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

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

Readings:
Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalm 130:1-8
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45

As we draw near to the end of Lent, today's Gospel clearly has Jesus' passion and death in view.

That's why John gives us the detail about Lazarus' sister, Mary - that she is the one who anointed the Lord for burial (see John 12:3,7). His disciples warn against returning to Judea; Thomas even predicts they will "die with Him" if they go back.

When Lazarus is raised, John notices the tombstone being taken away, as well as Lazarus' burial cloths and head covering - all details he later notices with Jesus' empty tomb (see John 20:1,6,7).

Like the blind man in last week's readings, Lazarus represents all humanity. He stands for "dead man" - for all those Jesus loves and wants to liberate from the bands of sin and death.

John even recalls the blind man in his account today (see John 11:37). Like the man's birth in blindness, Lazarus' death is used by Jesus to reveal "the glory of God" (see John 9:3). And again like last week, Jesus' words and deeds give sight to those who believe (see John 11:40).

If we believe, we will see - that Jesus loves each of us as He loved Lazarus, that He calls us out of death and into new life.

By His Resurrection Jesus has fulfilled Ezekiel's promise in today's First Reading. He has opened the graves that we may rise, put His Spirit in us that we may live. This is the Spirit that Paul writes of in today's Epistle. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give life to we who were once dead in sin.

Faith is the key. If we believe as Martha does in today's Gospel - that Jesus is the resurrection and the life - even if we die, we will live.

"I have promised and I will do it," the Father assures us in the First Reading. We must trust in His word, as we sing in today's Psalm - that with Him is forgiveness and salvation.

Direct download: A_5_Lent_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:33pm EDT

Readings:
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13
Psalm 23:1-6
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

God's ways of seeing are not our ways, we hear in today's First Reading. Jesus illustrates this in the Gospel - as the blind man comes to see and the Pharisees are made blind.

The blind man stands for all humanity. "Born totally in sin" he is made a new creation by the saving power of Christ.

As God fashioned the first man from the clay of the earth (see Genesis 2:7), Jesus gives the blind man new life by anointing his eyes with clay (see John 9:11). As God breathed the spirit of life into the first man, the blind man is not healed until he washes in the waters of Siloam, a name that means "Sent."

Jesus is the One "sent" by the Father to do the Father's will (see John 9:4; 12:44). He is the new source of life-giving water - the Holy Spirit who rushes upon us in Baptism (see John 4:10; 7:38-39).

This is the Spirit that rushes upon God's chosen king David in today's First Reading. A shepherd like Moses before him (see Exodus 3:1; Psalm 78:70-71), David is also a sign pointing to the good shepherd and king to come - Jesus (see John 10:11).

The Lord is our shepherd, as we sing in today's Psalm. By his death and Resurrection He has made a path for us through the dark valley of sin and death, leading us to the verdant pastures of the kingdom of life, the Church.

In the restful waters of Baptism He has refreshed our souls. He has anointed our heads with the oil of Confirmation and spread the Eucharistic table before us, filling our cups to overflowing.

With the once-blind man we enter His house to give God the praise, to renew our vow: "I do believe, Lord."

"The Lord looks into the heart," we hear today. Let Him find us, as Paul advises in today's Epistle, living as "children of light" - trying always to learn what is pleasing to our Father.

Direct download: A_4_Lent_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:37am EDT

Readings:

Exodus 17:3-7

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

John 4:5-15,19-26,39-42

 

The Israelites' hearts were hardened by their hardships in the desert.

Though they saw His mighty deeds, in their thirst they grumble and put God to the test in today's First Reading - a crisis point recalled also in today's Psalm.

Jesus is thirsty too in today's Gospel. He thirsts for souls (see John 19:28). He longs to give the Samaritan woman the living waters that well up to eternal life.

These waters couldn't be drawn from the well of Jacob, father of the Israelites and the Samaritans. But Jesus was something greater than Jacob (see Luke 11:31-32).

The Samaritans were Israelites who escaped exile when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom eight centuries before Christ (see 2 Kings 17:6,24-41). They were despised for intermarrying with non-Israelites and worshipping at Mount Gerazim, not Jerusalem.

But Jesus tells the woman that the "hour" of true worship is coming, when all will worship God in Spirit and truth.

Jesus' "hour" is the "appointed time" that Paul speaks of in today's Epistle. It is the hour when the Rock of our salvation was struck on the Cross. Struck by the soldier's lance, living waters flowed out from our Rock (see John 19:34-37).

These waters are the Holy Spirit (see John 7:38-39), the gift of God (see Hebrews 6:4).

By the living waters the ancient enmities of Samaritans and Jews have been washed away, the dividing wall between Israel and the nations is broken down (see Ephesians 2:12-14,18). Since His hour, all may drink of the Spirit in Baptism (see 1 Corinthians 12:13).

In this Eucharist, the Lord now is in our midst - as He was at the Rock of Horeb and at the well of Jacob.

In the "today" of our Liturgy, He calls us to believe: "I am He," come to pour out the love of God into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. How can we continue to worship as if we don't understand? How can our hearts remain hardened?

 

Direct download: A_3_Lent_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:20am EDT

Readings:

Genesis 12:1-4

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

2 Timothy 1:8-10

Matthew 17:1-9

 

Today's Gospel portrays Jesus as a new and greater Moses.

Moses also took three companions up a mountain and on the seventh day was overshadowed by the shining cloud of God's presence. He too spoke with God and his face and clothing were made radiant in the encounter (see Exodus 24,34).

But in today's Lenten Liturgy, the Church wants us to look back past Moses. Indeed, we are asked to contemplate what today's Epistle calls God's "design...from before time began."

With his promises to Abram in today's First Reading, God formed the people through whom He would reveal himself and bestow His blessings on all humanity.

He later elevated these promises to eternal covenants and changed Abram's name to Abraham, promising that he would be father of a host nations (see Genesis 17:5). In remembrance of His covenant with Abraham he raised up Moses (see Exodus 2:24; 3:8), and later swore an everlasting kingdom to David 's sons (see Jeremiah 33:26).

In Jesus' transfiguration today, He is revealed as the One through whom God fulfills his divine plan from of old.

Not only a new Moses, Jesus is also the "beloved son" promised to Abraham and again to David (see Genesis 22:15-18; Psalm 2:7; Matthew 1:1).

Moses foretold a prophet like him to whom Israel would listen (see Deuteronomy 18:15,18) and Isaiah foretold an anointed servant in whom God would be well-pleased (see Isaiah 42:1). Jesus is this prophet and this servant, as the Voice on the mountain tells us today.

By faith we have been made children of the covenant with Abraham (see Galatians 3:7-9; Acts 3:25). He calls us, too, to a holy life, to follow His Son to the heavenly homeland He has promised. We know, as we sing in today's Psalm, that we who hope in Him will be delivered from death.

So like our father in faith, we go forth as the Lord directs us: "Listen to Him!"

Direct download: A_2_Lent_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:14am EDT

 

Readings:

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7

Psalm 51:3-6; 12-14,17

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11 

In today's Liturgy, the destiny of the human race is told as the tale of two "types" of men - the first man, Adam, and the new Adam, Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 45-59).

Paul's argument in the Epistle is built on a series of contrasts between "one" or "one person" and "the many" or "all." By one person's disobedience, sin and condemnation entered the world, and death came to reign over all. By the obedience of another one, grace abounded, all were justified, and life came to reign for all.

This is the drama that unfolds in today's First Reading and Gospel.

Formed from the clay of the ground and filled with the breath of God's own Spirit, Adam was a son of God (see Luke 3:38), created in his image (see Genesis 5:1-3). Crowned with glory, he was given dominion over the world and the protection of His angels (see Psalms 8:6-8; 91:11-13). He was made to worship God - to live not by bread alone but in obedience to every word that comes from the mouth of the Father.

Adam, however, put the Lord his God to the test. He gave in to the serpent's temptation, trying to seize for himself all that God had already promised him. But in his hour of temptation, Jesus prevailed where Adam failed - and drove the devil away.

Still we sin after the pattern of Adam's transgression. Like Adam, we let sin in the door (see Genesis 4:7) when we entertain doubts about God's promises, when we forget to call on Him in our hours of temptation.

But the grace won for us by Christ's obedience means that sin is no longer our master.

As we begin this season of repentance, we can be confident in His compassion, that He will create in us a new heart (see Romans 5:5; Hebrews 8:10). As we do in today's Psalm, we can sing joyfully of our salvation, renewed in His presence.

Direct download: A_1_Lent_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:50pm EDT

 

Isaiah 49:14–15

Psalm 62:2–3, 6–9

1 Corinthians 4:1–5

Matthew 6:24–24

 

We are by nature prone to be anxious and troubled about many things.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus confronts us with our most common fears. We are anxious mostly about how we will meet our material needs—for food and drink; for clothing; for security for tomorrow.

Yet in seeking security and comfort, we may unwittingly be handing ourselves over to servitude to “mammon,” Jesus warns. “Mammon” is an Aramaic word that refers to money or possessions.

Jesus is not condemning wealth. Nor is he saying that we shouldn’t work to earn our daily bread or to make provisions for our future.

It is a question of priorities and goals. What are we living for? Where is God in our lives?

Jesus insists that we need only to have faith in God and to trust in his Providence.

The readings this Sunday pose a challenge to us. Do we really believe that God cares for us, that he alone can provide for all our needs?

Do we believe that he loves us more than a mother loves the infant at her breast, as God himself promises in this week’s beautiful First Reading? Do we really trust that he is our rock and salvation, as we sing in the Psalm?

Jesus calls us to an intense realism about our lives. For all our worrying, none of us change the span of our days. None of us has anything that we have not received as a gift from God (see 1 Cor. 4:7).

St. Paul reminds us in the Epistle that when the Lord comes he will disclose the purposes of every heart.

We cannot serve both God and mammon. We must choose one or the other. Our faith cannot be partial. We must put our confidence in him and not be shaken by anxiety.

Let us resolve today to seek his Kingdom and his holiness before all else—confident that we are beloved sons and daughters, and that our Father in heaven will never forsake us.

Direct download: A_8_Ordinary_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:13am EDT

 

 Leviticus 19:1–2, 17–18

Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13

1 Corinthians 3:16–23

Matthew 5:38–48

We are called to the holiness of God. That is the extraordinary claim made in both the First Reading and Gospel this Sunday.

Yet how is possible that we can be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?

Jesus explains that we must be imitators of God as his beloved children (Eph. 5:1–2).

As God does, we must love without limit—with a love that does not distinguish between friend and foe, overcoming evil with good (see Rom. 12:21).

Jesus himself, in his Passion and death, gave us the perfect example of the love that we are called to.

He offered no resistance to the evil—even though he could have commanded twelve legions of angels to fight alongside him. He offered his face to be struck and spit upon. He allowed his garments to be stripped from him. He marched as his enemies compelled him to the Place of the Skull. On the cross he prayed for those who persecuted him (see Matt. 26:53–54, 67; 27:28, 32; Luke 23:34).

In all this he showed himself to be the perfect Son of God. By his grace, and through our imitation of him, he promises that we too can become children of our heavenly Father.

God does not deal with us as we deserve, as we sing in this week’s Psalm. He loves us with a Father’s love. He saves us from ruin. He forgives our transgressions.

He loved us even when we had made ourselves his enemies through our sinfulness. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (see Rom. 5:8).

We have been bought with the price of the blood of God’s only Son (see 1 Cor. 6:20). We belong to Christ now, as St. Paul says in this week’s Epistle. By our baptism, we have been made temples of his Holy Spirit.

And we have been saved to share in his holiness and perfection. So let us glorify him by our lives lived in his service, loving as he loves.

Direct download: A_7_Ordinary_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 9:56am EDT