St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Readings:
Malachi 3:1–4
Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10
Hebrews 2:14–18
Luke 2:22–40

Today’s feast marks the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple, forty days after he was born. As the firstborn, he belonged to God. According to the Law, Mary and Joseph were required to take him to the Temple and “redeem” him by paying five shekels. At the same time, the Law required the child’s mother to offer sacrifice in order to overcome the ritual impurity brought about by childbirth.

So the feast we celebrate shows a curious turn of events. The Redeemer seems to be redeemed. She who is all-pure presents herself to be purified. Such is the humility of our God. Such is the humility of the Blessed Virgin. They submit to the law even though they are not bound by it.

However, the Gospel story nowhere mentions Jesus’ “redemption,” but seems to describe instead a religious consecration—such as a priest might undergo. Saint Luke tells us that Jesus is “presented” in the Temple, using the same verb that Saint Paul uses to describe the offering of a sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). Another parallel is the Old Testament dedication of Samuel (1 Sam 1:24-27) to the Temple as a priest.

The drama surrounding Jesus’ conception and birth began in the Temple—when the Archangel visited Mary’s kinsman, Zechariah the priest. And now the story of Jesus’ infancy comes to a fitting conclusion, again in the Temple.

All the readings today concern Jerusalem, the Temple, and the sacrificial rites. The first reading comes from the Prophet Malachi, who called the priests to return to faithful service—and foretold a day when a Messiah would arrive with definitive purification of the priesthood.

Likewise, the Psalm announces to Jerusalem that Jerusalem is about to receive a great visitor. The Psalmist identifies him as “The LORD of hosts . . . the king of glory.”

Christ now arrives as the long-awaited priest and redeemer. He is also the sacrifice. Indeed, as his life will show, He is the Temple itself (see John 2:19-21).

Direct download: BTB_-_Presentation_of_the_Lord.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 9:49am EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 8:23–9:3
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13–14
1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17
Matthew 4:12–23


Today’s Liturgy gives us a lesson in ancient Israelite geography and history.

Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s First Reading is quoted by Matthew in today’s Gospel. Both intend to recall the apparent fall of the everlasting kingdom promised to David (see 2 Samuel 7:12–13; Psalm 89; 132:11–12).

Eight centuries before Christ, that part of the kingdom where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived was attacked by the Assyrians, and the tribes were hauled off into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

It marked the beginning of the kingdom’s end. It finally crumbled in the sixth century BC, when Jerusalem was seized by Babylon and the remaining tribes were driven into exile (see 2 Kings 24:14).

Isaiah prophesied that Zebulun and Naphtali, the lands first to be degraded, would be the first to see the light of God’s salvation. Jesus today fulfills that prophecy—announcing the restoration of David’s kingdom at precisely the spot where the kingdom began to fall.

His Gospel of the Kingdom includes not only the twelve tribes of Israel but all the nations—symbolized by the “Galilee of the Nations.” Calling His first disciples, two fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, He appoints them to be “fishers of men”—gathering people from the ends of the earth.

They are to preach the Gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle, to unite all peoples in the same mind and in the same purpose—in a worldwide kingdom of God.

By their preaching, Isaiah’s promise has been delivered. A world in darkness has seen the light. Th e yoke of slavery and sin, borne by humanity since time began, has been smashed.

And we are able now, as we sing in today’s Psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord, to worship Him in the land of the living.

Direct download: A_3_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Lecturas:
Isaías 8,23–9,3
Salmo 27,1.4.13–14
1 Corintios 1,10–13.17
Mateo 4,12–23

La liturgia de hoy nos da una lección de geografía e historia israelita antigua.

En el Evangelio de hoy, Mateo menciona la profecía de Isaías que aparece en la primera lectura. Ambas citas buscan recordar la aparente caída del reino eterno prometido a David (cf. 2 S 7,12–14; Sal 89; Sal 132, 11–12).

Ocho siglos antes de Jesús, la parte del reino donde vivían las tribus de Zebulón y Neftalí fue atacada por los asirios y sus habitantes fueron llevados al cautiverio (cf. 2 R 15,29; 1 Cr 5,26).

Esto marcó el comienzo del final del reino, que terminó desmoronándose en el siglo VI antes de Cristo, cuando Jerusalén fue capturada por Babilonia y las tribus que quedaban fueron llevadas al exilio (cf. 2 R 24,14).

Isaías profetizó que Zabulón y Neftalí, las primeras tierras que fueron degradadas, serían también las primeras en ver la luz de la salvación de Dios. Jesús cumple hoy esa profecía, anunciando la restauración del reino de David, precisamente ahí donde empezó a caer.

Su Evangelio del reino incluye no sólo a las doce tribus de Israel, sino a todas las naciones, simbolizadas en la “Galilea de las naciones”. Al llamar a sus primeros discípulos, dos pescadores del mar de Galilea, los destina a ser “pescadores de hombres”.

Según nos dice San Pablo en la Epístola de hoy, los discípulos han de predicar el evangelio para unir todos los pueblos en un mismo pensar y sentir; en un reino mundial de Dios.

Mediante su predicación, la profecía de Isaías ha sido proclamada. Un mundo en tinieblas ha visto la luz. El yugo de la esclavitud y el pecado, cargado por la humanidad desde el inicio de los tiempos, ha sido destrozado.

Como cantamos en el salmo de hoy, ya somos capaces de habitar en la casa del Señor, de adorarlo en la tierra de los vivos.

Direct download: A_3_Ordinary_Spn_17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Lecturas:
Isaías 49,3.5–6
Salmo 40,2.4.7–10
1 Corintios 1,1–3
Juan 1,29–34

Jesús habla por medio del profeta Isaías en la primera lectura de hoy.

Nos habla sobre la misión que el Padre le ha dado desde el vientre materno: “El Señor me dijo: ‘tú eres mi Siervo’”.

Nuestro Señor, Siervo e Hijo, fue enviado para liderar un nuevo éxodo, para levantar las tribus exiliadas de Israel, para reunirlas y restituirlas a Dios. Más aún, para ser luz de las naciones y que la salvación de Dios llegue a los confines de la tierra (cf. Hch 13,46–47).

Antes del primer éxodo fue ofrecido un cordero en sacrificio, y su sangre tiñó los dinteles de las puertas de los israelitas. La sangre del cordero identificó sus hogares y el Señor los “pasó de largo”, sin ejecutar en ellos la sentencia destinada a los egipcios (cf. Ex 12,1–23.27).

En el nuevo éxodo, Jesús es el “Cordero de Dios”, tal como es contemplado por Juan en el Evangelio de hoy (cf. 1 Co 5,7; 1P 1,18–18). Nuestro Señor canta sobre ello en el salmo de este día. Ha venido, nos dice, a ofrecer su Cuerpo para cumplir la voluntad de Dios (cf. Hb 10,3–13).

Los sacrificios, oblaciones, holocaustos y ofrendas por los pecados, dados después del primer éxodo, no tenían poder para borrar los pecados (cf. Hb 10,4). Esas prácticas no fueron concebidas para salvar, sino para enseñar (cf. Ga 3,24). Al ofrecer esos sacrificios, el pueblo debía aprender a sacrificarse, a adorar, a ofrecerse a sí mismo libremente a Dios y a deleitarse en su voluntad.

Sólo Jesús pudo hacer esa ofrenda perfecta de sí mismo. Y por su sacrificio nos ha abierto los oídos a la obediencia, nos ha hecho capaces de escuchar la llamada del Padre a la santidad, como dice San Pablo en la epístola de hoy.

Él nos ha hecho hijos de Dios, bautizados en la sangre del Cordero (cf. Ap 7,14). Y hemos de unir nuestro sacrificio al suyo para ofrecer nuestros cuerpos—vidas—como sacrificios vivos en la adoración espiritual de la Misa (cf. Rm 12,1).

Direct download: A_2_Ordinary_Spn_17.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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, He has 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: 12:00pm EDT

Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7
Psalm 29:1–4, 9–10
Acts 10:34–38
Matthew 3:13–17

Jesus presents himself for baptism in today’s Gospel not because He is a sinner, but to fulfill the word of God proclaimed by His prophets. He must be baptized to reveal that He is the Christ (“anointed one”)—the Spirit-endowed Servant promised by Isaiah in today’s First Reading.

His baptism marks the start of a new world, a new creation. As Isaiah prophesied, the Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove—as the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep in the beginning (see Genesis 1:2).

As it was in the beginning, at the Jordan also the majestic voice of the Lord thunders above the waters. The Father opens the heavens and declares Jesus to be His “beloved son.”

God had long prepared the Israelites for His coming, as Peter preaches in today’s Second Reading. Jesus was anticipated in the “beloved son” given to Abraham (see Genesis 22:2, 12, 26), and in the calling of Israel as His “first-born son” (see Exodus 4:22–23). Jesus is the divine son begotten by God, the everlasting heir promised to King David (see Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14).

He is “a covenant of the people [Israel]” and “a light to the nations,” Isaiah says. By the new covenant made in His blood (see 1 Corinthians 11:25), God has gathered the lost sheep of Israel together with whoever fears Him in every nation.

Christ has become the source from which God pours out His Spirit on Israelites and Gentiles alike (see Acts 10:45). In Baptism, all are anointed with that same Spirit, made beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, we are Christians—literally “anointed ones.”

We are the “sons of God” in today’s Psalm—called to give glory to His name in His temple. Let us pray that we remain faithful to our calling as His children, that our Father might call us what he calls His Son—“my beloved . . . in whom I am well pleased.”

Direct download: A_Baptism_of_Lord.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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