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

 

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 has 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 the scholar, and of each of us - "Go and do likewise."

 

Direct download: C_15_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:28pm 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: 10:18am EDT

 

 Readings:

1 Kings 19:16-21

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

Galatians 5:1,13-18

Luke 9:51-62

In this week’s First Reading, Elijah's disciple is allowed to kiss his parents goodbye before setting out to follow the prophet's call.

But we are called to follow a greater than Elijah, this week’s Liturgy wants us to know.

In Baptism, we have put on the cloak of Christ, been called to the house of a new Father, been given a new family in the kingdom of God. We have been called to leave behind our past lives and never look back - to follow wherever He leads.

Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind and his disciple was given a double portion of his spirit (see 2 Kings 2:9-15).

Jesus too, the Gospel reminds us, was "taken up" (see Acts 1:2,11,22), and He gave us His Spirit to live by, to guide us in our journey in His kingdom.

As this week’s Epistle tells us, the call of Jesus shatters the yoke of every servitude, sets us free from the rituals of the old Law, shows us the Law's fulfillment in the following of Jesus, in serving one another through love.

His call sets our hands to a new plow, a new task - to be His messengers, sent ahead to prepare all peoples to meet Him and enter into His Kingdom.

Elijah called down fire to consume those who wouldn't accept God (see 2 Kings 1:1-16). But we have a different Spirit with us.

To live by His Spirit is to face opposition and rejection, as the Apostles do in this week’s Gospel. It is to feel like an exile, with no lasting city (see Hebrews 13:14), no place in this world to lay our head or call home.

But we hear the voice of the One we follow in this week’s Psalm (see Acts 2:25-32; 13:35-37). He calls us to make His faith our own - to abide in confidence that He will not abandon us, that He will show us "the path to life," leading us to the fullness of joy in His presence forever.

Direct download: C_13_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 9:07am EDT

Readings:

Zech 12:10-11; 13:1

Ps 62:2-6. 8-9 r. 2

Gal 3:26-29

Luke 9:18-24

In this Sunday's readings we hear the voice of the Prophet Zechariah as he delivers difficult oracles from God. The people have returned from exile. Now back in Jerusalem, they face the arduous work of rebuilding the Temple. Zechariah acknowledges their hardships and foresees more obstacles.

But their grief has a purpose. It is a remedy, a penance to heal them -- "a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness."

Thus purified, the people will be ready to receive the Messiah and usher in a new creation. God promises to "pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition." So that no one should mistake the identity of the Messiah when He comes, God says through Zechariah: "they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son … a first-born." That prophecy could be fulfilled in no other than Jesus, the Word made Flesh, the Only-Begotten Son of God, the Crucified.

The day of the Messiah indeed came, with an outpouring of the Spirit. Yet it was a saving event not only for Jerusalem, but for all people. Both Jews and Gentiles could become "children of God," in St. Paul's stunning phrase. Now, “There is neither Jew nor Greek … slave nor free … male and female …  if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the promise.”

In light of these readings, Sunday's Gospel is poignant. Jesus asks his closest friends, " who do you say that I am?" Peter replies, "The Messiah of God." Jesus then reveals to them, as Zechariah had foretold, that the Messiah must be "thrust through" and killed and mourned before the Spirit would come forth on Pentecost.

The day has indeed come. Yet still we long for its fullness, and so we pray to God in the Psalm: "for you I long! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, Like a land parched, lifeless, and without water."

Direct download: C_12_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 10:15am EDT

 

Readings:

2 Samuel 12: 7–10, 13

Psalm 32: 1–2, 5,7,11

Galatians 2:16, 19–21

Luke 7:36–50

In this Sunday’s readings we are like the fallen king, David, and the woman who weeps at Jesus’ feet.

Like David, the Lord has rescued us from sin and death, anointed us with His Spirit in baptism and in confirmation. He has made us heirs of His promise to the children of Israel.

And like David, and like the woman in the Gospel, we fall into sin. Our crimes may not be as grave as David’s (see 2 Samuel 11:1–26) or as “many” as that woman’s (see Luke 7:47).

But we often squander the great gift of salvation we’ve been given. Often we fail to live up to the great calling of being sons and daughters of God.

The good news of today’s readings, the good news of Jesus Christ, is that we can return to God in the sacrament of confession. Each of us can repeat Paul’s wondrous words in this week’s Epistle: “The Son of God has loved me and given himself up for me.”

Our faith will save us, as Jesus tells the woman today. Our faith that no matter how many our sins, or how serious, if we come to him in true sorrow and repentance we will hear his words of forgiveness. Like David. Like the woman in the Gospel this Sunday.

We hear David’s heartfelt confession in the First Reading. The Psalmist, too, confesses his sins to God. And we hear our Lord’s tender words of mercy and pardon in the Gospel.

By His word of healing and his promise of peace, He makes it possible for us to join Him at the banquet table of the Eucharist.

We can’t be like the Pharisee in the Gospel. We should never disdain the sinner or doubt the Lord’s power to convert even the worst of sinners.

Instead, we should pledge today to better imitate that sinful woman. In gratitude for the debt we’ve been forgiven, let us promise to live by faith and for God alone. Like her, let us devote our lives to serving Him with great love.

 

Direct download: C_11_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:00am EDT

 

Readings:

1 Kings 17-17-24

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

Gal 1:11-19

Luke 7:11-17 

Jesus in today’s Gospel meets a funeral procession coming out of the gates of the town of Nain.  Unlike when he raised Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5) or Lazarus (John 11), no one requests his assistance.  Moved by compassion for the widow who had lost her only son, Jesus steps forward and, laying his hand on the bier, commands him to arise.

The onlookers were reminded of the story of Elijah in the first reading who raised the dead child of the widow of Zarephath and “gave him [back] to his mother.”  They proclaimed that “a great prophet has arisen in our midst.”

Jesus of course is more than a prophet; he is the ruler over life and death.  In the Mosaic law, contact with a dead body renders an Israelite unclean for a week (Numbers 19:11-19).  Jesus’ touch and word reverses that; instead of being defiled by contact with death, he gave life.

Like the physical healings that he performed, Jesus’ raising people from the dead is a sign of the Messiah’s arrival (Luke 7:22).  But it is more than that; these healings are visible signs of the awakening and liberating of men from the spiritual death caused by sin (see Mark 2:1-12).

The Church Fathers return to this theme again and again.  St. Ambrose writes, “the widow signifies Mother Church, weeping for those who are dead in sin and carried beyond the safety of her gates.  The multitudes looking on will praise the Lord when sinners rise again from death and are restored to their mother.”

When we are dead in sin, it is the outstretched hand and the words of Christ spoken by his priest, that raise us from spiritual death and restore us to the arms of our mother, the Church.  With the Psalmist, then, we can sing “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.  You brought me up from the nether world; you preserved me from those going down into the pit.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:44pm 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: 4:13pm 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, will share the life of the Trinity, 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: 3:37pm 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: 10:50am EDT

Readings:

Acts 7:55-60

Psalms 97:1-2, 6-7, 9

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20

John 17:20-26

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, 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: 1:34pm EDT