St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (sunday bible reflections)

Readings:

Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9

Daniel 3:52-56

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

John 3:16-18

 

We often begin Mass with the prayer from today's Epistle: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." We praise the God who has revealed himself as a Trinity, a communion of persons.

Communion with the Trinity is the goal of our worship - and the purpose of the salvation history that begins in the Bible and continues in the Eucharist and sacraments of the Church.

We see the beginnings of God's self-revelation in today's First Reading, as He passes before Moses and cries out His holy name.

Israel had sinned in worshipping the golden calf (see Exodus 32). But God does not condemn them to perish. Instead He proclaims His mercy and faithfulness to His covenant.

God loved Israel as His firstborn son among the nations (see Exodus 4:22). Through Israel - heirs of His covenant with Abraham - God planned to reveal himself as the Father of all nations (see Genesis 22:18).

The memory of God's covenant testing of Abraham - and Abraham's faithful obedience - lies behind today's Gospel.

In commanding Abraham to offer his only beloved son (see Genesis 22:2,12,16), God was preparing us for the fullest possible revelation of His love for the world.

As Abraham was willing to offer Isaac, God did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all (see Romans 8:32).

In this, He revealed what was only disclosed partially to Moses - that His kindness continues for a thousand generations, that He forgives our sin, and takes us back as His very own people (see Deuteronomy 4:20; 9:29).

Jesus humbled himself to die in obedience to God's will. And for this, the Spirit of God raised Him from the dead (see Romans 8:11), and gave Him a name above every name (see Philippians 2:8-10).

This is the name we glorify in today's Responsorial - the name of our Lord, the God who is Love (see 1 John 4;8,16).

Direct download: A_Trinity_2017.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:23pm 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: A_Pentecost_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:59am EDT

 

 Readings:

Acts 1:12-14

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-8

1 Peter 4:13-16

John 17:1-11

 

Jesus has been taken up into heaven as we begin today's First Reading. His disciples - including the Apostles and Mary - return to the upper room where He celebrated the Last Supper (see Luke 22:12).

There, they devote themselves with one accord to prayer, awaiting the Spirit that He promised would come upon them (see Acts 1:8).

The unity of the early Church at Jerusalem is a sign of the oneness that Christ prays for in today's Gospel. The Church is to be a communion on earth that mirrors the glorious union of Father, Son and Spirit in the Trinity.

Jesus has proclaimed God's name to His brethren (see Hebrews 2:12; Psalm 22:23). The prophets had foretold this revelation - a new covenant by which all flesh would have knowledge of the Lord (see Jeremiah 31:33-34; Habakkuk 2:14).

By the new covenant made in His blood and remembered in every Eucharist, we know God as our Father. This is the eternal life Jesus promises. And this is the light and salvation we sing of in today's Psalm.

As God made light to shine out of darkness when the world began, He has enlightened us in Baptism, making us new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), giving us knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (see Hebrews 10:32; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

Our new life is a gift of "the Spirit of glory," we hear in today's Epistle (see John 7:38-39). Made one in His name, we are given a new name - "Christians" - a name used only here and in two other places in the Bible (see Acts 11:16; 26:28). We are to glorify God, though we will be insulted and suffer because of this name.

But as we share in His sufferings, we know we will overcome (see Revelation 3:12) and rejoice when His glory is once more revealed. And we will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.

Direct download: A_7_Easter_2017.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:47pm EDT

 

 Readings:

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20

1 Peter 3:15-18

John 14:15-21

 

Jesus will not leave us alone. He won't make us children of God in Baptism only to leave us "orphans," He assures us in today's Gospel (see Romans 8:14-17) .

He asks the Father to give us His Spirit, to dwell with us and keep us united in the life He shares with the Father.

We see the promised gift of His Spirit being conferred in today's First Reading.

The scene from Acts apparently depicts a primitive Confirmation rite. Philip, one of the first deacons (see Acts 6:5), proclaims the Gospel in the non-Jewish city of Samaria. The Samaritans accept the Word of God (see Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13) and are baptized.

It remains for the Apostles to send their representatives, Peter and John, to pray and lay hands on the newly baptized - that they might receive the Holy Spirit. This is the origin of our sacrament of Confirmation (see Acts 19:5-6), by which the grace of Baptism is completed and believers are sealed with the Spirit promised by the Lord.

We remain in this grace so long as we love Christ and keep His commandments. And strengthened in the Spirit whom Jesus said would be our Advocate, we are called to bear witness to our salvation - to the tremendous deeds that God has done for us in the name of His Son.

In today's Psalm, we celebrate our liberation. As He changed the sea into dry land to free the captive Israelites, Christ suffered that He might lead us to God, as we hear in today's Epistle.

This is the reason for our hope - the hope that sustains us in the face of a world that cannot accept His truth, the hope that sustains us when we are maligned and defamed for His name's sake.

Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit, Paul tells us today. And as He himself promises: "Because I live, you will live."

Direct download: Year_A_Easter_6.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:57pm EDT

 

Readings:

Acts 6:1-7

Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

1 Peter 2:4-9

John 14:1-12 (see also "Exodus and Easter")

By His death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in His Father's house.

His Father's house is no longer a temple made by human hands. It is the spiritual house of the Church, built on the living stone of Christ's body.

As Peter interprets the Scriptures in today's Epistle, Jesus is the "stone" destined to be rejected by men but made the precious cornerstone of God's dwelling on earth (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).

Each of us is called to be a living stone in God's building (see 1 Corinthians 3:9,16). In this edifice of the Spirit, we are to be "holy priests" offering up "spiritual sacrifices" - all our prayer, work and intentions - to God.

This is our lofty calling as Christians. This is why Christ led us out of the darkness of sin and death as Moses led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

God's covenant with Israel made them a royal and priestly people who were to announce His praises (see Exodus 19:6). By our faith in Christ's new covenant, we have been made heirs of this chosen race, called to glorify the Father in the temple of our bodies (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:1).

In today's First Reading, we see the spiritual house of the Church being built up, as the Apostles consecrate seven deacons so they can devote themselves more fully to the "ministry of the Word."

The Lord's Word is upright and all His works trustworthy, we sing in today's Psalm. So we can trust Jesus when He tells us never to be troubled, but to believe that His Word and works come from the Father.

His Word continues its work in the world through the Church. We see its beginnings today in Jerusalem. It is destined to spread with influence and power (see Acts 19:20), and to become the imperishable seed by which every heart is born anew (see 1 Peter 1:23).

Direct download: A_5_Easter17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:34pm EDT

 

Readings:

Acts 2:14, 36-41

Psalm 23:1-6

1 Peter 2:20-25

John 10:1-10

 

Easter's empty tomb is a call to conversion.

By this tomb, we should know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, as Peter preaches in today's First Reading.

He is the "Lord," the divine Son that David foresaw at God's right hand (see Psalms 110:1,3; 132:10-11; Acts 2:34). And He is the Messiah that God had promised to shepherd the scattered flock of the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23; 37:24).

As we hear in today's Gospel, Jesus is that Good Shepherd, sent to a people who were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mark 6:34; Numbers 27:16-17). He calls not only to the children of Israel, but to all those far off from Him - to whomever the Lord wishes to hear His voice.

The call of the Good Shepherd leads to the restful waters of Baptism, to the anointing oil of Confirmation, and to the table and overflowing cup of the Eucharist, as we sing in today's Psalm.

Again on this Sunday in Easter, we hear His voice calling us His own. He should awaken in us the response of those who heard Peter's preaching. "What are we to do?" they cried.

We have been baptized. But each of us goes astray like sheep, as we hear in today's Epistle. We still need daily to repent, to seek forgiveness of our sins, to separate ourselves further from this corrupt generation.

We are called to follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd of our souls. By His suffering He bore our sins in His body to free us from sin. But His suffering is also an example for us. From Him we should learn patience in our afflictions, to hand ourselves over to the will of God.

Jesus has gone ahead, driven us through the dark valley of evil and death. His Cross has become the narrow gate through which we must pass to reach His empty tomb - the verdant pastures of life abundant.

 

Direct download: A_4_Easter_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:15am EDT

 

Readings:

Acts 2:14,22-28

Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11

1 Peter 1:17-21

Luke 24:13-35

We should put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples in today's Gospel. Downcast and confused they're making their way down the road, unable to understand all the things that have occurred.

They know what they've seen - a prophet mighty in word and deed. They know what they were hoping for - that He would be the redeemer of Israel. But they don't know what to make of His violent death at the hands of their rulers.

They can't even recognize Jesus as He draws near to walk with them. He seems like just another foreigner visiting Jerusalem for the Passover.

Note that Jesus doesn't disclose His identity until they they describe how they found His tomb empty but "Him they did not see." That's how it is with us, too. Unless He revealed himself we would see only an empty tomb and a meaningless death.

How does Jesus make himself known at Emmaus? First, He interprets "all the Scriptures" as referring to Him. In today's First Reading and Epistle, Peter also opens the Scriptures to proclaim the meaning of Christ's death according to the Father's "set plan" - foreknown before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is described as a new Moses and a new Passover lamb. He is the One of whom David sang in today's Psalm - whose soul was not abandoned to corruption but was shown the path of life.

After opening the Scriptures, Jesus at table took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples - exactly what He did at the Last Supper (see Luke 22:14-20).

In every Eucharist, we reenact that Easter Sunday at Emmaus. Jesus reveals himself to us in our journey. He speaks to our hearts in the Scriptures. Then at the table of the altar, in the person of the priest, He breaks the bread.

The disciples begged him, "Stay with us." So He does. Though He has vanished from our sight, in the Eucharist - as at Emmaus - we know Him in the breaking of the bread.

Direct download: A_3_Easter_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

We are children of Jesus' Resurrection from the dead. Through this wondrous sign of His great mercy, the Father of Jesus has given us new birth, as we hear in today's Epistle.

Today's First Reading sketches the "family life" of our first ancestors in the household of God (see 1 Peter 4:17). We see them doing what we still do - devoting themselves to the Apostles' teaching, meeting daily to pray and celebrate "the breaking of the bread."

The Apostles saw the Lord. He stood in their midst, showed them His hands and sides. They heard His blessing and received His commission - to extend the Father's mercy to all peoples through the power and Spirit He conferred upon them.

We must walk by faith and not by sight, must believe and love what we have not seen (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Yet the invisible realities are made present for us through the devotions the Apostles handed on.

Notice the experience of the risen Lord in today's Gospel is described in a way that evokes the Mass.

Both appearances take place on a Sunday. The Lord comes to be with His disciples. They rejoice, listen to His Word, receive the gift of His forgiveness and peace. He offers His wounded body to them in remembrance of His Passion. And they know and worship Him as their Lord and their God.

Thomas' confession is a vow of faith in the new covenant. As promised long before, in the blood of Jesus we can now know the Lord as our God and be known as His people (see Hosea 2:20-25).

This confession is sung in the heavenly liturgy (see Revelation 4:11). And in every Mass on earth we renew our covenant and receive the blessings Jesus promised for those who have not seen but have believed.

In the Mass, God's mercy endures forever, as we sing in today's Psalm. This is the day the Lord has made - when the victory of Easter is again made wonderful in our eyes.

Direct download: A_Divine_Mercy_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:49pm 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," which 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: A_Easter_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:22pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-20, 23-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

"All this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled," Jesus says in today's Gospel (see Matthew 26:56).

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 Matthew 27:31), as His hands and feet are pierced, as enemies gamble for His clothes (see Matthew 27:35), and as his enemies dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Matthew 27:39-44).

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. We know, as the centurion today, that truly this is the Son of God (see Matthew 27:54).

Direct download: A_Passion_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:42pm EDT