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

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

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: 10:15am 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: 11:55am 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, 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 pass 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: 11:35am EDT