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

 

Isaiah 58:7-10

Psalm 112:4-9

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-16

 

Jesus came among us as light to scatter the darkness of a fallen world.

As his disciples, we too are called to be “the light of the world,” he tells us in the Gospel this Sunday (see John 1:4–4, 9; 8:12; 9:5).

All three images that Jesus uses to describe the Church are associated with the identity and vocation of Israel.

God forever aligned his Kingdom with the Kingdom of David and his sons by a “covenant of salt,” salt being a sign of permanence and purity (see 2 Chron. 13:5, 8; Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24).

Jerusalem was to be a city set on a hill, high above all others, drawing all nations towards the glorious light streaming from her Temple (see Isa. 2:2; 60:1–3).

And Israel was given the mission of being a light to the nations, that God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth (see Isa. 42:6; 49:6).

The liturgy shows us this week that the Church, and every Christian, is called to fulfill Israel’s mission.

By our faith and good works we are to make the light of God’s life break forth in the darkness, as we sing in this week’s Psalm.

This week’s readings remind us that our faith can never be a private affair, something we can hide as if under a basket.

We are to pour ourselves out for the afflicted, as Isaiah tells us in the First Reading. Our light must shine as a ray of God’s mercy for all who are poor, hungry, naked, and enslaved.

There must be a transparent quality to our lives. Our friends and family, our neighbors and fellow citizens, should see reflected in us the light of Christ and through us be attracted to the saving truths of the Gospel.

So let us pray that we, like St. Paul in the Epistle, might proclaim with our whole lives, “Christ and him crucified.”

Direct download: A_5_Ordinary_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:23am EST

 

Readings:

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13

Psalm 146:6-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

In the readings since Christmas, Jesus has been revealed as the new royal son of David and Son of God. He is sent to lead a new exodus that brings Israel out of captivity to the nations and brings all the nations to God.

As Moses led Israel from Egypt through the sea to give them God's law on Mount Sinai, Jesus too has passed through the waters in baptism. Now, in today's Gospel, He goes to the mountain to proclaim a new law—the law of His Kingdom.

The Beatitudes mark the fulfillment of God's covenant promise to Abraham—that through his descendants all the nations of the world would receive God's blessings (see Genesis 12:3; 22:18).

Jesus is the son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And through the wisdom He speaks today, He bestows the Father's blessings upon "the poor in spirit."

God has chosen to bless the weak and lowly, those foolish and despised in the eyes of the world, Paul says in today's Epistle. The poor in spirit are those who know that nothing they do can merit God's mercy and grace. These are the humble remnant in today's First Reading—taught to seek refuge in the name of the Lord.

The Beatitudes reveal the divine path and purpose for our lives. All our striving should be for these virtues—to be poor in spirit; meek and clean of heart; merciful and makers of peace; seekers of the righteousness that comes from living by the law of Kingdom.

The path the Lord sets before us today is one of trials and persecution. But He promises comfort in our mourning and a great reward.

The Kingdom we have inherited is no earthly territory, but the promised land of heaven. It is Zion where the Lord reigns forever. And, as we sing in today's Psalm, its blessings are for those whose hope is in the Lord.

Direct download: A_4_Ordinary_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:30am EST

 

Readings:

Isaiah 49:3,5-6

Psalm 40:2,4,7-10

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

John 1:29-34

 

Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah in today's First Reading.

He tells us of the mission given to Him by the Father from the womb: "'You are My servant,' He said to Me."

Servant and Son, our Lord was sent to lead a new exodus - to raise up the exiled tribes of Israel, to gather and restore them to God. More than that, He was to be a light to the nations, that God's salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (see Acts 13:46-47). 

Before the first exodus, a lamb was offered in sacrifice and its blood painted on the Israelites' door posts. The blood of the lamb identified their homes and the Lord "passed over" these in executing judgment on the Egyptians (see Exodus 12:1-23,27).

In the new exodus, Jesus is the "Lamb of God," as John beholds Him in the Gospel today (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Our Lord sings of this in today's Psalm. He has come, He says, to offer His body to do the will of God (see Hebrews 10:3-13).

The sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, and sin-offerings given after the first exodus had no power to take away sins (see Hebrews 10:4). They were meant not to save but to teach (see Galatians 3:24). In offering these sacrifices, the people were to learn self-sacrifice - that they were made for worship, to offer themselves freely to God and to delight in His will.

Only Jesus could make that perfect offering of himself. And through His sacrifice, He has given us ears open to obedience, made it possible for us to hear the Father's call to holiness, as Paul says in today's Epistle.

He has made us children of God, baptized in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14). And we are to join our sacrifice to His, to offer our bodies - our lives - as living sacrifices in the spiritual worship of the Mass (see Romans 12:1).

Direct download: A_3_Ordinary_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:55pm EST

 

 

Readings:

Isaiah 49:3,5-6

Psalm 40:2,4,7-10

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

John 1:29-34

 

Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah in today's First Reading.

He tells us of the mission given to Him by the Father from the womb: "'You are My servant,' He said to Me."

Servant and Son, our Lord was sent to lead a new exodus - to raise up the exiled tribes of Israel, to gather and restore them to God. More than that, He was to be a light to the nations, that God's salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (see Acts 13:46-47).

Before the first exodus, a lamb was offered in sacrifice and its blood painted on the Israelites' door posts. The blood of the lamb identified their homes and the Lord "passed over" these in executing judgment on the Egyptians (see Exodus 12:1-23,27).

In the new exodus, Jesus is the "Lamb of God," as John beholds Him in the Gospel today (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Our Lord sings of this in today's Psalm. He has come, He says, to offer His body to do the will of God (see Hebrews 10:3-13).

The sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, and sin-offerings given after the first exodus had no power to take away sins (see Hebrews 10:4). They were meant not to save but to teach (see Galatians 3:24). In offering these sacrifices, the people were to learn self-sacrifice - that they were made for worship, to offer themselves freely to God and to delight in His will.

Only Jesus could make that perfect offering of himself. And through His sacrifice, He has given us ears open to obedience, made it possible for us to hear the Father's call to holiness, as Paul says in today's Epistle.

He has made us children of God, baptized in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14). And we are to join our sacrifice to His, to offer our bodies - our lives - as living sacrifices in the spiritual worship of the Mass (see Romans 12:1).

Direct download: A_2_Ordinary_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:03am EST

 

 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: A_Epiphany_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 9:48am EST

Readings:
Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
Colossians 3:12-21
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Underlying the wisdom offered in today's Liturgy is the mystery of the family in God's divine plan.

The Lord has set father in honor over his children and mother in authority over her sons, we hear in today's First Reading. As we sing in today's Psalm, the blessings of the family flow from Zion, the heavenly mother of the royal people of God (see Isaiah 66:7,10-13; Galatians 4:26).

And in the drama of today's Gospel, we see the nucleus of the new people of God - the Holy Family - facing persecution from those who would seek to destroy the child and His Kingdom.

Moses, called to save God's first born son, the people of Israel (see Exodus 4:22; Sirach 36:11), was also threatened at birth by a mad and jealous tyrant (see Exodus 1:15-16). And as Moses was saved by his mother and sister (see Exodus 2:1-10; 4:19), in God's plan Jesus too is rescued by His family.

As once God took the family of Jacob down to Egypt to make them the great nation Israel (see Genesis 46:2-4), God leads the Holy Family to Egypt to prepare the coming of the new Israel of God - the Church (see Galatians 6:16).

At the beginning of the world, God established the family in the "marriage" of Adam and Eve, the two becoming one body (see Genesis 2:22-24). Now in the new creation, Christ is made "one body" with His bride, the Church, as today's Epistle indicates (see Ephesians 5:21-32).

By this union we are made God's chosen ones, holy and beloved. And our families are to radiate the perfect love that binds us to Christ in the Church.

As we approach the altar on this feast, let us renew our commitment to our God-given duties as spouses, children and parents. Mindful of the promises of today's First Reading, let us offer our quiet performance of these duties for the atonement of our sins.

Direct download: Saving_Family.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:09pm EST

Readings:
Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalm 24:1-6
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-24

The mystery kept secret for long ages, promised through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, is today revealed (see Romans 16:25-26).

This is the "Gospel of God" that Paul celebrates in today's Epistle - the good news that "God is with us" in Jesus Christ. The sign promised to the House of David in today's First Reading is given in today's Gospel. In the virgin found with child, God himself has brought to Israel a savior from David's royal line (see Acts 13:22-23).

Son of David according to the flesh, Jesus is the Son of God, born of the Spirit. He will be anointed with the Spirit (see Acts 10:38), and by the power of Spirit will be raised from the dead and established at God's right hand in the heavens (see Acts 2:33-34; Ephesians 1:20-21).

He is the "King of Glory" we sing of in today's Psalm. The earth in its fullness has been given to Him. And as God swore long ago to David, His Kingdom will have no end (see Psalm 89:4-5).

In Jesus Christ we have a new creation. Like the creation of the world, it is a work of the Spirit, a blessing from the Lord (see Genesis 1:2). In Him, we are saved from our sins, are called now "the beloved of God."

All nations now are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to enter into the House of David and Kingdom of God, the Church. Together, through the obedience of faith, we have been made a new race - a royal people that seeks for the face of the God of Jacob.

He has made our hearts clean, made us worthy to enter His holy place, to stand in His presence and serve Him.

In the Eucharist, the everlasting covenant is renewed, the Advent promise of virgin with child - God with us - continues until the end of the age (see Matthew 28:20; Ezekiel 37:24-28).

Direct download: A_Advent_4_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Readings:
Isaiah 35:1-6,10
Psalm 146:6-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

John questions Jesus from prison in today's Gospel - for his disciples' sake and for ours.

He knows that Jesus is doing "the works of the Messiah," foretold in today's First Reading and Psalm. But John wants his disciples - and us - to know that the Judge is at the gate, that in Jesus our God has come to save us.

The Liturgy of Advent takes us out into the desert to see and hear the marvelous works and words of God - the lame leaping like a stag, the dead raised, the good news preached to the poor (see Isaiah 29:18-20; 61:1-2).

The Liturgy does this to give us courage, to strengthen our feeble hands and make firm our weak knees. Our hearts can easily become frightened and weighed down by the hardships we face. We can lose patience in our sufferings as we await the coming of the Lord.

As James advises in today's Epistle, we should take as our example the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Jesus also points us to a prophet - holding up John as a model. John knew that life was more than food, the body more than clothing. He sought the kingdom of God first, confident that God would provide (see Matthew 6:25-34). John did not complain. He did not lose faith. Even in chains in his prison cell, he was still sending his disciples - and us - to our Savior.

We come to Him again now in the Eucharist. Already He has caused the desert to bloom, the burning sands to become springs of living water. He has opened our ears to hear the words of the sacred book, freed our tongue to fill the air with songs of thanksgiving (see Isaiah 30:18).

Once bowed down, captives to sin and death, we have been ransomed and returned to His Kingdom, crowned with everlasting joy. Raised up we now stand before His altar to meet the One who is to come: "Here is your God."

 

Direct download: A_Advent_3_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:08am EST

Readings:
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Romans 15:4-9
Matthew 3:1-12

"The kingdom of heaven is at hand," John proclaims. And the Liturgy today paints us a vivid portrait of our new king and the shape of the kingdom He has come to bring.

The Lord whom John prepares the way for in today's Gospel is the righteous king prophesied in today's First Reading and Psalm. He is the king's son, the son of David - a shoot from the root of Jesse, David's father (see Ruth 4:17).

He will be the Messiah, anointed with the Holy Spirit (see 2 Samuel 23:1; 1 Kings 1:39; Psalm 2:2), endowed with the seven gifts of the Spirit - wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

He will rule with justice, saving the poor from the ruthless and wicked. His rule will be not only over Israel - but will extend from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth. He will be a light, a signal to all nations. And they will seek Him and pay Him homage.

In Him, all the tribes of the earth will find blessing. The covenant promise to Abraham (see Genesis 12:3), renewed in God's oath to David (see Psalm 89:4,28), will be fulfilled in His dynasty. And His name will be blessed forever.

In Christ, God confirms His oath to Israel's patriarchs, Paul tells us in today's Epistle. But no longer are God's promises reserved solely for the children of Abraham. The Gentiles, too, will glorify God for His mercy. Once strangers, in Christ they will be included in "the covenants of promise" (see Ephesians 2:12).

John delivers this same message in the Gospel. Once God's chosen people were hewn from the rock of Abraham (see Isaiah 51:1-2). Now, God will raise up living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) - children of Abraham born not of flesh and blood but of the Spirit.

This is the meaning of the fiery baptism He brings - making us royal heirs of the kingdom of heaven, the Church.

Direct download: A_Advent_2_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:18am EST

Readings:


Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122:1-9
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44 (see also "The Gospel of Fulfillment")

Jesus exaggerates in today's Gospel when He claims not to know the day or the hour when He will come again.

He occasionally makes such overstatements to drive home a point we might otherwise miss (see Matthew 5:34; 23:9; Luke 14:26).

His point here is that the exact "hour" is not important. What is crucial is that we not postpone our repentance, that we be ready for Him - spiritually and morally - when He comes. For He will surely come, He tells us - like a thief in the night, like the flood in the time of Noah.

In today's Epistle, Paul too compares the present age to a time of advancing darkness and night.

Though we sit in the darkness, overshadowed by death, we have seen arise the great light of our Lord who has come into our midst (see Matthew 4:16; John 1:9; 8:12). He is the true light, the life of the world. And His light continues to shine in His Church, the new Jerusalem promised by Isaiah in today's First Reading.

In the Church, all nations stream to the God of Jacob, to worship and seek wisdom in the House of David. From the Church goes forth His word of instruction, the light of the Lord - that all might walk in His paths toward that eternal day when night will be no more (see Revelation 22:5).

By our Baptism we have been made children of the light and day (see Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7). It is time we start living like it - throwing off the fruitless works of darkness, the desires of the flesh, and walking by the light of His grace.

The hour is late as we begin a new Advent. Let us begin again in this Eucharist.

As we sing in today's Psalm, let us go rejoicing to the House of the Lord. Let us give thanks to His name, keeping watch for His coming, knowing that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Direct download: A_Advent_1_17.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:10am EST