promise that even death cannot keep us apart. Notice the parents follow Him even though those in their own house tell them there is no hope, and even though others ridicule Jesus' claim that the dead have only fallen asleep (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

 Already in baptism, we've been raised to new life in Christ. And the Eucharist, like the food given to the little girl today, is the pledge that He will raise us on the last day. 

 We should rejoice, as we sing in today's Psalm, that He has brought us up from the netherworld, the pit of death. And, as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle, we should offer our lives in thanksgiving for this gracious act, imitating Christ in our love and generosity for others.    

Direct download: B_13_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Is 49: 1–6
Ps 139: 1–3, 13–15
Acts 13:22–26
Lk 1:57–66, 80

<hr>

The people in this week’s Gospel are frightened and amazed by the mysterious events surrounding the birth of John. Only his mother and father, Elizabeth and Zechariah, know what this child will be. John the Baptist was fashioned in secret, knit by God in his mother’s womb, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm. From the womb he was set apart, formed to be God’s servant, as Isaiah declares in this week’s
First Reading.

The whole story of John’s birth is thick with Old Testament echoes, especially echoes of the story of Abraham. God appeared to Abraham promising that his wife would bear him a son; He announced the son’s name and the role Isaac would play in salvation history (see Genesis 17:1, 16, 19).

The same thing happened to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Through His angel, God announced John’s birth to this righteous yet barren couple. He made them call John a special name—and told them the special part John would play in fulfilling His plan for history (see Luke 1:5–17).

As Paul says in today’s Second Reading, John was to herald the fulfillment of all God’s promises to the children of Abraham (Luke 1:55, 73). John was to bring the word of salvation to all the people of Israel. More than that, he was to be a light to the nations—to all those groping in the dark for God.

We often associate John with his fiery preaching (see Matthew 3:7–12). But there was a deep humility at the heart of his mission. Paul alludes to that when he quotes John’s words about not being worthy to unfasten the sandals of Christ’s feet. John said, “[Christ] must increase. I must decrease” (John 3:30).

We must have that same attitude as we seek to follow Jesus. The repentance John preached was a turning away from sin and selfishness and a turning of our whole hearts to the Father.

We must decrease so that, like John, we can grow strong in the Spirit, until Christ is made manifest in each of us.

Direct download: C_Birth_John_Baptist.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

 

 

Ezek 17:22-24                             

Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16                 

2 Cor 5:6-10  

Mark 4:26-34

 Through the oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel, God gave his people reason to hope. It would have been a cryptic message to his hearers, long centuries before the Lord’s coming. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would “put forth branches and bear fruit.” Who could have predicted that the tree would be a cross, on the hill of Calvary, and that the fruit would be salvation?

 

 Ezekiel foresees salvation coming to “birds of every kind” -- thus, not just to the Chosen People of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, who will “take wing” through their new life in Christ. God indeed will “lift high the lowly tree,” as he solemnly promises at the conclusion of the passage from the prophet.

 

 Such salvation surpasses humanity’s most ambitious dreams. And so we express our gratitude in the Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It is indeed good to give thanks, and better still to give thanks with praise. The Psalmist speaks of those who are just upon the earth, but looks to God as the source and measure of justice, of righteousness. Like Ezekiel, he evokes the image of a flourishing tree to describe the lives of the just. The image, again, suggests the cross as the measure of righteousness.

 

 The cross is a challenge to those who would rather “flourish” according to worldly terms. It is a sign of contradiction. And so Saint Paul repeatedly emphasizes, to the Corinthians, the necessity of courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proved in our deeds. The Apostle reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifested itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”

 

 Faith. Courage. God himself will empower the works he expects from us; though we may freely choose to correspond to his grace.

 

 In the prophetic oracles, in the Psalms that were sung in Jerusalem, he scattered the small seed that sprang up and became the mustard tree, large enough to accommodate all the birds of the sky, just as Ezekiel had foretold.

 

 He gave this doctrine to disciples, as he still does today, in terms they were able to understand, and he provided a full explanation. In the sacraments he provides still more: the grace of faith and the courage we need to live in the world as children of God    

Direct download: B_11_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In today’s Gospel Jesus has just been healing and casting out demons in Galilee. Along with the crowds, who flock to Him so that He can’t even take a break to eat, come people who do not understand what He is doing. Even His friends think He has lost His mind and needs to be taken away for a while. But the scribes who came down from Jerusalem are not just honestly mistaken; they accuse Him of being possessed by the prince of demons.

The reality is just the opposite. Jesus is revealing Himself as the one promised in our first reading. He is the seed of the woman who has come to crush the head of the demonic serpent. In the parable of the strong man, Jesus reveals that He has come not just to punish the devil but to free those bound by him. As St. Bede explains, “The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and His goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church.”

The scribes blaspheme by attributing this work of the Holy Spirit to demons. Jesus adds a statement that shocks us at first: “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.” That does not mean that there are any limits to the mercy of God (CCC 1864). Rather, the only sin that cannot be forgiven is the deliberate refusal to accept the mercy offered through the Holy Spirit.

Instead, we must imitate those who sat at Jesus’ feet. For, as He said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Direct download: B_10_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:12pm EDT

Readings:

Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

All of today's readings are set in the context of the Passover. The First Reading recalls the old covenant celebrated at Sinai following the first Passover and the exodus.

In sprinkling the blood of the covenant on the Israelites, Moses was symbolizing God's desire in this covenant to make them His family, His "blood" relations.

Quoting Moses' words in today's Gospel, Jesus elevates and transforms this covenant symbol to an extraordinary reality. In the new covenant made in the blood of Christ, we truly become one with His body and blood.

The first covenant made with Moses and Israel at Sinai was but a shadow of this new and greater covenant made by Christ with all humankind in that upper room (see Hebrews 10:1).

The Passover that Jesus celebrates with His 12 apostles "actualizes," makes real, what could only be symbolized by Moses' sacrifice at the altar with 12 pillars. What Jesus does today is establish His Church as the new Israel, and His Eucharist as the new worship of the living God.

In offering himself to God through the Spirit, Jesus delivered Israel from the transgressions of the first covenant. And, as we hear in today's Epistle, by His blood He purified us, and made us capable of true worship.

God does not want dead works or animal sacrifices. He wants our own flesh and blood, our own lives, consecrated to Him, offered as a living sacrifice. This is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that we sing of in today's Psalm. This is the Eucharist.

What we do in memory of Him is to pledge our lives to Him, to renew our promise to live by the words of His covenant and to be His servants.

There is no other return we can offer to Him for the eternal inheritance He has won for us. So let us approach the altar, calling upon His name in thanksgiving, taking up the cup of salvation. 

Direct download: B_Corpus_Christi.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4- 6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God's new covenant and made a new creation.

In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in His divine nature through His body and blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season - Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.

These feasts should be intimate reminders of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, to be His children (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

Today's readings illuminate how all God's words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God's blessing in Jesus Christ - the blessing we inherited in baptism, and renew in each Eucharist.

By God's word the heavens and earth were filled with His kindness, we sing in today's Psalm. Out of love, God called Abraham and chose his descendants to be His own people, Moses says in today's First Reading (see Deuteronomy 4:20,37). Through the Israelites, He revealed to the nations that He alone is Lord and there is no other.

In Jesus, God's word took flesh as a son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And Jesus reveals in the Gospel today that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that He desires to make all peoples His own.

As He led Israel out of Egypt, God freed us from slavery, Paul says in today's Epistle. As He adopted Israel (see Romans 9:4), He gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as "our Father."

As God's heirs, we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today. We are to fix our hearts on Him, and to observe all that He has commanded. The Eucharist is His pledge - that He will be with us until the end, that He will deliver us from death to live forever in the promised land of His kingdom. 

Direct download: B_Trinity.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

 Readings:

Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
John 20:19-23


The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history.

The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God's chosen people, in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15-21; Deuteronomy 16:9-11).

In today's First Reading the mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (see Acts 1:14).

The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Corinthians 3:2-8; Romans 8:2).

The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which He made all things, as we sing in today's Psalm.

In the beginning, the Spirit came as a "mighty wind" sweeping over the face of the earth (see Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as "a strong, driving wind" to renew the face of the earth.

As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (see Genesis 2:7), in today's Gospel we see the New Adam become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:45,47).

Like a river of living water, for all ages He will pour out His Spirit on His body, the Church, as we hear in today's Epistle (see also John 7:37-39).

We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a "new creation" in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity - fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.

Direct download: B_Pentecost.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26

Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20

1 John 4:11-16

 John 17:11-19

 Today’s First Reading begins by giving us a time-frame—the events take place during the days between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost. We’re at the same point in our liturgical year. On Thursday we celebrated His being taken up in glory, and next Sunday we will celebrate His sending of the Spirit upon the Church.

 Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel today also captures the mood of departure and the anticipation. He is telling us today how it will be when He is no longer in the world.

 By His ascension, the Lord has established His throne in heaven, as we sing in today’s Psalm. His kingdom is His Church, which continues His mission on earth.

 Jesus fashioned His kingdom as a new Jerusalem, and a new house of David (see Psalm 122:4-5; Revelation 21:9-14). He entrusted this kingdom to His twelve apostles, who were to preside at the Eucharistic table, and to rule with Him over the restored twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:29-30).

 The twelve apostles symbolize the twelve tribes and hence the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel (see Galatians 6:16).That’s why it is crucial to replace Judas—so that the Church in its fullness receives the Spirit at Pentecost.

 Peter’s leadership of the apostles is another key element of the Church as it is depicted today. Notice that Peter is unquestionably in control, interpreting the Scriptures, deciding a course of action, even defining the nature of the apostolic ministry.

 No one has ever seen God, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Yet, through the Church founded on His apostles, the witnesses to the resurrection, the world will come to know and believe in God’s love, that He sent His Son to be our savior.

 Through the Church, Jesus’ pledge still comes to us—that if we love, God will remain with us in our trials and protects us from the evil one. By His word of truth He will help us grow in holiness, the perfection of love.    

Direct download: B_7_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48

Psalm 98:1-4

1 John 4:7-10

John 15:9-17

 God is love, and He revealed that love in sending His only Son to be a sacrificial offering for our sins.

 In these words from today’s Epistle, we should hear an echo of the story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac at the dawn of salvation history. Because Abraham obeyed God’s command and did not with-hold his only beloved son, God promised that Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel, would be the source of blessing for all nations (see Genesis 22:16-18).

We see that promise coming to fulfillment in today’s First Reading. God pours out His Spirit upon the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, as they listen to the word of Peter’s preaching. Notice they receive the same gifts received by the devout Jews who heard Peter’s preaching at Pentecost—the Spirit comes to rest upon them and they speak in tongues, glorifying God (see Acts 2:5-11).

 In his love today, God reveals that His salvation embraces the house of Israel and peoples of all nations. Not by circumcision or blood relation to Abraham, but by faith in the Word of Christ, sealed in the sacrament of baptism, peoples are to be made children of Abraham, heirs to God’s covenants of promise (see Galatians 3:7-9; Ephesians 2:12).

 This is the wondrous work of God that we sing of in today’s Psalm. It is the work of the Church, the good fruit that Jesus chooses and appoints His apostles for in today’s Gospel.

 As Peter raises up Cornelius today, the Church continues to lift all eyes to Christ, the only one in whose name they can find salvation.

 In the Church, each of us has been begotten by the love of God. But the Scriptures today reveal that this divine gift brings with it a command and a duty. We are to love one another as we have been loved. We are to lay down our lives in giving ourselves to others—that they too might find friendship with Christ, and new life through Him    

Direct download: B_6_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 9:26-31

Psalm 22:26-28, 30-321

John 3:18-24

John 15:1-8

 In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is the true vine that God intended Israel to be—the source of divine life and wisdom for the nations (see Sirach 24:17-24).

 In baptism, each of us was joined to Him by the Holy Spirit. As a branch grows from a tree, our souls are to draw life from Him, nourished by His word and the Eucharist.

 Paul in today’s First Reading seeks to be grafted onto the visible expression of Christ the true vine—His Church. Once the chief persecutor of the Church, he encounters initial resistance and suspicion. But he is known by his fruits, by his powerful witness to the Lord working in his life (see Matthew 7:16-20).

 We too are commanded today to bear good fruits as His disciples, so that our lives give glory to God. Like Paul’s life, our lives must bear witness to His goodness.

 Jesus cautions us, however, that if we’re bearing fruit, we can expect that God will ‘prune’ us—as a gardener trims and cuts back a plant so that it will grow stronger and bear even more fruit. He is teaching us today how to look at our sufferings and trials with the eyes of faith. We need to see our struggles as pruning, by which we are being disciplined and trained so that we can grow in holiness and bear fruits of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:4-11).

 We need to always remain rooted in Him, as today’s Epistle tells us. We remain in Him by keeping His commandment of love, by pondering His words, letting them dwell richly in us (see Colossians 3:16), and by always seeking to do what pleases Him. In everything we must be guided by humility, remembering that apart from Him we can do nothing.

 As we sing in today’s Psalm, we must fulfill our vows, turning to the Lord in worship, proclaiming his praises, until all families come to know His justice in their lives.    

Direct download: B_5_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 4:8-12

Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 29

1 John 3:1-2

John 10:11-18

 Jesus, in today’s Gospel, says that He is the good shepherd the prophets had promised to Israel.

 He is the shepherd-prince, the new David--who frees people from bondage to sin and gathers them into one flock, the Church, under a new covenant, made in His blood (see Ezekiel 34:10-13, 23-31).

 His flock includes other sheep, He says, far more than the dispersed children of Israel (see Isaiah 56:8; John 11:52). And He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father.

 In today’s First Reading, we see the beginnings of that mission in the testimony of Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of His Church (see John 21:15-17).

 Peter tells Israel’s leaders that the Psalm we sing today is a prophecy of their rejection and crucifixion of Christ. He tells the “builders” of Israel’s temple, that God has made the stone they rejected the cornerstone of a new spiritual temple, the Church (see Mark 12:10-13; 1 Peter 2:4-7).

 Through the ministry of the Church, the shepherd still speaks (see Luke 10:16),and forgives sins (see John 20:23), and makes His body and blood present, that all may know Him in the breaking of the bread (see Luke 24:35). It is a mission that will continue until all the world is one flock under the one shepherd.

 In laying down His life and taking it up again, Jesus made it possible for us to know God as He did--as sons and daughters of the Father who loves us. As we hear in today’s Epistle, He calls us His children, as He called Israel His son when He led them out of Egypt and made His covenant with them (see Exodus 4:22-23; Revelation 21:7).

 Today, let us listen for His voice as He speaks to us in the Scriptures, and vow again to be more faithful followers. And let us give thanks for the blessings He bestows from His altar.

Direct download: B_4_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings: 

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-9
1 John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

Jesus in today's Gospel, teaches His apostles how to interpret the Scriptures.

He tells them that all the Scriptures of what we now call the Old Testament refer to Him. He says that all the promises found in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in His passion, death, and resurrection. And He tells them that these Scriptures foretell the mission of the Church - to preach forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning at Jersusalem.

In today's First Reading and Epistle, we see the beginnings of that mission. And we see the apostles interpreting the Scriptures as Jesus taught them to.

God has brought to fulfillment what He announced beforehand in all the prophets, Peter preaches. His sermon is shot through with Old Testament images. He evokes Moses and the exodus, in which God revealed himself as the ancestral God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Exodus 3:6,15). He identifies Jesus as Isaiah's suffering servant who has been glorified (see Isaiah 52:13).

John, too describes Jesus in Old Testament terms. Alluding to how Israel's priests offered blood sacrifices to atone for the people's sins (see Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9-10), he says that Jesus intercedes for us before God (see Romans 8:34), and that His blood is a sacrificial expiation for the sins of the world (see 1 John 1:7).

Notice that in all three readings, the Scriptures are interpreted to serve and advance the Church's mission - to reveal the truth about Jesus, to bring people to repentance, the wiping away of sins, and the perfection of their love for God.

This is how we, too, should hear the Scriptures. Not to know more "about" Jesus, but to truly know Him personally, and to know His plan for our lives.

In the Scriptures, the light of His face shines upon us, as we sing in today's Psalm. We know the wonders He has done throughout history. And we have the confidence to call to Him, and to know that He hears and answers.
    

Direct download: B_3_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings: 

Acts 4:32-35
Psalms 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31

Three times in today's Psalm we cry out a victory shout: "His mercy endures forever."

Truly we've known the everlasting love of God, who has come to us as our Savior. By the blood and water that flowed from Jesus' pierced side (see John 19:34), we've been made God's children, as we hear in today's Epistle.

Yet we never met Jesus, never heard Him teach, never saw Him raised from the dead. His saving Word came to us in the Church - through the ministry of the apostles, who in today's Gospel are sent as He was sent.

He was made a life-giving Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 15:45) and He filled His apostles with that Spirit. As we hear in today's First Reading, they bore witness to His resurrection with great power. And through their witness, handed down in the Church through the centuries, their teaching and traditions have reached us (see Acts 2:42).

We encounter Him as the apostles did - in the breaking of the bread on the Lord's day (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).

There is something liturgical about the way today's Gospel scenes unfold. It's as if John is trying to show us how the risen Lord comes to us in the liturgy and sacraments.

In both scenes it is Sunday night. The doors are bolted tight, yet Jesus mysteriously comes. He greets them with an expression, "Peace be with you," used elsewhere by divine messengers (see Daniel 10:19; Judges 6:23). He shows them signs of His real bodily presence. And on both nights the disciples respond by joyfully receiving Jesus as their "Lord."

Isn't this what happens in the Mass - where our Lord speaks to us in His Word, and gives himself to us in the sacrament of His body and blood?

Let us approach the altar with joy, knowing that every Eucharist is the day the Lord has made - when the victory of Easter is again made wonderful in our eyes. 

Direct download: B_Divine_Mercy.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings: 

Acts 10:34, 37-43
Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-9

The tomb was empty. In the early morning darkness of that first Easter, there was only confusion for Mary Magdalene and the other disciples. But as the daylight spread, they saw the dawning of a new creation.

At first they didn't understand the Scripture, today's Gospel tells us. We don't know which precise Scripture texts they were supposed to understand. Perhaps it was the sign of Jonah, who rose from the belly of the great fish after three days (see Jonah 1:17). Or maybe Hosea's prophecy of Israel's restoration from exile (see Hosea 6:2). Perhaps it was the psalmist who rejoiced that God had not abandoned him to the nether world (see Psalm 16:9-10).

Whichever Scripture it was, as the disciples bent down into the tomb, they saw and they believed. What did they see? Burial shrouds in an empty tomb. The stone removed from the tomb. Seven times in nine verses we hear that word - "tomb."

What did they believe? That God had done what Jesus said He would do - raised Him up on the third day (see Mark 9:31; 10:34).

What they saw and believed, they bore witness to, as today's First Reading tells us. Peter's speech is a summary of the gospels - from Jesus' baptism in the Jordan to His hanging on a tree (see Deuteronomy 21:22-23), to His rising from the dead.

We are children of the apostles, born into the new world of their witness. Our lives are now "hidden with Christ in God," as today's Epistle says. Like them, we gather in the morning on the first day of the week - to celebrate the Eucharist, the feast of the empty tomb.

We rejoice that the stones have been rolled away from our tombs, too. Each of us can shout, as we do in today's Psalm: "I shall not die, but live." They saw and believed. And we await the day they promised would come - when we, too, "will appear with Him in glory." 

Direct download: B_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings: 

Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalms 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:47

Crowned with thorns, our Lord is lifted up on the cross, where He dies as "King of the Jews." Notice how many times He is called "king" in today's Gospel - mostly in scorn and mockery.

As we hear the long accounts of His passion, at every turn we must remind ourselves - He suffered this cruel and unusual violence, for us.

He is the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah in today's First Reading. He reenacts the agony described in today's Psalm, and even dies with the first words of that Psalm on His lips (see Psalm 22:1).

Listen carefully for the echoes of this Psalm throughout today's Gospel - as Jesus is beaten, His hands and feet are pierced; as His enemies gamble for His clothes, wagging their heads, mocking His faith in God's love, His faith that God will deliver Him.

Are we that much different from our Lord's tormenters? Often, don't we deny that He is king, refusing to obey His only commands that we love Him and one another? Don't we render Him mock tribute, pay Him lip-service with our half-hearted devotions?

In the dark noon of Calvary, the veil in Jerusalem's temple was torn. It was a sign that by His death Jesus destroyed forever the barrier separating us from the presence of God.

He was God and yet humbled himself to come among us, we're reminded in today's Epistle. And despite our repeated failures, our frailty, Jesus still humbles himself to come to us, offering us His body and blood in the Eucharist.

His enemies never understood: His kingship isn't of this world (see John 18:36). He wants to write His law, His rule of life on our hearts and minds.

As we enter Holy Week, let us once more resolve to give Him dominion in our lives. Let us take up the cross He gives to us - and confess with all our hearts, minds, and strength, that truly this is the Son of God.

Direct download: B_Passion_Sunday.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
2 Chr 36:14–16, 19–23
Ps 137:1–6
Eph 2:4–10
Jn 3:14–21

The Sunday readings in Lent have been showing us the high points of salvation history—God’s covenant with creation in the time of Noah; His promises to Abraham; the law He gave to Israel at Sinai.

In today’s First Reading, we hear of the destruction of the kingdom established by God’s final Old Testament covenant—the covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89:3).

His chosen people abandoned the law He gave them. For their sins, the temple was destroyed, and they were exiled in Babylon. We hear their sorrow and repentance in the exile lament we sing as today’s Psalm.

But we also hear how God, in His mercy, gathered them back, even anointing a pagan king to shepherd them and rebuild the temple (see Isaiah 44:28–45:1,4).

God is rich in mercy, as today’s Epistle teaches. He promised that David’s kingdom would last forever, that David’s son would be His Son and rule all nations (see 2 Samuel 7:14–15; Psalm 2:7–9). In Jesus, God keeps that promise (see Revelation 22:16).

Moses lifted up the serpent as a sign of salvation (see Wisdom 16:6–7; Numbers 21:9). Now Jesus is lifted up on the Cross, to draw all people to himself (see John 12:32).

Those who refuse to believe in this sign of the Father’s love condemn themselves—as the Israelites in their infidelity brought judgment upon themselves.

But God did not leave Israel in exile, and He does not want to leave any of us dead in our transgressions. We are God’s handiwork, saved to live as His people in the light of His truth.

Midway through this season of repentance, let us again behold the Pierced One (see John 19:37), and rededicate ourselves to living the “good works” that God has prepared us for.

Direct download: B_4_Lent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Ex 20:1–17
Ps 19:8–11
1 Cor 1:22–25
Jn 2:13–25

Jesus does not come to destroy the temple, but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17)—to reveal its true purpose in God’s saving plan.

He is the Lord the prophets said would come—to purify the temple, banish the merchants, and make it a house of prayer for all peoples (see Zechariah 14:21; Malachi 3:1–5; Isaiah 56:7).

The God who made the heavens and the earth, who brought Israel out of slavery, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands (see Acts 7:48; 2 Samuel 7:5).

Nor does He need offerings of oxen, sheep, or doves (see Psalm 50:7–13).

Notice in today’s First Reading that God did not originally command animal sacrifices—only that Israel heed His commandments (see Jeremiah 7:21–23; Amos 5:25).

His law was a gift of divine wisdom, as we sing in today’s Psalm. It was a law of love (see Matthew 22:36–40), perfectly expressed in Christ’s self-offering on the cross (see John 15:13)

This is the “sign” Jesus offers in the Gospel today—the sign that caused Jewish leaders to stumble, as Paul tells us in the Epistle.

Jesus’ body—destroyed on the Cross and raised up three days later—is the new and true sanctuary. From the temple of His body, rivers of living water flow, the Spirit of grace that makes each of us a temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), and together builds us into a dwelling place of God (see Ephesians 2:22).

In the Eucharist we participate in His offering of His body and blood. This is the worship in Spirit and in truth that the Father desires (see John 4:23–24).

We are to offer praise as our sacrifice (see Psalm 50:14,23). This means imitating Christ—offering our bodies —all our intentions and actions in every circumstance, for the love of God and the love of others (see Hebrews 10:5–7; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5).

Direct download: B_3_Lent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Gn 22:1–2, 9–13, 15–18
Ps 116:10, 15–19
Rom 8:31–34
Mk 9:2–10

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: 12:00pm EDT

>Readings:
Jonah 3:1-5,10
Psalm 25:4-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

The calling of the brothers in today's Gospel evokes Elisha's commissioning by the prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 19:19-21).

As Elijah comes upon Elisha working on his family's farm, so Jesus sees the brothers working by the seaside. And as Elisha left his mother and father to follow Elijah, so the brothers leave their father to come after Jesus.

Jesus' promise - to make them "fishers of men" - evokes Israel's deepest hopes. The prophet Jeremiah announced a new exodus in which God would send "many fishermen" to restore the Israelites from exile, as once He brought them out of slavery in Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14-16).

By Jesus' cross and resurrection, this new exodus has begun (see Luke 9:31). And the apostles are the first of a new people of God, the Church - a new family, based not on blood ties, but on belief in Jesus and a desire to do the Father's will (see John 1:12-13; Matthew 12:46-50).

From now on, even our most important worldly concerns - family relations, occupations, and possessions - must be judged in light of the gospel, Paul says in today's Epistle.

The first word of Jesus' gospel - repent - means we must totally change our way of thinking and living, turning from evil, doing all for the love of God.

And we should be consoled by Nineveh's repentance in today's First Reading. Even the wicked Nineveh could repent at Jonah's preaching. And in Jesus we have a greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41). We have God come as our savior, to show sinners the way, as we sing in today's Psalm. This should give us hope - that loved ones who remain far from God will find compassion if they turn to Him.

But we, too, must continue along the path of repentance - striving daily to pattern our lives after His.

Direct download: B_3_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
1 Samuel 3:3-10,19
Psalm 40:2,4,7-10
1 Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20
John 1:35-42

In the call of Samuel and the first Apostles, today's Readings shed light on our own calling to be followers of Christ.

Notice in the Gospel today that John's disciples are prepared to hear God's call. They are already looking for the Messiah, so they trust in John's word and follow when he points out the Lamb of God walking by.

Samuel is also waiting on the Lord - sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant where God's glory dwells, taking instruction from Eli, the high priest.

Samuel listened to God's word and the Lord was with him. And Samuel, through his word, turned all Israel to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 3:21; 7:2-3). The disciples too, heard and followed - words we hear repeatedly in today's Gospel. They stayed with the Lord and by their testimony brought others to the Lord.

These scenes from salvation history should give us strength to embrace God's will and to follow His call in our lives.

God is constantly calling to each of us - personally, by name (see Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3). He wants us to seek Him in love, to long for His word (see Wisdom 6:11-12). We must desire always, as the apostles did, to stay where the Lord stays, to constantly seek His face (see Psalm 42:2).

For we are not our own, but belong to the Lord, as Paul says in today's Epistle.

We must have ears open to obedience, and write His word within our hearts. We must trust in the Lord's promise - that if we come to Him in faith, He will abide with us (see John 15:14; 14:21-23), and raise us by His power. And we must reflect in our lives the love He has shown us, so that others too may find the Messiah.

As we renew our vows of discipleship in this Eucharist, let us approach the altar singing the new song of today's Psalm: "Behold I come . . . to do your will O God."

Direct download: B_2_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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

Today the child born on Christmas is revealed to be the long-awaited king of the Jews.

As the priests and scribes interpret the prophecies in today's Gospel, he is the ruler expected from the line of King David, whose greatness is to reach to the ends of the earth (see Micah 5:1-3; 2 Samuel 5:2).

Jesus is found with His mother, as David's son, Solomon, was enthroned alongside his Queen Mother (see 1 Kings 2:19). And the magi come to pay Him tribute, as once kings and queens came to Solomon (see 1 Kings 10:2,25).

His coming evokes promises that extend back to Israel's beginnings.

Centuries before, an evil king seeking to destroy Moses and the Israelites had summoned Balaam, who came from the East with two servants. But Balaam refused to curse Israel, and instead prophesied that a star and royal staff would arise out of Israel and be exalted above all the nations (see Numbers 22:21; 23:7; 24:7,17).

This is the star the three magi follow. And like Balaam, they too, refuse to be tangled in an evil king's scheme. Their pilgrimage is a sign - that the prophesies in today's First Reading and Psalm are being fulfilled. They come from afar, guided by God's light, bearing the wealth of nations, to praise Israel's God.

We celebrate today our own entrance into the family of God, and the fulfillment of God's plan that all nations be united with Israel as co-heirs to His Fatherly blessings, as Paul reveals in today's Epistle.

We too, must be guided by the root of David, the bright morning star (see Revelation 22:16), and the light of the world (see Isaiah 42:6; John 8:12).

As the magi adored Him in the manger, let us renew our vow to serve Him, placing our gifts - our intentions and talents - on the altar in this Eucharist. We must offer to Him our very lives in thanksgiving. No lesser gift will suffice for this newborn King.

Direct download: B_Epiphany.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11,16
Psalm 89:2-5,27,29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

What is announced to Mary in today's Gospel is the revelation of all that the prophets had spoken. It is, as Paul declares in today's Epistle, the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-9).

Mary is the virgin prophesied to bear a son of the house of David (see Isaiah 7:13-14). And nearly every word the angel speaks to her today evokes and echoes the long history of salvation recorded in the Bible.

Mary is hailed as the daughter Jerusalem, called to rejoice that her king, the Lord God, has come into her midst as a mighty savior (see Zephaniah 3:14-17).

The One whom Mary is to bear will be Son of "the Most High" - an ancient divine title first used to describe the God of the priest-king Melchizedek, who brought out bread and wine to bless Abraham at the dawn of salvation history (see Genesis 14:18-19).

He will fulfill the covenant God makes with His chosen one, David, in today's First Reading. As we sing in today's Psalm, He will reign forever as highest of the kings of the earth, and He will call God, "my Father." As Daniel saw the Most High grant everlasting dominion to the Son of Man (see Daniel 4:14; 7:14), His kingdom will have no end.

He is to rule over the house of Jacob - the title God used in making His covenant with Israel at Sinai (see Exodus 19:3), and again used in promising that all nations would worship the God of Jacob (see Isaiah 2:1-5).

Jesus has been made known, Paul says today, to bring all nations to the obedience of faith. We are called with Mary today, to marvel at all that the Lord has done throughout the ages for our salvation. And we too, must respond to this annunciation with humble obedience - that His will be done, that our lives be lived according to His word.

Direct download: B_4_Advent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The mysterious figure of John the Baptist, introduced in last week's readings, comes into sharper focus today. Who he is, we see in today's Gospel, is best understood by who he isn't.

He is not Elijah returned from the heavens (see 2 Kings 2:11), although like him he dresses in the prophet's attire (see Mark 1:6; 2 Kings 1:8) and preaches repentance and judgment (see 1 Kings 18:21; 2 Chronicles 21:12-15).

Not Elijah in the flesh, John is nonetheless sent in the spirit and power of Elijah to fulfill his mission (see Luke 1:17; Malachi 3:23-24).

Neither is John the prophet Moses foretold, although he is a kinsman and speaks God's word (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 6:14). Nor is John the Messiah, though he has been anointed by the Spirit since the womb (see Luke 1:15, 44).

John prepares the way for the Lord (see Isaiah 40:3). His baptism is symbolic, not sacramental. It is a sign given to stir our hearts to repentance.

John shows us the One upon whom the Spirit remains (see John 1:32), the One who fulfills the promise we hear in today's First Reading (see Luke 4:16-21). Jesus' bath of rebirth and the Spirit opens a fountain that purifies Israel and gives to all a new heart and a new Spirit (see Zechariah 13:1-3; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Mark 1:8; Titus 3:5).

John comes to us in the Advent readings to show us the light, that we might believe in the One who comes at Christmas. As we sing in today's Responsorial, the Mighty One has come to lift each of us up, to fill our hunger with bread from heaven (see John 6:33, 49-51).

And as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle, we should rejoice, give thanks, and pray without ceasing that God will make us perfectly holy in spirit, soul, and body - that we may be blameless when our Lord comes.

Direct download: B_3_Advent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:30pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 40:1-59-11
Psalm 85:9-14
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

Our God is coming. The time of exile – the long separation of humankind from God due to sin – is about to end. This is the good news proclaimed in today’s liturgy.

Isaiah in today’s First Reading promises Israel’s future release and return from captivity and exile. But as today’s Gospel shows, Israel’s historic deliverance was meant to herald an even greater saving act by God – the coming of Jesus to set Israel and all nations free from bondage to sin, to gather them up and carry them back to God.

God sent an angel before Israel to lead them in their exodus towards the promised land (see Exodus 23:20). And He promised to send a messenger of the covenant, Elijah, to purify the people and turn their hearts to the Father before the day of the Lord (see Malachi 3:123-24).

John the Baptist quotes these, as well as Isaiah’s prophecy, to show that all of Israel’s history looks forward to the revelation of Jesus. In Jesus, God has filled in the valley that divided sinful humanity from himself. He has reached down from heaven and made His glory to dwell on earth, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

He has done all this, not for humanity in the abstract, but for each of us. The long history of salvation has led us to this Eucharist, in which our God again comes and our salvation is near. And each of us must hear in today’s readings a personal call. Here is your God, Isaiah says. He has been patient with you, Peter says in today’s Epistle.

Direct download: B_2_Advent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

The new Church year begins with a plea for God's visitation. "Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down," the prophet Isaiah cries in today's First Reading.

In today's Psalm, too, we hear the anguished voice of Israel, imploring God to look down from His heavenly throne - to save and shepherd His people.

Today's readings are relatively brief. Their language and "message" are deceptively simple. But we should take note of the serious mood and penitential aspect of the Liturgy today - as the people of Israel recognize their sinfulness, their failures to keep God's covenant, their inability to save themselves.

And in this Advent season, we should see our own lives in the experience of Israel. As we examine our consciences, can't we, too, find that we often harden our hearts, refuse His rule, wander from His ways, withhold our love from Him?

God is faithful, Paul reminds us in today's Epistle. He is our Father. He has hearkened to the cry of His children, coming down from heaven for Israel's sake and for ours - to redeem us from our exile from God, to restore us to His love.

In Jesus, we have seen the Father (see John 14:8-9). The Father has let His face shine upon us. He is the good shepherd (see John 10:11-15) come to guide us to the heavenly kingdom. No matter how far we have strayed, He will give us new life if we turn to Him, if we call upon His holy name, if we pledge anew never again to withdraw from Him.

As Paul says today, He has given us every spiritual gift - especially the Eucharist and penance - to strengthen us as we await Christ's final coming. He will keep us firm to the end - if we let Him.

So, in this season of repentance, we should heed the warning - repeated three times by our Lord in today's Gospel - to be watchful, for we know not the hour when the Lord of the house will return.

Direct download: B_1_Advent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:34pm EDT

Readings:
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Many saints and Church leaders have seen a connection between Christ's words in the Gospel for the Solemnity of Christ the King (see Matthew 25:31-43) and His promise to be present in the Eucharist (see Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20).

For instance, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say of her work with the destitute: "In Holy Communion we have Christ under the appearance of bread. In our work we find Him under the appearance of flesh and blood. It is the same Christ. 'I was hungry, I was naked, I was sick, I was homeless.'"

St. John Chrysostom, the great patriarch of Eastern Catholicism, said the same thing in the fourth century: "Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore Him when He is naked. Do not pay Him homage in the temple clad in silk only then to neglect Him outside where He suffers cold and nakedness. He who said: 'This is my body' is the same One who said: 'You saw me hungry and you gave me no food', and 'Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me' . . . What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices, when He is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying His hunger, and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well."

The Church year ends today with a vision of the end of time. The scene in the Gospel is stark and resounds with Old Testament echoes.

The Son of Man is enthroned over all nations and peoples of every language (see Daniel 7:13-14). The nations have been gathered to see His glory and receive His judgment (see Isaiah 66:18; Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in today's First Reading, judging as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.

Each of us will be judged upon our performance of the simple works of mercy we hear in the Gospel today.

These works, as Jesus explains today, are reflections or measures of our love for Him, our faithfulness to His commandment that we love God with all our might and our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:36-40).

Our faith is dead, lifeless, unless it be expressed in works of love (see James 2:20; Galatians 5:6). And we cannot say we truly love God, whom we cannot see, if we don't love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20).

The Lord is our shepherd, as we sing in today's Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 5:1).

He healed our sickness (see Luke 6:19), freed us from the prison of sin and death (see Romans 8:2,21), welcomed us who were once strangers to His covenant (see Ephesians 2:12,19). He clothed us in baptism (see Revelation 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:3-4), and feeds us with the food and drink of His own body and blood.

At "the end," He will come again to hand over His kingdom to His Father, as Paul says in today's Epistle.

Let us strive to be following Him in right paths, that this kingdom might be our inheritance, that we might enter into the eternal rest promised for the people of God (see Hebrews 4:1,9-11).

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_Christ_the_King_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

The day of the Lord is coming, Paul warns in today's Epistle. What matters isn't the time or the season, but what the Lord finds us doing with the new life, the graces He has given to us.

This is at the heart of Jesus' parable in today's Gospel. Jesus is the Master. Having died, risen, and ascended into heaven, He appears to have gone away for a long time.

By our baptism, He has entrusted to each of us a portion of His "possessions," a share in His divine life (see 2 Peter 1:4). He has given us talents and responsibilities, according to the measure of our faith (see Romans 12:3,8).

We are to be like the worthy wife in today's First Reading, and the faithful man we sing of in today's Psalm. Like them, we should walk in the "fear of the Lord" - in reverence, awe, and thanksgiving for His marvelous gifts. This is the beginning of wisdom (see Acts 9:31; Proverbs 1:7).

This is not the "fear" of the useless servant in today's parable. His is the fear of a slave cowering before a cruel master, the fear of one who refuses the relationship that God calls us to.

He has called us to be trusted servants, fellow workers (see 1 Corinthians 3:9), using our talents to serve one another and His kingdom as good stewards of His grace (see 1 Peter 4:10).

In this, we each have a different part to play.

Though the good servants in today's parable were given different numbers of talents, each "doubled" what he was given. And each earned the same reward for his faithfulness - greater responsibilities and a share of the Master's joy.

So let us resolve again in this Eucharist to make much of what we've been given, to do all for the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). That we, too, may approach our Master with confidence and love when He comes to settle accounts.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_33rd_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Wisdom 6:12-16
Psalm 63:2-8
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Matthew 25:1-13

According to marriage customs of Jesus' day, a bride was first "betrothed" to her husband but continued for a time to live with her family. Then, at the appointed hour, some months later, the groom would come to claim her, leading her family and bridal party to the wedding feast that would celebrate and inaugurate their new life together.

This is the background to the parable of the last judgment we hear in today's Gospel.

In the parable's symbolism, Jesus is the Bridegroom (see Mark 2:19). In this, He fulfills God's ancient promise to join himself forever to His chosen people as a husband cleaves to his bride (see Hosea 2:16-20). The virgins of the bridal party represent us, the members of the Church.

We were "betrothed" to Jesus in baptism (see 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27) and are called to lives of holiness and devotion until He comes again to lead us to the heavenly wedding feast at the end of time (see Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-4).

As St. Paul warns in today's Epistle, Jesus is coming again, though we know not the day nor the hour.

We need to keep vigil throughout the dark night of this time in which our Bridegroom seems long delayed. We need to keep our souls' lamps filled with the oil of perseverance and desire for God - virtues that are extolled in today's First Reading and Psalm.

We are to seek Him in love, meditating upon His kindness, calling upon His name, striving to be ever more worthy of Him, to be found without spot or blemish when He comes.

If we do this, we will be counted as wise and the oil for our lamps will not run dry (see 1 Kings 17:16). We will perceive the Bridegroom, the Wisdom of God (see Proverbs 8:22-31,35; 9:1-5), hastening toward us, beckoning us to the table He has prepared, the rich banquet which will satisfy our souls.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_32nd_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10
Psalm 131:1-3
1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13
Matthew 23:1-12

Though they were Moses' successors, the Pharisees and scribes exalted themselves, made their mastery of the law a badge of social privilege. Worse, they had lorded the law over the people (see Matthew 20:25). Like the priests Malachi condemns in today's First Reading, they caused many to falter and be closed off from God.

In a word, Israel's leaders failed to be good spiritual fathers of God's people. Moses was a humble father-figure, preaching the law but also practicing it - interceding and begging God's mercy and forgiveness of the people's sins (see Exodus 32:9-14; Psalm 90).

And Jesus reminds us today that all fatherhood - in the family or in the people of God - comes from the our Father in heaven (see Ephesians 3:15).

He doesn't mean we're to literally call no man "father." He himself referred to Israel's founding fathers (see John 7:42); the apostles taught about natural fatherhood (see Hebrews 12:7-11), and described themselves as spiritual fathers (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-16)

The fatherhood of the apostles and their successors, the Church's priests and bishops, is a spiritual paternity given to raise us as God's children. Our fathers give us new life in baptism, and feed us the spiritual milk of the gospel and the Eucharist (see 1 Peter 2:2-3). That's why Paul, in today's Epistle, can also compare himself to a nursing mother.

God's fatherhood likewise transcends all human notions of fatherhood and motherhood. Perhaps that's why the Psalm chosen for today includes one of the rare biblical images of God's maternal care (see Isaiah 66:13).

His only Son has shown us the Father (see John 14:9) coming to gather His children as a hen gathers her young (see Matthew 23:37). We're all brothers and sisters, our Lord tells us today. And all of us - even our spiritual fathers - are to trust in Him, humbly, like children on our mothers' laps.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_31st_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings
Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Matthew 20:1-16

The house of Israel is the vine of God - who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7; 27:2-5).

Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel's kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5-10).

This is the biblical backdrop to Jesus' parable of salvation history in today's Gospel. The landowner is God. The vineyard is the kingdom. The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant. Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13). In the Lord's great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations.

This provokes grumbling in today's parable. Doesn't the complaint of those first laborers sound like that of the older brother in Jesus' prodigal son parable (see Luke 15:29-30)? God's ways, however, are far from our ways, as we hear in today's First Reading. And today's readings should caution us against the temptation to resent God's lavish mercy.

Like the Gentiles, many will be allowed to enter the kingdom late - after having spent most of their days idling in sin.

But even these can call upon Him and find Him near, as we sing in today's Pslam. We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we have loved ones who remain far from the vineyard.

Our task is to continue laboring in His vineyard. As Paul says in today's Epistle, let us conduct ourselves worthily, struggling to bring all men and women to the praise of His name.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_25th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Sirach 27:30-28:7
Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Mercy and forgiveness should be at the heart of the Christian life.

Yet, as today's First Reading wisely reminds us, often we cherish our wrath, nourish our anger, refuse mercy to those who have done us wrong. Jesus, too, strikes close to home in today's Gospel, with His realistic portrayal of the wicked servant - who won't forgive a fellow servant's debt, even though his own slate has just been wiped clean by their Master.

It can't be this way in the kingdom, the Church. In the Old Testament, "seven" is frequently a number associated with mercy and the forgiveness of sins. The just man sins seven times daily; there is a seven-fold sprinking of blood for atonement of sins (see Proverbs 24:6; Leviticus 16). But Jesus tells Peter today that we must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times. That means: every time.

We are to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful (see Luke 6:36; Matthew 5:48). But why? Why does Jesus repeatedly warn that we can't expect forgiveness for our trespasses unless we're willing to forgive others their trespasses against us?

Because, as Paul reminds us in today's Epistle, we are the Lord's. Each of us has been purchased by the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross (see Revelation 5:9). As we sing in today's Psalm, though we deserved to die for our sins, He doesn't deal with us according to our crimes. The mercy and forgiveness we show to others should be the heartfelt expression of our gratitude for the mercy and forgiveness shown to us.

This is why we should remember our last days, set our enmities aside, and stop judging others. We know that one day we will stand before the judgment seat and give account for what we've done with the new life given to us by Christ (see Romans 14:10,12).

So we forgive each other from the heart, overlook each other's faults, and await the crown of His kindness and compassion.

Direct download: A_24_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Ezekiel 33:7-9
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20

As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today's first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).

He also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on laws of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:13). The heads of the new Israel, however, receive extraordinary powers - similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19). They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).

But the powers He gives the apostles and their successors depends on their communion with Him. As Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father.

But today's readings are more than a lesson in Church order. They also suggest how we're to deal with those who trespass against us, a theme that we'll hear in next week's readings as well.

Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them.

This is the love that Paul in today's Epistle says we owe to our neighbors. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation. We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths.

We should never correct out of anger, or a desire to punish. Instead our message must be that of today's Psalm - urging sinner to hear God's voice, not to harden their hearts, and to remember that He is the one who made us, and the rock of our salvation.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_23rd_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

Today’s First Reading catches the prophet Jeremiah in a moment of weakness. His intimate lamentation contains some of the strongest language of doubt found in the Bible. Following God’s call, he feels abandoned. Preaching His Word has brought him only derision and reproach.

But God does not deceive—and Jeremiah knows this. He tests the just (see Jeremiah 20:11–12), and disciplines His children through their sufferings and trials (see Hebrews 12:5–7).

What Jeremiah learns Jesus states explicitly in today’s Gospel. To follow Him is to take up a cross, to deny yourself— your priorities, preferences, and comforts. It is to be willing to give it all up, even life itself, for the sake of His gospel. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we have to join ourselves to the Passion of Christ, to offer our bodies—our whole beings—as living sacrifices to God.

By His Cross, Jesus has shown us what Israel’s sacrifices of animals were meant to teach—that we owe to God all that we have.

God’s kindness is a greater good than life itself, as we sing in today’s Psalm. The only thanks we can offer is our spiritual worship—to give our lives to the service of His will (see Hebrews 10:3–11; Psalm 50:14, 23).

Peter doesn’t yet get this in today’s Gospel. As it was for Jeremiah, the cross is a stumbling block for Peter (see 1 Corinthians 1:23). This too is our natural temptation—to refuse to believe that our sufferings play a necessary part in God’s plan.

That’s how people think, Jesus tells us today. But we are called to the renewal of our minds—to think as God thinks, to will what He wills.

In the Mass, we once again offer ourselves as perfect and pleasing sacrifices of praise (see Hebrews 13:15). We bless Him as we live, confident that we will find our lives in losing them, that with the riches of His banquet, our souls will be satisfied.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_22nd_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 22:15, 19-23
Psalm 138:1-3, 6, 8
Romans 11:33-36
Matthew 16:13-20 (see also "Peter's Powers")

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Paul exclaims in today’s Epistle. Today’s Psalm, too, takes up the triumphant note of joy and thanksgiving. Why? Because in the Gospel, the heavenly Father reveals the mystery of His kingdom to Peter.

With Peter, we rejoice that Jesus is the anointed son promised to David, the one prophesied to build God’s temple and reign over an everlasting kingdom (see 2 Samuel 7).

What Jesus calls “my Church” is the kingdom promised to David’s son (see Isaiah 9:1–7). As we hear in today’s First Reading, Isaiah foretold that the keys to David’s kingdom would be given to a new master, who would rule as father to God’s people.

Jesus, the root and offspring of David, alone holds the kingdom’s keys (see Revelation 1:18; 3:7; 22:16). In giving those keys to Peter, Jesus fulfills that prophecy, establishing Peter—and all who succeed him—as holy father of His Church.

His Church, too, is the new house of God—the spiritual temple founded on the “rock” of Peter, and built up out of the living stones of individual believers (see 1 Peter 2:5).

Abraham was called “the rock” from which the children of Israel were hewn (see Isaiah 51:1–2). And Peter becomes the rock from which God raises up new children of God (see Matthew 3:9).

The word Jesus uses—“church” (ekklesia in Greek)—was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the “assembly” of God’s children after the exodus (see Deuteronomy 18:16; 31:30).

His Church is the “assembly of the firstborn” (see Hebrews 12:23; Exodus 4:23–24), established by Jesus’ exodus (see Luke 9:31). Like the Israelites, we are baptized in water, led by the Rock, and fed with spiritual food (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–5).

Gathered at His altar, in the presence of angels, we sing His praise and give thanks to His holy name.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_21st_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:


Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

Most of us are the foreigners, the non-Israelites, about whom today's First Reading prophesies.

Coming to worship the God of Israel, we stand in the line of faith epitomized by the Canaanite woman in today's Gospel. Calling to Jesus as Lord and Son of David, this foreigner shows her great faith in God's covenant with Israel.

Jesus tests her faith three times. He refuses to answer her cry. Then, He tells her His mission is only to Israelites. Finally, he uses "dog," an epithet used to disparage non-Israelites (see Matthew 7:6). Yet she persists, believing that He alone offers salvation.

In this family drama, we see fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy and the promise we sing of in today's Psalm. In Jesus, God makes known among all the nations His way and His salvation (see John 14:6).

At the start of salvation history, God called Abraham (see Genesis 12:2). He chose his offspring, Israel, from all the nations on the face of the earth, to build His covenant kingdom (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Isaiah 41:8).

In God's plan, Abraham was to be the father of many nations (see Romans 4:16-17). Israel was to be the firstborn of a worldwide family of God, made up of all who believe what the Canaanite professes— that Jesus is Lord (see Exodus 4:22-23; Romans 5:13-24).

Jesus came first to restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:6; 13:46). But His ultimate mission was the reconciliation of the world, as Paul declares in today's Epistle.

In the Mass we join all peoples in doing Him homage. As Isaiah foretold, we come to His holy mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice at His altar (see Hebrews 12:22-24,28). With the Canaanite, we take our place at the Master's table, to be fed as His children.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_20th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT