Letters From Home (Sunday Bible Reflections)

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 and 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 fulfillment 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.”

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 5:27–32, 40–41
Psalm 30:2, 4–6, 11–13
Revelation 5:11–14
John 21:1–19


There are two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a “charcoal fire” is mentioned. One is in today’s Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.

The other is in the scene in the High Priest’s courtyard on Holy Thursday, where Peter and some guards and slaves warm themselves while Jesus is being interrogated inside (see John 18:18).

At the first fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted (see John 13:38; 18:15–18, 25–27).

Today’s charcoal fire becomes the scene of Peter’s repentance, as three times Jesus asks him to make a profession of love. Jesus’ thrice repeated command, “feed My sheep,” shows that Peter is being appointed as the shepherd of the Lord’s entire flock, the head of His Church (see also Luke 22:32).

Jesus’ question, “Do you love me more than these?” is a pointed reminder of Peter’s pledge to lay down his life for Jesus, even if the other Apostles might weaken (see John 13:37; Matthew 26:33; Luke 22:33).

Jesus then explains just what Peter’s love and leadership will require, foretelling Peter’s death by crucifixion (“you will stretch out your hands”).

Before His own death, Jesus had warned the Apostles that they would be hated as He was hated, that they would suffer as He suffered (see Matthew 10:16–19, 22; John 15:18–20; 16:2).

We see the beginnings of that persecution in today’s First Reading. Flogged as Jesus was, the Apostles nonetheless leave “rejoicing that they have been found worthy to suffer.”

Their joy is based on their faith that God will change their “mourning into dancing,” as we sing in today’s Psalm. By their sufferings, they know, they will be counted worthy to stand in heaven before “the Lamb that was slain,” a scene glimpsed in today’s Second Reading (see also Revelation 6:9–11).

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Acts 5:12–16
Psalm 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24
Revelation 1:9–13, 17–19
John 20:19–31


The prophet Daniel in a vision saw “One like the Son of Man” receive everlasting kingship (see Daniel 7:9–14). John is taken to heaven in today’s Second Reading where he sees Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, who appears as “One like a Son of Man.”

Jesus is clad in the robe of a High Priest (see Exodus 28:4; Wisdom 18:24) and wearing the gold sash of a king (see 1 Maccabees 10:89). He has been exalted by the right hand of the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

His risen body, which the Apostles touch in today’s Gospel, has been made a lifegiving Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 15:45).

As the Father anointed Him with the Spirit and power (see Acts 10:38), Jesus pours out that Spirit on the Apostles, sending them into the world “as the Father has sent Me.”

Jesus “breathes” the Spirit of His divine life into the Apostles—as God blew the “breath of life” into Adam (see Genesis 2:7), as Elijah’s prayer returned “the life breath” to the dead child (see 1 Kings 17:21–23), and as the Spirit breathed new life into the slain in the valley of bones (see Ezekiel 37:9–10).

His creative breath unites the Apostles—His Church—to His body, and empowers them to breathe His life into a dying world, to make it a new creation.

In today’s Gospel and First Reading, we see the Apostles fulfilling this mission with powers only God possesses—the power to forgive sins and to work “signs an wonders,” a biblical expression only used to describe the mighty works of God (see Exodus 7:3; 11:10; Acts 7:36).

Thomas and the others saw “many other signs” after Jesus was raised from the dead. They saw and they believed. They have been given His life, which continues in the Church’s Word and
sacraments, so that we who have not seen might inherit His blessings and “have life in His name.”

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm 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,” that 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.”

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 50:4–7
Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24
Philippians 2:6–11
Luke 22:14–23:56


“What is written about Me is coming to fulfillment,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel (see Luke 22:37).

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 Luke 22:63–65; 23:10–11, 16), as His hands and feet are pierced (see Luke 23:33), as enemies gamble for His clothes (see Luke 23:34), and as three times they dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Luke 23:35, 37, 39).

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, that one day we too will be with Him in Paradise (see Luke 23:42). Seeing and Believing.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Isaiah 43:16–21
Psalm 126:1–6
Philippians 3:8–14
John 8:1–11


The Liturgy this Lent has shown us the God of the Exodus. He is a mighty and gracious God, Who out of faithfulness to His covenant has done “great things” for His people, as today’s Psalm puts it.

But the “things of long ago,” Isaiah tells us in today’s First Reading, are nothing compared to the “something new” that He will do in the future.

Today’s First Reading and Psalm look back to the marvelous deeds of the Exodus. Both see in the Exodus a pattern and prophecy of the future, when God will restore the fortunes of His people fallen in sin. The readings today look forward to a still greater Exodus, when God will gather in the exiled tribes of Israel that had been scattered to the four winds, the ends of the
earth.

The new Exodus that Israel waited and hoped for has come in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like the adulterous woman in today’s Gospel, all have been spared by the Lord’s compassion. All have heard His words of forgiveness, His urging to repentance, to be sinners no more. Like Paul in today’s Epistle, Christ has taken possession of every one, claimed each as a child of our heavenly Father.

In the Church, God has formed a people for Himself to announce His praise, just as Isaiah said He would. And as Isaiah promised, He has given His “chosen people” living waters to drink in the desert wastelands of the world (see John 7:37–39).

But our God is ever a God of the future, not of the past. We are to live with hopeful hearts, “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead,” as Paul tells us. His salvation, Paul says, is power in the present, “the power of His resurrection.”

We are to live awaiting a still greater and final Exodus, pursuing “the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling,” striving in faith to attain the last new thing God promises—”the resurrection of the dead.”

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Joshua 5:9–12
Psalm 34:2–7
2 Corinthians 5:17–21
Luke 15:1–311–32

In today’s First Reading, God forgives “the reproach” of the generations who grumbled against Him after the Exodus. On the threshold of the promised land, Israel can with a clean heart celebrate the Passover, the feast of God’s firstborn son (see Joshua 5:6–7Exodus 4:2212:12–13).

Reconciliation is also at the heart of the story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of Israel and of the human race. But it is also the story of every believer.

In Baptism, we’re given a divine birthright, made “a new creation,” as Paul puts it in today’s Epistle. But when we sin, we’re like the Prodigal Son, quitting our Father’s house, squandering our inheritance in trying to live without Him.

Lost in sin, we cut ourselves off from the grace of sonship lavished upon us in Baptism. It is still possible for us to come to our senses, make our way back to the Father, as the prodigal does.

But only He can remove the reproach and restore the divine sonship we have spurned. Only He can free us from the slavery to sin that causes us—like the Prodigal Son—to see God not as our Father but as our master, One we serve as slaves.

God wants not slaves but children. Like the father in today’s Gospel, He longs to call each of us “My son,” to share His life with us, to tell us: “Everything I have is yours.”

The Father’s words of longing and compassion still come to His prodigal children in the Sacrament of Penance. This is part of what Paul today calls “the ministry of reconciliation” entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles and the Church.

Reconciled like Israel, we take our place at the table of the Eucharist, the homecoming banquet the Father calls for His lost sons, the new Passover we celebrate this side of heaven. We taste the goodness of the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm, rejoicing that we who were dead are found alive again.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Exodus 3:1–813–15
Psalm 103:1–46–811
1 Corinthians 10:1–610–12
Luke 13:1–9

 


In the Church, we are made children of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God who makes known His name and His ways to Moses in today’s First Reading.

Mindful of His covenant with Abraham (see Exodus 2:24), God came down to rescue His people from the slave drivers of Egypt. Faithful to that same covenant (see Luke 1:54–5572–73), He sent Jesus to redeem all lives from destruction, as today’s Psalm tells us.

Paul says in today’s Epistle that God’s saving deeds in the Exodus were written down for the Church, intended as a prelude and foreshadowing of our own Baptism by water, our liberation from sin, our feeding with spiritual food and drink.

Yet the events of the Exodus were also given as a “warning”—that being children of Abraham is no guarantee that we will reach the promised land of our salvation.

At any moment, Jesus warns in today’s Gospel, we could perish—not as God’s punishment for being “greater sinners”—but because, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we stumble into evil desires, fall into grumbling, forget all His benefits.

Jesus calls us today to “repentance”—not a one-time change of heart, but an ongoing, daily transformation of our lives. We’re called to live the life we sing about in today’s Psalm—blessing His holy name, giving thanks for His kindness and mercy.

The fig tree in His parable is a familiar Old Testament symbol for Israel (see Jeremiah 8:324:1–10). As the fig tree is given one last season to produce fruit before it is cut down, so too Jesus is giving Israel one final opportunity to bear good fruits as evidence of its repentance (see Luke 3:8).

Lent should be for us like the season of reprieve given to the fig tree, a grace period in which we let “the gardener,” Christ, cultivate our hearts, uprooting what chokes the divine life in us, strengthening us to bear fruits that will last into eternity.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Genesis 15:5–1217–18
Psalm 27:17–913–14
Philippians 3:17–4:1
Luke 9:28–36

 


In today’s Gospel, we go up to the mountain with Peter, John, and James. There we see Jesus “transfigured,” speaking with Moses and Elijah about His “exodus.”

The Greek word “exodus” means “departure.” But the word is chosen deliberately here to stir our remembrance of the Israelites’ flight from Egypt.

By His death and resurrection, Jesus will lead a new Exodus—liberating not only Israel but every race and people; not from bondage to Pharaoh, but from slavery to sin and death. He will lead all mankind, not to the territory promised to Abraham in today’s First Reading, but to the heavenly commonwealth that Paul describes in today’s Epistle.

Moses, the giver of God’s law, and the great prophet Elijah, were the only Old Testament figures to hear the voice and see the glory of God atop a mountain (see Exodus 24:15–181 Kings 19:8–18).

Today’s scene closely resembles God’s revelation to Moses, who also brought along three companions and whose face also shone brilliantly (see Exodus 24:134:29). But when the divine cloud departs in today’s Gospel, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains. He has revealed the glory of the Trinity—the voice of the Father, the glorified Son, and the Spirit in the shining cloud.

Jesus fulfills all that Moses and the prophets had come to teach and show us about God (see Luke 24:27). He is the “chosen One” promised by Isaiah (see Isaiah 42:1Luke 23:35), the “prophet
like me” that Moses had promised (see Deuteronomy 18:15Acts 3:22–237:37). Far and above that, He is the Son of God (see Psalm 2:7Luke 3:21–23).

“Listen to Him,” the Voice tells us from the cloud. If, like Abraham, we put our faith in His words, one day we too will be delivered into “the land of the living” that we sing of in today’s Psalm. We will share in His resurrection, as Paul promises, our lowly bodies glorified like His.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Deuteronomy 26:4–10
Psalm 91:1–210–15
Romans 10:8–13
Luke 4:1–13

 


In today’s epic Gospel scene, Jesus relives in His flesh the history of Israel.

We’ve already seen that, like Israel, Jesus has passed through water and been called God’s beloved Son (see Luke 3:22Exodus 4:22). Now, as Israel was tested for forty years in the wilderness, Jesus is led into the desert to be tested for forty days and nights (see Exodus 15:25).

He faces the temptations put to Israel: Hungry, He’s tempted to grumble against God for food (see Exodus 16:1–13). As Israel quarreled at Massah, He’s tempted to doubt God’s care (see Exodus 17:1–6). When the Devil asks for His homage, He’s tempted to do what Israel did in creating the golden calf (see Exodus 32).

Jesus fights the Devil with the Word of God, three times quoting from Moses’ lecture about the lessons Israel was supposed to learn from its wilderness wanderings (see Deuteronomy 8:36:166:12–15).

Why do we read this story on the first Sunday of Lent? Because like the biblical sign of forty (see Genesis 7:12Exodus 24:1834:281 Kings 19:8Jonah 3:4), the forty days of Lent are a time of trial and purification.

Lent is to teach us what we hear over and over in today’s readings. “Call upon me, and I will answer,” the Lord promises in today’s Psalm. Paul promises the same thing in today’s Epistle (quoting Deuteronomy 30:14Isaiah 28:16Joel 2:32).

This was Israel’s experience, as Moses reminds his people in today’s First Reading: “We cried to the LORD . . . and He heard.” But each of us is tempted, as Israel was, to forget the great deeds He works in our lives, to neglect our birthright as His beloved sons and daughters.

Like the litany of remembrance Moses prescribes for Israel, we should see in the Mass a memorial of our salvation, and “bow down in His presence,” offering ourselves in thanksgiving for all He has given us.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
1 Samuel 26:27–912–1322–23
Psalm 103:1–13
1 Corinthians 15:45–49
Luke 6:27–38

 


The story of David and Saul in today’s First Reading functions almost like a parable. Showing mercy to his deadly foe, David gives a concrete example of what Jesus expects to become a way of life for His disciples.

The new law Jesus gives in today’s Gospel would have us all become “Davids”—loving our enemies, doing good to those who would harm us, extending a line of credit to those who won’t ever repay us.

The Old Law required only that the Israelites love their fellow countrymen (see Leviticus 19:18). The new law Jesus brings makes us kin to every man and woman (see also Luke 10:29–36). His kingdom isn’t one of tribe or nationality. It’s a family. As followers of Jesus, we’re to live as He lived among us—as “children of the Most High” (see Luke 6:351:35).

As sons and daughters, we want to walk in the ways of our heavenly Father, to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Grateful for His mercy, we’re called to forgive others their trespasses because God has forgiven ours.

In the context of today’s liturgy, we’re all “Sauls”—by our sinfulness and pride we make ourselves enemies of God. But we’ve been spared a death we surely deserved to die because God has loved and shown mercy to His enemies, “the ungrateful and the wicked,” as Jesus says.

Jesus showed us this love in His Passion, forgiving His enemies as they stripped Him of cloak and tunic, cursed Him and struck Him on the cheek, condemned Him to death on a cross (see Luke 22:63–6523:34). “He redeems your life from destruction,” David reminds us in today’s Psalm.

That’s the promise, too, of today’s Epistle: that we who believe in the “last Adam,” Jesus, will rise from the dead in His image, as today we bear the image of the “first Adam,” who by his sin made God an enemy and brought death into the world (see 1 Corinthians 15:21–22).

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Jeremiah 17:5–8
Psalm 1:1–46
1 Corinthians 15:1216–20
Luke 6:1720–26

 


The blessings and woes we hear in today’s Gospel mark the perfection of all the wisdom of the Old Testament.

That wisdom is summed up with marvelous symmetry in today’s First Reading and Psalm: Each declares that the righteous—those who hope in the Lord and delight in His Law—will prosper like a tree planted near living waters. The wicked, who put their “trust in human beings,” are cursed to wither and die.

Jesus is saying the same thing in the Gospel. The rich and poor are, for Him, more than members of literal economic classes. Their material state symbolizes their spiritual state.

The rich are “the insolent” of today’s Psalm, boasting of their self-sufficiency, the strength of their flesh, as Jeremiah says in the First Reading. The poor are the humble, who put all their hope and trust in the Lord.

We’ve already seen today’s dramatic imagery of reversal in Mary’s “Magnificat.” There, too, the rich are cast down while the hungry are filled and the lowly exalted (see Luke 1:45–55 also 16:19–31).

That’s the upside-down world of the Gospel: in poverty we gain spiritual treasure unimaginable; in suffering and even dying “on account of the Son of Man,” we find everlasting life.

The promises of the Old Testament were promises of power and prosperity—in the here and now. The promise of the New Covenant is joy and true freedom even amid the misery and toil of this life. But not only that. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we’re to be pitied if our hope is “for this life only.”

The blessings of God mean that we’ll laugh with the thanksgiving of captives released from exile (see Psalm 126:1–2), feast at the heavenly table of the Lord (see Psalm 107:3–9), “leap for joy” as John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb (see Luke 6:231:4144), and rise with Christ, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

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Readings:

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 138:1-5, 7-8

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

 

Simon Peter, the fisherman, is the first to be called personally by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.

His calling resembles Isaiah’s commissioning in the First Reading: Confronted with the holiness of the Lord, both Peter and Isaiah are overwhelmed by a sense of their sinfulness and inadequacy. Yet each experiences the Lord’s forgiveness and is sent to preach the good news of His mercy to the world.

 

No one is “fit to be called an apostle,” Paul recognizes in today’s Epistle. But by “the grace of God,” even a persecutor of the Church—as Paul once was—can be lifted up for the Lord’s service.

In the Old Testament, humanity was unfit for the  divine—no man could stand in God’s presence and live (see Exodus 33:20). But in Jesus, we’re made able to speak with Him face-to-face, taste His Word on our tongue.

Today’s scene from Isaiah is recalled in every Mass. Before reading the Gospel, the priest silently asks God to cleanse his lips that he might worthily proclaim His Word.

God’s Word comes to us as it came to Peter, Paul, Isaiah, and today’s Psalmist— as a personal call to leave everything and follow Him, to surrender our weaknesses in order to be filled with His strength.

Simon put out into deep waters even though, as a professional fisherman, he knew it would be foolhardy to expect to catch anything. In humbling himself before the Lord’s command, he was exalted—his nets filled to overflowing; later, as Paul tells us, he will become the first to see the risen Lord.

Jesus has made us worthy to receive Him in the company of angels in God’s holy Temple. On our knees like Peter, with the humility of David in today’s Psalm, we thank Him with all our hearts and join in the unending hymn that Isaiah heard around God’s altar: “Holy, holy, holy....” (see also Revelation 4:8).

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19
Psalm 71: 1-6,15-17
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30


God's words in today's First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a "prophet to the nations" (see Luke 1:31-33).

Like the prophets before Him, Jesus too faces hostility. In today's Gospel, the crowd in His hometown synagogue quickly turns on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origins - that He's more than just "the son of Joseph."

The sign He gives them is that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. From their colorful careers Jesus draws two stories. In each, the prophets bypass "many...in Israel" to bestow God's blessings on non-Israelites who had faith that the prophets were men of God (see 1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14). "None...not one" in Israel was found deserving, Jesus emphasizes.

His point isn't lost on His audience. They know He's likening them to the "many...in Israel" in the days of the prophets. That's why they try to shove Him off the cliff. As He promised to protect Jeremiah, the Lord delivers Jesus from those who would crush Him.

And as were Elijah and Elisha, Jesus is sent to proclaim God's gift of salvation - not exclusively to one nation or people, but to all who realize in faith that from the womb God alone is their hope, their rescuer, their "rock of refuge," as we sing in today's Psalm.

Prophecies, Paul tells us in today's Epistle, are partial and pass away "when the perfect comes." In Jesus, the word of the prophets has been brought to perfection, fulfilled in those who have ears to hear, as He declares in today's Gospel.

Greater than the gifts of faith and hope, Jesus shows us how to love as He loved, to love God as our Father, as One Who formed us in the womb and destined us to hear His saving Word.

This is the salvation, the "mighty works of the Lord," that we, as the Psalmist, are thankful to proclaim daily in the Eucharist.

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New Day Dawns

Readings:
Nehemiah 8:2-6,10
Psalms 19:8-10,15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21


The meaning of today's Liturgy is subtle and many-layered.

We need background to understand what's happening in today's First Reading.

Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15-17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).

The stage was set for the renewal of the covenant and the re-establishment of the Law of Moses as the people's rule of life. That's what's going on in today's First Reading, as Ezra reads and interprets (see Nehemiah 8:8) the Law and the people respond with a great "Amen!"

Israel, as we sing in today's Psalm, is rededicating itself to God and His Law. The scene seems like the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus reads from in today's Gospel.

Read all of Isaiah 61. The "glad tidings" Isaiah brings include these promises: the liberation of prisoners (61:1); the rebuilding of Jerusalem, or Zion (61:3-4; see also Isaiah 60:10); the restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests (61:6; Exodus 19:6) and the forging of an everlasting covenant (61:8; Isaiah 55:3). It sounds a lot like the First Reading.

Jesus, in turn, declares that Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in Him. The Gospel scene, too, recalls the First Reading. Like Ezra, Jesus stands before the people, is handed a scroll, unrolls it, then reads and interprets it (compare Luke 4:16-17,21 and Nehemiah 8:2-6,8-10).

We witness in today's Liturgy the creation of a new people of God. Ezra started reading at dawn of the first day of the Jewish new year (see Leviticus 23:24). Jesus too proclaims a "sabbath," a great year of Jubilee, a deliverance from slavery to sin, a release from the debts we owe to God (see Leviticus 25:10).

The people greeted Ezra "as one man." And, as today's Epistle teaches, in the Spirit the new people of God - the Church - is made "one body" with Him.

Direct download: C_3_Ordinary_16.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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: C_Epiphany_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
Hebrews 5:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 (see also “The ‘New Ark’”)


On this last Sunday before Christmas, the Church's Liturgy reveals the true identity of our Redeemer:
He is, as today's First Reading says, the "ruler...whose origin is from...ancient times." He will come from Bethlehem, where David was born of Jesse the Ephrathite and anointed king (see Ruth 4:11-17; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 17:1; Matthew 2:6).

God promised that an heir of David would reign on his throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89; Psalm 132:11-12).

Jesus is that heir, the One the prophets promised would restore the scattered tribes of Israel into a new kingdom (see Isaiah 9:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-25,30; 37:35). He is "the shepherd of Israel," sung of in today's Psalm. From His throne in heaven, He has "come to save us."

Today's Epistle tells us that He is both the Son of David and the only "begotten" Son of God, come "in the flesh" (see also Psalm 2:7). He is also our "high priest," from the mold of the mysterious Melchisedek, "priest of God Most High," who blessed Abraham at the dawn of salvation history (see Psalm 110:4; Genesis 14:18-20).

All this is recognized by John when he leaps for joy in his mother's womb. Elizabeth, too, is filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. She recognizes that in Mary "the mother of my Lord" has come to her. We hear in her words another echo of the Psalm quoted in today's Epistle (see Psalm 2:7). Elizabeth blesses Mary for her faith that God's Word would be fulfilled in her.

Mary marks the fulfillment not only of the angel's promise to her, but of all God's promises down through history. Mary is the one they await in today's First Reading - "she who is to give birth." She will give birth this week, at Christmas. And the fruit of her womb should bring us joy - she is the mother of our Lord.

 

The New 'Ark'

The Church in her liturgy and tradition has long praised Mary as "the Ark of the New Covenant." We see biblical roots for this in the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (Cycle C).

Compare Mary's visitation to Elizabeth with the story of David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and you'll hear interesting echoes.

As Mary "set out" for the hill country of Judah, so did David (see Luke 1:19; 2 Samuel 6:2). David, upon seeing the Ark, cries out "How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?" Elizabeth says the same thing about "the mother of my Lord" (see Luke 1:43; 2 Samuel 6:9).

John leaps in Elizabeth's womb, as David danced before the Ark (see Luke 1:41; 2 Samuel 6:16). And as the Ark stayed three months in "the house of Obed-edom," Mary stays three months in "the house of Zechariah" (see Luke 1:40,56; 2 Samuel 6:11).

The Greek word Luke uses to describe Elizabeth's loud cry of joy (anaphoneo) isn't used anywhere else in the New Testament. And it's found in only five places in the Greek Old Testament - every time used to describe "exultation" before the Ark (see 1 Chronicles 15:28; 16:4-5; 2 Chronicles 5:13).

Coincidences? Hardly. The old Ark contained the tablets of the Law, the manna from the desert and the priestly staff of Aaron (see Hebrews 9:4). In Mary, the new Ark, we find the Word of God, the Bread of Life and the High Priest of the new people of God (see also Catechism, no. 2676).

 

 

Direct download: C_4_Advent_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Zephaniah 3:14-18
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18


The people in today's Gospel are "filled with expectation." They believe John the Baptist might be the Messiah they've been waiting for. Three times we hear their question: "What then should we do?"

The Messiah's coming requires every man and woman to choose - to "repent" or not. That's John's message and it will be Jesus' too (see Luke 3:3; 5:32; 24:47).

"Repentance" translates a Greek word, metanoia (literally, "change of mind"). In the Scriptures, repentance is presented as a two-fold "turning" - away from sin (see Ezekiel 3:19; 18:30) and toward God (see Sirach 17:20-21; Hosea 6:1).

This "turning" is more than attitude adjustment. It means a radical life-change. It requires "good fruits as evidence of your repentance" (see Luke 3:8). That's why John tells the crowds, soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, honesty and social justice.

In today's Liturgy, each of us is being called to stand in that crowd and hear the "good news" of John's call to repentance. We should examine our lives, ask from our hearts as they did: "What should we do?" Our repentance should spring, not from our fear of coming wrath (see Luke 3:7-9), but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.

This theme resounds through today's readings: "Rejoice!...The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all," we hear in today's Epistle. In today's Responsorial, we hear again the call to be joyful, unafraid at the Lord's coming among us.

In today's First Reading, we hear echoes of the angel's Annunciation to Mary. The prophet's words are very close to the angel's greeting (compare Luke 1:28-31). Mary is the Daughter Zion - the favored one of God, told not to fear but to rejoice that the Lord is with her, "a mighty Savior."

She is the cause of our joy. For in her draws near the Messiah, as John had promised: "One mightier than I is coming."

Direct download: C_3_Advent_15.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126:1-6
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11
Luke 3:1-6

Today's Psalm paints a dream-like scene - a road filled with liberated captives heading home to Zion (Jerusalem), mouths filled with laughter, tongues rejoicing.

It's a glorious picture from Israel's past, a "new exodus," the deliverance from exile in Babylon. It's being recalled in a moment of obvious uncertainty and anxiety. But the psalmist isn't waxing nostalgic.

Remembering "the Lord has done great things" in the past, he is making an act of faith and hope - that God will come to Israel in its present need, that He'll do even greater things in the future.

This is what the Advent readings are all about: We recall God's saving deeds - in the history of Israel and in the coming of Jesus. Our remembrance is meant to stir our faith, to fill us with confidence that, as today's Epistle puts it, "the One who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it" until He comes again in glory.

Each of us, the Liturgy teaches, is like Israel in her exile - led into captivity by our sinfulness, in need of restoration, conversion by the Word of the Holy One (see Baruch 5:5). The lessons of salvation history should teach us that, as God again and again delivered Israel, in His mercy He will free us from our attachments to sin, if we turn to Him in repentance.

That's the message of John, introduced in today's Gospel as the last of the great prophets (compare Jeremiah 1:1-4,11). But John is greater than the prophets (see Luke 7:27). He's preparing the way, not only for a new redemption of Israel, but for the salvation of "all flesh" (see also Acts 28:28).

John quotes Isaiah (40:3) to tell us he's come to build a road home for us, a way out of the wilderness of sin and alienation from God. It's a road we'll follow Jesus down, a journey we'll make, as today's First Reading puts it, "rejoicing that [we're] remembered by God." 

Direct download: C_2_Advent_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

 

Readings:

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25:4-5,8-10,14

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

Every Advent, the Liturgy of the Word gives our sense of time a reorientation. There’s a deliberate tension in the next four weeks’ readings - between promise and fulfillment, expectation and deliverance, between looking forward and looking back.

 

In today’s First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah focuses our gaze on the promise God made to David, some 1,000 years before Christ. God says through the prophet that He will fulfill this promise by raising up a “just shoot,” a righteous offspring of David, who will rule Israel in justice (see 2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 33:17; Psalm 89:4-5; 27-38).

 

Today’s Psalm, too, sounds the theme of Israel’s ancient expectation: “Guide me in Your truth and teach Me. For You are God my Savior and for You I will wait all day.”

 

We look back on Israel’s desire and anticipation knowing that God has already made good on those promises by sending His only Son into the world. Jesus is the “just shoot,” the God and Savior for Whom Israel was waiting.

 

Knowing that He is a God who keeps His promises lends grave urgency to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.

 

Urging us to keep watch for His return in glory, He draws on Old Testament images of chaos and instability – turmoil in the heavens (see Isaiah 13:11,13; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10); roaring seas (see Isaiah 5:30; 17:12); distress among the nations (see Isaiah 8:22/14:25) and terrified people (see Isaiah 13:6-11).

 

He evokes the prophet Daniel’s image of the Son of Man coming on a cloud of glory to describe His return as a “theophany,” a manifestation of God (see Daniel 7:13-14).

 

Many will cower and be literally scared to death. But Jesus says we should greet the end-times with heads raised high, confident that God keeps His promises, that our “redemption is at hand,” that ‘the kingdom of God is near” (see Luke 21:31)

 

 

Direct download: C_1_Advent_2015.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Daniel 7:13-14

Psalm 93:1-2,5
Revelation 1:5-8

John 18:33-37

 

What’s the truth Jesus comes to bear witness to in this last Gospel of the Church’s year?

It’s the truth that in Jesus, God keeps the promise He made to David - of an everlasting kingdom, of an heir who would be His Son, “the first born, highest of the kings of the earth” (see 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89:27-38).

 

Today’s Second Reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, quotes these promises and celebrates Jesus as “the faithful witness.” The reading hearkens back to Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would “witness to the peoples” that God is renewing His “everlasting covenant” with David (see Isaiah 55:3-5).

 

But as Jesus tells Pilate, there’s far more going on here than the restoration of a temporal monarchy. In the Revelation reading, Jesus calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega,” the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He’s applying to Himself a description that God uses to describe Himself in the Old Testament - the first and the last, the One Who calls forth all generations (see Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12).

 

“He has made the world,” today’s Psalm cries, and His dominion is over all creation (see also John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). In the vision of Daniel we hear in today’s First Reading, He comes on “the clouds of heaven” - another sign of His divinity - to be given “glory and kingship” forever over all nations and peoples.

 

Christ is King and His Kingdom, while not of this world, exists in this world in the Church. We are a royal people. We know we have been loved by Him and freed by His blood and transformed into “a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father” (see also Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9).

 

As a priestly people, we share in His sacrifice and in His witness to God’s everlasting covenant. We belong to His truth and listen to His voice, waiting for Him to come again amid the clouds.

Direct download: B_2015_Christ_the_King.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Daniel 12:1-3

Psalm 16:5,8-11

Hebrews 10:11-14,18

Mark 13:24-32

 

In this, the second-to-the-last week of the Church year, Jesus has finally made it to Jerusalem.

 

Near to His passion and death, He gives us a teaching of hope--telling us how it will be when He returns again in glory.

 

Today’s Gospel is taken from the end of a long discourse in which He describes tribulations the likes of which haven’t been seen “since the beginning of God’s creation” (see Mark 13:9). He describes what amounts to a dissolution of God’s creation, a “devolution” of the world to its original state of formlessness and void.

 

First, human community--nations and kingdoms--will break down (see Mark 13:7-8). Then the earth will stop yielding food and begin to shake apart (13:8). Next, the family will be torn apart from within and the last faithful individuals will be persecuted (13:9-13). Finally, the Temple will be desecrated, the earth emptied of God’s presence (13:14).

 

In today’s reading, God is described putting out the lights that He established in the sky in the very beginning--the sun, the moon and the stars (see also Isaiah 13:10; 34:4). Into this “uncreated” darkness, the Son of Man, in Whom all things were made, will come.

 

Jesus has already told us that the Son of Man must be humiliated and killed (see Mark 8:31). Here He describes His ultimate victory, using royal-divine images drawn from the Old Testament--clouds, glory, and angels (see Daniel 7:13). He shows Himself to be the fulfillment of all God’s promises to save “the elect,” the faithful remnant (see Isaiah 43:6; Jeremiah 32:37).

 

As today’s First Reading tells us, this salvation will include will include the bodily resurrection of those who sleep in the dust.

 

We are to watch for this day, when His enemies are finally made His footstool, as today’s Epistle envisions. We can wait in confidence knowing, as we pray in today’s Psalm, that we will one day delight at His right hand forever.

Direct download: B_33_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

1 Kings 1:10-16

Psalm 146:7-10

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12:28-24

 

We must live by the obedience of faith, a faith that shows itself in works of charity and self-giving (see Galatians 5:6). That’s the lesson of the two widows in today’s liturgy.

 

The widow in the First Reading isn’t even a Jew, yet she trusts in the word of Elijah and the promise of his Lord. Facing sure starvation, she gives all that she has, her last bit of food—feeding the man of God before herself and her family.

 

The widow in the Gospel also gives all that she has, offering her last bit of money to support the work of God’s priests in the Temple.

 

In their self-sacrifice, these widows embody the love that Jesus last week revealed as the heart of the Law and the Gospel. They mirror the Father’s love in giving His only Son, and Christ’s love in sacrificing himself on the cross.

 

Again in today’s Epistle, we hear Christ described as a new high priest and the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah. On the cross, He made sacrifice once and for all to take away our sin and bring us to salvation (see Isaiah 53:12).

 

And again we are called to imitate His sacrifice of love in our own lives. We will be judged, not by how much we give—for the scribes and wealthy contribute far more than the widow. Rather, we will be judged by whether our gifts reflect our livelihood, our whole beings, all our heart and soul, mind and strength.

 

Are we giving all that we can to the Lord—not out of a sense of forced duty, but in a spirit of generosity and love (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7)?

 

Do not be afraid, the man of God tells us today. As we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord will provide for us, as he sustains the widow.

 

Today, let us follow the widows’ example, doing what God asks, confident that our jars of flour will not grow empty, nor our jugs of oil run dry.

Direct download: B_32_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:2-6

Psalm 18:2-4,47,57

Hebrews 7:23-28

Mark 12:28-34

Love is only law we are to live by. And love is the fulfillment of the Law that God reveals through Moses in today’s First Reading (see Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 5:43-48).

 

The unity of God—the truth that He is one God, Father, Son, and Spirit—means that we must love Him with one love, a love that serves Him with all our hearts and minds, souls and strength.

 

We love Him because He has loved us first. We love our neighbor because we can’t love the God we haven’t seen unless we love those made in His image and likeness, whom we have seen (see 1 John 4:19-21).

 

And we are called imitate the love that Christ showed us in laying His life down on the cross (see 1 John 3:16). As we hear in today’s Epistle, by His perfect sacrifice on the cross, He once and for all makes it possible for us to approach God.

 

There is no greater love than to lay down your life (see John 15:13). This is perhaps why Jesus tells the scribe in today’s Gospel that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

 

The scribe recognizes that the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the old Law were meant to teach Israel that it is love that He desires (see Hosea 6:6). The animals offered in sacrifice were symbols of the self-sacrifice, the total gift of our selves that God truly desires.

 

We are called today to examine our hearts. Do we have other loves that get in the way of our love for God? Do we love others as Jesus has loved us (see John 13:34-35)? Do we love our enemies and pray for those who oppose and persecute us (see Matthew 5:44)?

 

Let us tell the Lord we love Him, as we do in today’s Psalm. And let us take His Word to heart, that we might prosper and have life eternal in His kingdom, the heavenly homeland flowing with milk and honey.

Direct download: B_31_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-11

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

Hebrews 4:14-16

Mark 10:35-45

 

The sons of Zebedee hardly know what they’re asking in today’s Gospel. They are thinking in terms of how the Gentiles rule, of royal privileges and honors.

 

But the road to Christ’s kingdom is by way of His cross. To share in His glory, we must be willing to drink the cup that He drinks.

 

The cup is an Old Testament image for God’s judgment. The wicked would be made to drink this cup in punishment for their sins (see Psalm 75:9; Jeremiah 25:15, 28; Isaiah 51:17). But Jesus has come to drink this cup on behalf of all humanity. He has come to be baptized—which means plunged or immersed—into the sufferings we all deserve for our sins (compare Luke 12:50).

 

In this He will fulfill the task of Isaiah’s suffering servant, whom we read about in today’s First Reading.

 

Like Isaiah’s servant, the Son of Man will give His life as an offering for sin, as once Israel’s priests offered sacrifices for the sins of the people (see Leviticus 5:17-19).

 

Jesus is the heavenly high priest of all humanity, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Israel’s high priests offered the blood of goats and calves in the temple sanctuary. But Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood (see Hebrews 9:12).

 

And by bearing our guilt and offering His life to do the will of God, Jesus ransomed “the many”—paying the price to redeem humanity from spiritual slavery to sin and death.

 

He has delivered us from death, as we rejoice in today’s Psalm.

 

We need to hold fast to our confession of faith, as today’s Epistle exhorts us. We must look upon our trials and sufferings as our portion of the cup He promised to those who believe in Him (see Colossians 1:24). We must remember that we have been baptized into His passion and death (see Romans 6:3).

 

In confidence, let us approach the altar today, the throne of grace, at which we drink the cup of His saving blood (see Mark 14:23-24).

Direct download: B_29_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

 

Readings:

Wisdom 7:7-11

Psalm 90:12-17

Hebrews 4:12-13

Mark 10:17-30

 

The rich young man in today’s Gospel wanted to know what we all want to know—how to live in this life so that we might live forever in the world to come. He sought what today’s Psalm calls “wisdom of heart.”

 

He learns that the wisdom he seeks is not a program of works to be performed, or behaviors to be avoided. As Jesus tells him, observing the commandments is essential to walking the path of salvation—but it can only get us so far.

 

The Wisdom of God is not precepts, but a person—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Wisdom whose Spirit was granted to Solomon in today’s First Reading. Jesus is the Word of God spoken of in today’s Epistle. And Jesus, as He reveals himself to the rich man today, is God.

 

In Jesus we encounter Wisdom, the living and effective Word of God. As He does with the rich man today, He looks upon each of us with love. That look of love, that loving gaze, is a personal invitation—to give up everything to follow Him.

 

Nothing is concealed from His gaze, as we hear in the Epistle. In His fiery eyes, the thoughts of our hearts are exposed, and each of us must render an account of our lives (see Revelation 1:14).

 

We must have the attitude of Solomon, preferring Wisdom to all else, loving Him more than even life itself. This preference, this love, requires a leap of faith. We will be persecuted for this faith, Jesus tells His disciples today. But we must trust in His promise—that all good things will come to us in His company.

 

What, then, are the “many possessions” that keep us from giving ourselves totally to God? What are we clinging to—material things, comfort zones, relationships? What will it take for us to live fully for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel?

 

Let us pray for the wisdom to enter into the kingdom of God. With the Psalmist, let us ask Him, “Teach us.”

Direct download: B_28_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Genesis 2:18-24

Psalm 128:1-6
Hebrews 2:9-11

Mark 10:2-16

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a trick question.

 

The “lawfulness” of divorce in Israel was never at issue. Moses had long ago allowed it (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4). But Jesus points His enemies back before Moses, to “the beginning,” interpreting the text we hear in today’s First Reading.

 

Divorce violates the order of creation, He says. Moses permitted it only as a concession to the people’s “hardness of heart”—their inability to live by God’s covenant Law. But Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, to reveal its true meaning and purpose, and to give people the grace to keep God’s commands.

 

Marriage, He reveals, is a sacrament, a divine, life-giving sign. Through the union of husband and wife, God intended to bestow His blessings on the human family—making it fruitful, multiplying it until it filled the earth (see Genesis 1:28).

 

That’s why today’s Gospel moves so easily from a debate about marriage to Jesus’ blessing of children. Children are blessings the Father bestows on couples who walk in His ways, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

Marriage also is a sign of God’s new covenant. As today’s Epistle hints, Jesus is the new Adam—made a little lower than the angels, born of a human family (see Romans 5:14; Psalm 8:5-7). The Church is the new Eve, the “woman” born of Christ’s pierced side as He hung in the sleep of death on the cross (see John 19:34; Revelation 12:1-17).

 

Through the union of Christ and the Church as “one flesh,” God’s plan for the world is fulfilled (see Ephesians 5:21-32). Eve was “mother of all the living” (see Genesis 3:20). And in baptism, we are made sons and daughters of the Church, children of the Father, heirs of the eternal glory He intended for the human family in the beginning.

 

The challenge for us is to live as children of the kingdom, growing up ever more faithful in our love and devotion to the ways of Christ and the teachings of His Church.

Direct download: B_27_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Numbers 11:25–29  

Psalm 19:8,10,12–14

James 5:1–6  

Mark 9:38–48

 

Today’s Gospel begins with a scene that recalls a similar moment in the history of Israel, the episode recalled in today’s First Reading. The seventy elders who receive God’s Spirit through Moses prefigure the ministry of the apostles.

 

Like Joshua in the First Reading, John makes the mistake of presuming that only a select few are inspired and entrusted to carry out God’s plans. The Spirit blows where it wills (see John 3:8), and God desires to bestow His Spirit on all the people of God, in every nation under heaven (see Acts 2:5, 38).

 

God can and will work mighty deeds through the most unexpected and unlikely people. All of us are called to perform even our most humble tasks, such as giving a cup of water, for the sake of His name and the cause of His kingdom.

 

John believes he is protecting the purity of the Lord’s name. But, really, he’s only guarding his own privilege and status. It’s telling that the apostles want to shut down the ministry of an exorcist. Authority to drive out demons and unclean spirits was one of the specific powers entrusted to the Twelve (see Mark 3:14–15; 6:7, 13).

 

Cleanse me from my unknown faults, we pray in today’s Psalm. Often, like Joshua and John, perhaps without noticing it, we cloak our failings and fears under the guise of our desire to defend Christ or the Church.

 

But as Jesus says today, instead of worrying about who is a real Christian and who is not, we should make sure that we ourselves are leading lives worthy of our calling as disciples (see Ephesians 1:4).

 

Does the advice we give, or the example of our actions, give scandal—causing others to doubt or lose faith? Do we do what we do with mixed motives instead of seeking only the Father’s will? Are we living, as this Sunday’s Epistle warns, for our own luxury and pleasure, and neglecting our neighbors?

 

We need to keep meditating on His Law, as we sing in today’s Psalm. We need to pray for the grace to detect our failings and to overcome them.

Direct download: B_26_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Wisdom 2:12,17-20
Psalm 54:3-8
James 3:16-4:3
Mark 9:30-37

 


In today’s First Reading, it’s like we have our ears pressed to the wall and can hear the murderous grumblings of the elders, chief priests, and scribes—who last week Jesus predicted would torture and kill Him (see Mark 8:3110:33–34).

The liturgy invites us to see this passage from the Book of Wisdom as a prophecy of the Lord’s Passion. We hear His enemies complain that “the Just One” has challenged their authority, reproached them for breaking the law of Moses, for betraying their training as leaders and teachers.

And we hear chilling words that foreshadow how they will mock Him as He hangs on the Cross: “For if the Just One be the Son of God, He will . . . deliver Him. . . ” (compare Matthew 27:41–43).

Today’s Gospel and Psalm give us the flip side of the First Reading. In both, we hear of Jesus’ sufferings from His point of view. Though His enemies surround Him, He offers himself freely in sacrifice, trusting that God will sustain Him.

But the apostles today don’t understand this second announcement of Christ’s passion. They begin arguing over issues of succession—over who among them is greatest, who will be chosen to lead after Christ is killed.

Again they are thinking not as God, but as human beings (see Mark 8:33). And again Jesus teaches the Twelve—the chosen leaders of His Church—that they must lead by imitating His example of love and self-sacrifice. They must be “servants of all,” especially the weak and the helpless —symbolized by the child He embraces and places in their midst.

This is a lesson for us, too. We must have the mind of Christ, who humbled himself to come among us (see Philippians 2:5–11). We must freely offer ourselves, making everything we do a sacrifice in praise of His name.

As James says in today’s Epistle, we must seek wisdom from above, desiring humility, not glory, and in all things be gentle and full of mercy.

Direct download: B_25_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

 Isaiah 50:4-9

 Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9

 James 2:14-18

 Mark 8:27-35 (see also "Finding Christ in the Psalms")

 In today's Gospel, we reach a pivotal moment in our walk with the Lord. After weeks of listening to His words and witnessing His deeds, along with the disciples we're asked to decide who Jesus truly is.

 Peter answers for them, and for us, too, when he declares: "You are the Messiah." 

 Many expected the Messiah to be a miracle worker who would vanquish Israel's enemies and restore the kingdom of David (see John 6:15).

 Jesus today reveals a different portrait. He calls himself the Son of Man, evoking the royal figure Daniel saw in his heavenly visions (see Daniel 7:13-14). But Jesus' kingship is not to be of this world (see John 18:36). And the path to His throne, as He reveals, is by way of suffering and death.

 Jesus identifies the Messiah with the suffering servant that Isaiah foretells in today's First Reading. The words of Isaiah's servant are Jesus' words -- as He gives himself to be shamed and beaten, trusting that God will be His help. We hear our Lord's voice again in today's Psalm, as He gives thanks that God has freed Him from the cords of death.

 As Jesus tells us today, to believe that He is the Messiah is to follow His way of self-denial -- losing our lives to save them, in order to rise with Him to new life. Our faith, we hear again in today's Epistle, must express itself in works of love (see Galatians 5:6).

 Notice that Jesus questions the apostles today "along the way." They are on the way to Jerusalem, where the Lord will lay down His life. We, too, are on a journey with the Lord.

 We must take up our cross, giving to others and enduring all our trials for His sake and the sake of the gospel.

 Our lives must be an offering of thanksgiving for the new life He has given us, until that day when we reach our destination, and walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Finding Christ in the Psalms

Jesus taught His Apostles that the Book of Psalms speaks of Him and His mission. "Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled," He told them on the night of His Resurrection (see Luke 24:44).

Jesus applied specific Psalms to himself (see Matthew 21:42-44 and 22:41-46). So did the apostles in their preaching and writings (see Acts 2:25-35 and Hebrews 1:5-14).

This ancient practice continues in the liturgy. In the Psalms chosen for Sunday Mass readings, sometimes the Church invites us to hear a direct reference to Christ. Other times, we're invited to hear the voice of Christ crying out to the Father. And still other times, we hear the Father talking to the Son.

Psalm 54 is heard this way in the readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Originally sung by David when he was betrayed by the Ziphites (see 1 Samuel 23:19-25 and 26:1-3), we're invited to hear the Psalm as a confident appeal by Christ in His Passion: "Fierce men seek My life...Behold...the Lord sustains My life." 

The same is true of the use of Psalm 116 in the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B). We hear our Lord's voice as He gives thanks that God has rescued Him, freed His soul from death and the snares of the nether world. 

 

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 35:4-7

Psalm 146:7-10

James 2:1-5

Mark 7:31-37

 

The incident in today's Gospel is recorded only by Mark. The key line is what the crowd says at the end: "He has done all things well." In the Greek, this echoes the creation story, recalling that God saw all the things he had done and declared them good (see Genesis 1:31). 

 

Mark also deliberately evokes Isaiah's promise, which we hear in today's First Reading that God will make the deaf hear and the mute speak. He even uses a Greek word to describe the man's condition (mogilalon = "speech impediment") that's only found in one other place in the Bible—in the Greek translation of today's Isaiah passage, where the prophet describes the "dumb" singing.

 

The crowd recognizes that Jesus is doing what the prophet had foretold. But Mark wants us to see something far greater—that, to use the words from today's First Reading: "Here is your God."

 

Notice how personal and physical the drama is in the Gospel. Our focus is drawn to a hand, a finger, ears, a tongue, spitting. In Jesus, Mark shows us, God has truly come in the flesh.

 

What He has done is to make all things new, a new creation (see Revelation 21:1-5). As Isaiah promised, He has made the living waters of baptism flow in the desert of the world. He has set captives free from their sins, as we sing in today's Psalm. He has come that rich and poor might dine together in the Eucharistic feast, as James tells us in today's Epistle.

 

He has done for each of us what He did for that deaf mute. He has opened our ears to hear the Word of God, and loosed our tongues that we might sing praises to Him.

 

Let us then, in the Eucharist, again give thanks to our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. Let us say with Isaiah, Here is our God, He comes to save us. Let us be rich in faith, that we might inherit the kingdom promised to those who love Him.

Direct download: B_23_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8

Psalm 15:2-5

James 1:17-18,21-22,27

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

 

 

Today's Gospel casts Jesus in a prophetic light, as one having authority to interpret God's law.

 Jesus' quotation from Isaiah today is ironic (see Isaiah 29:13). In observing the law, the Pharisees honor God by ensuring that nothing unclean passes their lips. In this, however, they've turned the law inside out, making it a matter of simply performing certain external actions.

 The gift of the law, which we hear God giving to Israel in today's First Reading, is fulfilled in Jesus' gospel, which shows us the law's true meaning and purpose (see Matthew 5:17).

 The law, fulfilled in the gospel, is meant to form our hearts, to make us pure, able to live in the Lord's presence. The law was given that we might live and enter into the inheritance promised to us -- the kingdom of God, eternal life.

 Israel, by its observance of the law, was meant to be an example to surrounding nations. As James tells us in today's Epistle, the gospel was given to us that we might have new birth by the Word of truth. By living the Word we've received, we're to be examples of God's wisdom to those around us, the "first fruits" of a new humanity.

 This means we must be "doers" of the Word, not merely hearers of it. As we sing in today's Psalm and hear again in today's Epistle, we must work for justice, taking care of our brothers and sisters, and living by the truth God has placed in our hearts.

 The Word given to us is a perfect gift. We should not add to it through vain and needless devotions. Nor should we subtract from it by picking and choosing which of His laws to honor.

 "Hear me," Jesus says in today's Gospel. Today, we're called to examine our relationship to God's law.

 Is the practice of our religion a pure listening to Jesus, a humble welcoming of the Word planted in us and able to save our souls? Or are we only paying lip-service?    

Direct download: B_22_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 34:2-3, 16-23

Ephesians 5:21-32

John 6:60-69

 This Sunday's Mass readings conclude a four-week meditation on the Eucharist.

 The 12 apostles in today's Gospel are asked to make a choice -- either to believe and accept the new covenant He offers in His body and blood, or return to their former ways of life.

Their choice is prefigured by the decision Joshua asks the 12 tribes to make in today's First Reading.

 Joshua gathers them at Shechem -- where God first appeared to their father Abraham, promising to make his descendants a great nation in a new land (see Genesis 12:1-9). And he issues a blunt challenge -- either renew their covenant with God or serve the alien gods of the surrounding nations.

 We too are being asked today to decide whom we will serve. For four weeks we have been presented in the liturgy with the mystery of the Eucharist -- a daily miracle far greater than those performed by God in bringing the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

 He has promised us a new homeland, eternal life, and offered us bread from heaven to strengthen us on our journey. He has told us that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood we will have no life in us.

 It is a hard saying, as many murmur in today's Gospel. Yet He has given us the words of eternal life.

 We must believe, as Peter says today, that He is the Holy One of God, who handed himself over for us, gave His flesh for the life of the world.

 As we hear in today's Epistle, Jesus did this that we might be sanctified, made holy, through the water and word of baptism by which we enter into His new covenant. Through the Eucharist, He nourishes and cherishes us, making us His own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh.

 Let us renew our covenant today, approaching the altar with confidence that, as we sing in today's Psalm, the Lord will redeem the lives of His servants.    

Direct download: B_21_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 34:2-3, 10-15

Ephesians 5:15-20

John 6:51-58

 The Wisdom of God has prepared a feast, we hear in today's First Reading.

 We must become like children (see Matthew 18:3-4) to hear and accept this invitation. For in every Eucharist, it is the folly of the cross that is represented and renewed.

 To the world, it is foolishness to believe that the crucified Jesus rose from the dead. And for many, as for the crowds in today's Gospel, it is foolishness -- maybe even madness -- to believe that Jesus can give us His flesh to eat.

 Yet Jesus repeats himself with gathering intensity in the Gospel today. Notice the repetition of the words "eat" and "drink," and "my flesh" and "my blood." To heighten the unbelievable realism of what Jesus asks us to believe, John in these verses uses, not the ordinary Greek word for eating, but a cruder term, once reserved to describe the "munching" of feeding animals.

 The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-25). In His foolish love, He chooses to save those who believe that His flesh is true food, His blood, true drink.

 Fear of the Lord, the desire to live by His will, is the beginning of true wisdom, Paul says in today's Epistle (see Proverbs 9:10). And as we sing in today's Psalm, those who fear Him shall not want for any good thing.

Again today in the liturgy, we are called to renew our faith in the Eucharist, to forsake the foolishness of believing only what we can see with our eyes.

We approach, then, not only an altar prepared with bread and wine, but the feast of Wisdom, the banquet of heaven -- in which God our savior renews His everlasting covenant and promises to destroy death forever (see Isaiah 25:6-9).

Let us make the most of our days, as Paul says, always, in the Eucharist, giving thanks to God for everything in the name of Jesus, the bread c0me down from heaven. 

Direct download: B_20_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

1 Kings 19:4-8

Psalm 34:2-9

Ephesians 4:30-5:2

John 6:41-51

 

Sometimes we feel like Elijah in today's First Reading. We want to lie down and die, keenly aware of our failures, that we seem to be getting no better at doing what God wants of us.

 We can be tempted to despair, as the prophet was on his forty-day journey in the desert. We can be tempted to "murmur" against God, as the Israelites did during their forty years in the desert (see Exodus 16:2,7,8; 1 Corinthians 10:10).

 The Gospel today uses the same word, "murmur," to describe the crowds, who reenact Israel's hardheartedness in the desert.

 Jesus tells them that prophecies are being fulfilled in Him, that they are being taught by God. But they can't believe it. They can only see His flesh, that He is the "son" of Joseph and Mary.

 Yet if we believe, if we seek Him in our distress, He will deliver us from our fears, as we sing in today's Psalm.

 At the altar in every Eucharist, the angel of the Lord, the Lord himself (see Exodus 3:1-2), touches us. He commands us to take and eat His flesh given for the life of the world (see Matthew 26:26).

 This taste of the heavenly gift (see Hebrews 6:4-5) comes to us with a renewed command -- to get up and continue on the journey we began in baptism, to the mountain of God, the kingdom of heaven.

 He will give us the bread of life, the strength and grace we need -- as He fed our spiritual ancestors in the wilderness and Elijah in the desert.

 So let us stop grieving the Spirit of God, as Paul says in today's Epistle, in another reference to Israel in the desert (see Isaiah 63:10).

 Let us say to God as Elijah did, "Take my life." Not in the sense of wanting to die. But in giving ourselves as a sacrificial offering -- loving Him as He has loved us, on the cross and in the Eucharist. 

Direct download: B_19_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15

Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54

Ephesians 4:17, 20–24

John 6:24–35

 The journey of discipleship is a life-long exodus from the slavery of sin and death to the holiness of truth in Mount Zion, the promised land of eternal life.

 The road can get rough. And when it does, we can be tempted to complain like the Israelites in this week’s First Reading.

 We have to see these times of hardship as a test of what is in our hearts, a call to trust God more and to purify the motives for our faith (Deuteronomy 8:2–3).

 As Paul reminds us in this week’s Epistle, we must leave behind our old self-deceptions and desires and live according to the likeness of God in which we are made.

Jesus tells the crowd in this week’s Gospel that they are following him for the wrong reasons. They seek him because he filled their bellies. The Israelites, too, were content to follow God so long as there was plenty of food.

 Food is the most obvious of signs—because it is the most basic of our human needs.  We need our daily bread to live. But we cannot live by this bread alone. We need the bread of eternal life that preserves those who believe in him (Wisdom 16:20, 26).

 The manna in the wilderness, like the bread Jesus multiplied for the crowd, was a sign of God’s Providence—that we should trust that he will provide.

 These signs pointed to their fulfillment in the Eucharist, the abundant bread of angels we sing about in this week’s Psalm.

 This is the food that God longs to give us. This is the bread we should be seeking. But too often we don’t ask for this bread. Instead we seek the perishable stuff of our every day wants and anxieties. In our weakness we think these things are what we really need.

We have to trust God more. If we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, all these things will be ours as well (Matthew 6:33).

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
2 Kings 4:42–44
Psalm 145:10-11, 15–18
Ephesians 4:1–6
John 6:1–15

Today’s liturgy brings together several strands of Old Testament expectation to reveal Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah and King, the Lord who comes to feed His people.

Notice the parallels between today’s Gospel and First Reading. Both Elisha and Jesus face a crowd of hungry people with only a few “barley” loaves. We hear similar words about how impossible it will be to feed the crowd with so little. And in both the miraculous multiplication of bread satisfies the hungry and leaves food left over.

The Elisha story looks back to Moses, the prophet who fed God’s people in the wilderness (see Exodus 16). Moses prophesied that God would send a prophet like him (see Deuteronomy 18:15–19). The crowd in today’s Gospel, witnessing His miracle, identifies Jesus as that prophet.

The Gospel today again shows Jesus to be the Lord, the good shepherd, who makes His people lie down on green grass and spreads a table before them (see Psalm 23:1, 5).

The miraculous feeding is a sign that God has begun to fulfill His promise, which we sing of in today’s Psalm—to give His people food in due season and satisfy their desire (see Psalm 81:17).

But Jesus points to the final fulfillment of that promise in the Eucharist. He does the same things He does at the Last Supper—He takes the loaves, pronounces a blessing of thanksgiving (literally, “eucharist”), and gives the bread to the people (see Matthew 26:26). Notice, too, that twelve baskets of bread are left over, one for each of the Apostles.

These are signs that should point us to the Eucharist—in which the Church founded on the Apostles continues to feed us with the living bread of His Body.

In this Eucharist, we are made one Body with the Lord, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Let us resolve again, then, to live lives worthy of such a great calling.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Jeremiah 23:1–16
Psalms 23:1–6
Ephesians 2:13–18
Mark 6:30–34

As the Twelve return from their first missionary journey in today’s Gospel, our readings continue to reflect on the authority and mission of the Church.

Jeremiah says in the First Reading that Israel’s leaders, through godlessness and fanciful teachings, had misled and scattered God’s people. He promises God will send a shepherd, a king and son of David, to gather the lost sheep and appoint for them new shepherds (see Ezekiel 34:23).

The crowd gathering on the green grass (see Mark 6:39) in today’s Gospel is the start of the remnant that Jeremiah promised would be brought back to the meadow of Israel. The people seem to sense that Jesus is the Lord, the good shepherd (see John 10:11), the king they’ve been waiting for (see Hosea 3:1–5).

Jesus is moved to pity, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. This phrase was used by Moses to describe Israel’s need for a shepherd to succeed him (see Numbers 27:17). And as Moses appointed Joshua, Jesus appointed the Twelve to continue shepherding His people on earth.

Jesus had said there were other sheep who did not belong to Israel’s fold, but would hear His voice and be joined to the one flock of the one shepherd (see John 10:16). In God’s plan, the Church is to seek out first the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and then to bring all nations into the fold (see Acts 13:36; Romans 1:16).

Paul, too, in today’s Epistle, sees the Church as a new creation, in which those nations who were once far off from God are joined as “one new person” with the children of Israel.

As we sing in today’s Psalm, through the Church, the Lord, our good shepherd, still leads people to the verdant pastures of the kingdom, to the restful waters of baptism; He still anoints with the oil of confirmation, and spreads the Eucharistic table before all people, filling their cups to overflowing.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Amos 7:12-15

Psalms 85:9-14

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:7-13

 In commissioning the apostles in today's Gospel, Jesus gives them, and us, a preview of His Church's mission after the resurrection.

 His instructions to the Twelve echo those of God to the twelve tribes of Israel on the eve of their exodus from Egypt. The Israelites likewise were sent out with no bread and only one set of clothes, wearing sandals and carrying a staff (see Exodus 12:11; Deuteronomy 8:2-4). Like the Israelites, the apostles are to rely solely on the providence of God and His grace.

 Perhaps, also, Mark wants us to see the apostles' mission, the mission of the Church, as that of leading a new exodus - delivering peoples from their exile from God and bringing them to the promised land, the kingdom of heaven.

 Like Amos in today's First Reading, the apostles are not "professionals," who earn their bread by prophesying. Like Amos, they are simply men (see Acts 14:15) summoned from their ordinary jobs and sent by God to be shepherds of their brothers and sisters.

 Again this week, we hear the theme of rejection: Amos experiences it, and Jesus warns the apostles that some will not welcome or listen to them. The Church is called, not necessarily to be successful, but only to be faithful to God's command. 

 With authority and power given to it by Jesus, the Church proclaims God's peace and salvation to those who believe in Him, as we sing in today's Psalm.

 This word of truth, this gospel of salvation, is addressed to each of us, personally, as Paul proclaims in today's Epistle. In the mystery of God's will, we have been chosen from before the foundation of the world - to be His sons and daughters, to live for the praise of His glory.

 Let us, then, give thanks for the Church today, and for the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon us. Let us resolve to further the Church's mission - to help others hear the call to repentance and welcome Christ into their lives.

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Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

As we’ve walked with the apostles in the Gospels in recent weeks, we’ve witnessed Jesus command the wind and sea, and order a little girl to arise from the dead.

But He seems to meet His match in His hometown of Nazareth. Today’s Gospel is blunt: “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”

Why not? Because of the people’s lack of faith. They acknowledged the wisdom of His words, the power of His works. But they refused to recognize Him as a prophet come among them, a messenger sent by God.

All they could see was how much “this man” was like them - a carpenter, the son of their neighbor, Mary, with brothers and sisters.

Of course, Mary was ever-virgin, and had no other children. The Gospel refers to Jesus’ brothers as Paul refers to all Israelites as his brothers, the children of Abraham (see Romans 9:3,7).

That’s the point in today’s Gospel, too. Like the prophet Ezekiel in today’s First Reading, Jesus was sent by God to the rebellious house of Israel, where He found His own brothers and sisters obstinate of heart and in revolt against God. 

The servant is not above the Master (see Matthew 10:24). As His disciples, we too face the mockery and contempt we hear of in today’s Psalm. And isn’t it often hardest to live our faith among those in our own families, those who think they really know us, who define us by the people we used to be - before we chose to walk with Jesus?

As Paul confides in today’s Epistle, insults and hardships are God’s way of teaching us to rely solely on His grace.

Jesus will work no mighty deeds in our lives unless we abandon ourselves to Him in faith. Blessed then are those who take no offense in Him (see Luke 7:23). Instead, we must look upon Him with the eyes of servants - knowing that the son of Mary is also the Lord enthroned in the heavens.

Direct download: B_14_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24

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

2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

 God, who formed us in His imperishable image, did not intend for us to die, we hear in today's First Reading. Death entered the world through the devil's envy and Adam and Eve's sin; as a result, we are all bound to die.

 But in the moving story in today's Gospel, we see Jesus liberate a little girl from the possession of death.

 On one level, Mark is recounting an event that led the disciples to understand Jesus' authority and power over even the final enemy, death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). On another level, however, this episode is written to strengthen our hope that we too will be raised from the dead, along with all our loved ones who sleep in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:18).

 Jesus commands the girl to "Arise!" - using the same Greek word used to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 16:6). And the consoling message of today's Gospel is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. If we believe in Him, even though we die, we will live (see John 15:25-26).

 We are called to have the same faith as the parents in the Gospel today - praying for our loved ones, trusting in Jesus' promise that even death cannot keep us apart. Notice the parents follow Him even though those in their own house tell them there is no hope, and even though others ridicule Jesus' claim that the dead have only fallen asleep (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

 Already in baptism, we've been raised to new life in Christ. And the Eucharist, like the food given to the little girl today, is the pledge that He will raise us on the last day. 

 We should rejoice, as we sing in today's Psalm, that He has brought us up from the netherworld, the pit of death. And, as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle, we should offer our lives in thanksgiving for this gracious act, imitating Christ in our love and generosity for others.    

Direct download: B_13_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Is 49: 1–6
Ps 139: 1–3, 13–15
Acts 13:22–26
Lk 1:57–66, 80

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The people in this week’s Gospel are frightened and amazed by the mysterious events surrounding the birth of John. Only his mother and father, Elizabeth and Zechariah, know what this child will be. John the Baptist was fashioned in secret, knit by God in his mother’s womb, as we sing in this Sunday’s Psalm. From the womb he was set apart, formed to be God’s servant, as Isaiah declares in this week’s
First Reading.

The whole story of John’s birth is thick with Old Testament echoes, especially echoes of the story of Abraham. God appeared to Abraham promising that his wife would bear him a son; He announced the son’s name and the role Isaac would play in salvation history (see Genesis 17:1, 16, 19).

The same thing happened to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Through His angel, God announced John’s birth to this righteous yet barren couple. He made them call John a special name—and told them the special part John would play in fulfilling His plan for history (see Luke 1:5–17).

As Paul says in today’s Second Reading, John was to herald the fulfillment of all God’s promises to the children of Abraham (Luke 1:55, 73). John was to bring the word of salvation to all the people of Israel. More than that, he was to be a light to the nations—to all those groping in the dark for God.

We often associate John with his fiery preaching (see Matthew 3:7–12). But there was a deep humility at the heart of his mission. Paul alludes to that when he quotes John’s words about not being worthy to unfasten the sandals of Christ’s feet. John said, “[Christ] must increase. I must decrease” (John 3:30).

We must have that same attitude as we seek to follow Jesus. The repentance John preached was a turning away from sin and selfishness and a turning of our whole hearts to the Father.

We must decrease so that, like John, we can grow strong in the Spirit, until Christ is made manifest in each of us.

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

Readings:

 

 

Ezek 17:22-24                             

Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16                 

2 Cor 5:6-10  

Mark 4:26-34

 Through the oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel, God gave his people reason to hope. It would have been a cryptic message to his hearers, long centuries before the Lord’s coming. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would “put forth branches and bear fruit.” Who could have predicted that the tree would be a cross, on the hill of Calvary, and that the fruit would be salvation?

 

 Ezekiel foresees salvation coming to “birds of every kind” -- thus, not just to the Chosen People of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, who will “take wing” through their new life in Christ. God indeed will “lift high the lowly tree,” as he solemnly promises at the conclusion of the passage from the prophet.

 

 Such salvation surpasses humanity’s most ambitious dreams. And so we express our gratitude in the Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It is indeed good to give thanks, and better still to give thanks with praise. The Psalmist speaks of those who are just upon the earth, but looks to God as the source and measure of justice, of righteousness. Like Ezekiel, he evokes the image of a flourishing tree to describe the lives of the just. The image, again, suggests the cross as the measure of righteousness.

 

 The cross is a challenge to those who would rather “flourish” according to worldly terms. It is a sign of contradiction. And so Saint Paul repeatedly emphasizes, to the Corinthians, the necessity of courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proved in our deeds. The Apostle reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifested itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”

 

 Faith. Courage. God himself will empower the works he expects from us; though we may freely choose to correspond to his grace.

 

 In the prophetic oracles, in the Psalms that were sung in Jerusalem, he scattered the small seed that sprang up and became the mustard tree, large enough to accommodate all the birds of the sky, just as Ezekiel had foretold.

 

 He gave this doctrine to disciples, as he still does today, in terms they were able to understand, and he provided a full explanation. In the sacraments he provides still more: the grace of faith and the courage we need to live in the world as children of God    

Direct download: B_11_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

In today’s Gospel Jesus has just been healing and casting out demons in Galilee. Along with the crowds, who flock to Him so that He can’t even take a break to eat, come people who do not understand what He is doing. Even His friends think He has lost His mind and needs to be taken away for a while. But the scribes who came down from Jerusalem are not just honestly mistaken; they accuse Him of being possessed by the prince of demons.

The reality is just the opposite. Jesus is revealing Himself as the one promised in our first reading. He is the seed of the woman who has come to crush the head of the demonic serpent. In the parable of the strong man, Jesus reveals that He has come not just to punish the devil but to free those bound by him. As St. Bede explains, “The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and His goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church.”

The scribes blaspheme by attributing this work of the Holy Spirit to demons. Jesus adds a statement that shocks us at first: “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.” That does not mean that there are any limits to the mercy of God (CCC 1864). Rather, the only sin that cannot be forgiven is the deliberate refusal to accept the mercy offered through the Holy Spirit.

Instead, we must imitate those who sat at Jesus’ feet. For, as He said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Direct download: B_10_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:12pm EDT

Readings:

Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

All of today's readings are set in the context of the Passover. The First Reading recalls the old covenant celebrated at Sinai following the first Passover and the exodus.

In sprinkling the blood of the covenant on the Israelites, Moses was symbolizing God's desire in this covenant to make them His family, His "blood" relations.

Quoting Moses' words in today's Gospel, Jesus elevates and transforms this covenant symbol to an extraordinary reality. In the new covenant made in the blood of Christ, we truly become one with His body and blood.

The first covenant made with Moses and Israel at Sinai was but a shadow of this new and greater covenant made by Christ with all humankind in that upper room (see Hebrews 10:1).

The Passover that Jesus celebrates with His 12 apostles "actualizes," makes real, what could only be symbolized by Moses' sacrifice at the altar with 12 pillars. What Jesus does today is establish His Church as the new Israel, and His Eucharist as the new worship of the living God.

In offering himself to God through the Spirit, Jesus delivered Israel from the transgressions of the first covenant. And, as we hear in today's Epistle, by His blood He purified us, and made us capable of true worship.

God does not want dead works or animal sacrifices. He wants our own flesh and blood, our own lives, consecrated to Him, offered as a living sacrifice. This is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that we sing of in today's Psalm. This is the Eucharist.

What we do in memory of Him is to pledge our lives to Him, to renew our promise to live by the words of His covenant and to be His servants.

There is no other return we can offer to Him for the eternal inheritance He has won for us. So let us approach the altar, calling upon His name in thanksgiving, taking up the cup of salvation. 

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

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4- 6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God's new covenant and made a new creation.

In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in His divine nature through His body and blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season - Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.

These feasts should be intimate reminders of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, to be His children (see Ephesians 1:4-5).

Today's readings illuminate how all God's words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God's blessing in Jesus Christ - the blessing we inherited in baptism, and renew in each Eucharist.

By God's word the heavens and earth were filled with His kindness, we sing in today's Psalm. Out of love, God called Abraham and chose his descendants to be His own people, Moses says in today's First Reading (see Deuteronomy 4:20,37). Through the Israelites, He revealed to the nations that He alone is Lord and there is no other.

In Jesus, God's word took flesh as a son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And Jesus reveals in the Gospel today that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that He desires to make all peoples His own.

As He led Israel out of Egypt, God freed us from slavery, Paul says in today's Epistle. As He adopted Israel (see Romans 9:4), He gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as "our Father."

As God's heirs, we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today. We are to fix our hearts on Him, and to observe all that He has commanded. The Eucharist is His pledge - that He will be with us until the end, that He will deliver us from death to live forever in the promised land of His kingdom. 

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

Readings
Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The mysterious figure of John the Baptist, introduced in last week's readings, comes into sharper focus today. Who he is, we see in today's Gospel, is best understood by who he isn't.

He is not Elijah returned from the heavens (see 2 Kings 2:11), although like him he dresses in the prophet's attire (see Mark 1:6; 2 Kings 1:8) and preaches repentance and judgment (see 1 Kings 18:21; 2 Chronicles 21:12-15).

Not Elijah in the flesh, John is nonetheless sent in the spirit and power of Elijah to fulfill his mission (see Luke 1:17; Malachi 3:23-24).

Neither is John the prophet Moses foretold, although he is a kinsman and speaks God's word (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 6:14). Nor is John the Messiah, though he has been anointed by the Spirit since the womb (see Luke 1:15, 44).

John prepares the way for the Lord (see Isaiah 40:3). His baptism is symbolic, not sacramental. It is a sign given to stir our hearts to repentance.

John shows us the One upon whom the Spirit remains (see John 1:32), the One who fulfills the promise we hear in today's First Reading (see Luke 4:16-21). Jesus' bath of rebirth and the Spirit opens a fountain that purifies Israel and gives to all a new heart and a new Spirit (see Zechariah 13:1-3; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Mark 1:8; Titus 3:5).

John comes to us in the Advent readings to show us the light, that we might believe in the One who comes at Christmas. As we sing in today's Responsorial, the Mighty One has come to lift each of us up, to fill our hunger with bread from heaven (see John 6:33, 49-51).

And as Paul exhorts in today's Epistle, we should rejoice, give thanks, and pray without ceasing that God will make us perfectly holy in spirit, soul, and body - that we may be blameless when our Lord comes.

Direct download: B_3_Advent.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:30pm EDT

Readings:
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10
Psalm 131:1-3
1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13
Matthew 23:1-12

Though they were Moses' successors, the Pharisees and scribes exalted themselves, made their mastery of the law a badge of social privilege. Worse, they had lorded the law over the people (see Matthew 20:25). Like the priests Malachi condemns in today's First Reading, they caused many to falter and be closed off from God.

In a word, Israel's leaders failed to be good spiritual fathers of God's people. Moses was a humble father-figure, preaching the law but also practicing it - interceding and begging God's mercy and forgiveness of the people's sins (see Exodus 32:9-14; Psalm 90).

And Jesus reminds us today that all fatherhood - in the family or in the people of God - comes from the our Father in heaven (see Ephesians 3:15).

He doesn't mean we're to literally call no man "father." He himself referred to Israel's founding fathers (see John 7:42); the apostles taught about natural fatherhood (see Hebrews 12:7-11), and described themselves as spiritual fathers (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-16)

The fatherhood of the apostles and their successors, the Church's priests and bishops, is a spiritual paternity given to raise us as God's children. Our fathers give us new life in baptism, and feed us the spiritual milk of the gospel and the Eucharist (see 1 Peter 2:2-3). That's why Paul, in today's Epistle, can also compare himself to a nursing mother.

God's fatherhood likewise transcends all human notions of fatherhood and motherhood. Perhaps that's why the Psalm chosen for today includes one of the rare biblical images of God's maternal care (see Isaiah 66:13).

His only Son has shown us the Father (see John 14:9) coming to gather His children as a hen gathers her young (see Matthew 23:37). We're all brothers and sisters, our Lord tells us today. And all of us - even our spiritual fathers - are to trust in Him, humbly, like children on our mothers' laps.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_31st_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings
Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Matthew 20:1-16

The house of Israel is the vine of God - who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7; 27:2-5).

Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel's kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5-10).

This is the biblical backdrop to Jesus' parable of salvation history in today's Gospel. The landowner is God. The vineyard is the kingdom. The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant. Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13). In the Lord's great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations.

This provokes grumbling in today's parable. Doesn't the complaint of those first laborers sound like that of the older brother in Jesus' prodigal son parable (see Luke 15:29-30)? God's ways, however, are far from our ways, as we hear in today's First Reading. And today's readings should caution us against the temptation to resent God's lavish mercy.

Like the Gentiles, many will be allowed to enter the kingdom late - after having spent most of their days idling in sin.

But even these can call upon Him and find Him near, as we sing in today's Pslam. We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we have loved ones who remain far from the vineyard.

Our task is to continue laboring in His vineyard. As Paul says in today's Epistle, let us conduct ourselves worthily, struggling to bring all men and women to the praise of His name.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_25th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 97:1-2, 5-6, 9
2 Peter 1:16-19
Matthew 17:1-9

High on the holy mountain in today's Gospel, the true identity of Jesus is fully revealed in His transfiguration.

Standing between Moses and the prophet Elijah, Jesus is the bridge that joins the Law of Moses to the prophets and psalms (see Luke 24:24-27). As Moses did, Jesus climbs a mountain with three named friends and beholds God's glory in a cloud (see Exodus 24:1,9,15). As Elijah did, He hears God's voice on the mountain (see 1 Kings 19:8-19).

Elijah was prophesied to return as the herald of the messiah and the Lord's new covenant (see Malachi 3:1,23-24). Jesus is revealed today as that messiah. By His death and resurrection, which He intimates today to the apostles, He makes a new covenant with all creation.

The majestic voice declares Jesus to be God's own beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased (see Psalm 2:7). God here gives us a glimpse of His inner life. In the cloud of the Holy Spirit, the Father reveals His love for the Son, and invites us to share in that love, as His beloved sons and daughters.

Shadowed by the clouds of heaven, His clothes dazzling white, Jesus is the Son of Man whom Daniel foresees being enthroned in today's First Reading.

He is the king, the Lord of all the earth, as we sing in today's Psalm. But is He truly the Lord of our hearts and minds?

The last word God speaks from heaven today is a command -- "Listen to Him" (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). The word of the Lord should be like a lamp shining in the darkness of our days, as Peter tells us in today's First Reading.

How well are we listening? Do we attend to His word each day?

Let us today rededicate ourselves to listening. Let us hear Him as the word of life, the bright morning star of divine life waiting to arise in our hearts (see Revelation 2:28; 22:16).

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_Transfiguration_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:46am EDT

Readings:
Wisdom 12:13, 16–19
Psalm 86:5–6, 9–10, 15–16
Romans 8:26–27
Matthew 13:24–43

God is always teaching His people, we hear in today’s First Reading.

And what does He want us to know? That He has care for all of us, that though He is a God of justice, even those who defy and disbelieve Him may hope for His mercy if they turn to Him in repentance.

This divine teaching continues in the three parables that Jesus tells in the Gospel today. Each describes the emergence of the kingdom of God from the seeds sown by His works and preaching. The kingdom’s growth is hidden—like the working of yeast in bread; it’s improbable, unexpected—as in the way the tall mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds.

Again this week’s readings sound a note of questioning: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does He permit some to reject the Word of His kingdom?

Because, as we sing in today’s Psalm, God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. He is just, Jesus assures us—evildoers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace at the end of the age. But by His patience, God is teaching us—that above all He desires repentance, and the gathering of all nations to worship Him and to glorify His name.

Even though we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit will intercede for us, Paul promises in today’s Epistle. But first we must turn and call upon Him, we must commit ourselves to letting the good seed of His Word bear fruit in our lives.

So we should not be deceived or lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin.

For now, He makes His sun rise on the good and the bad (see Matthew 5:45). But the harvest draws near. Let’s work that we might be numbered among the righteous children—who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_16th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:15pm 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

 

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 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, 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 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.

Direct download: C_10_Ordinary_16.wav
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:44pm EDT

Readings:

2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 6:1-15

 Today's liturgy brings together several strands of Old Testament expectation to reveal Jesus as Israel's promised Messiah and king, the Lord who comes to feed His people.

 Notice the parallels between today's Gospel and First Reading. Both Elisha and Jesus face a crowd of hungry people with only a few "barley" loaves. We hear similar words about how impossible it will be to feed the crowd with so little. And in both the miraculous multiplication of bread satisfies the hungry and leaves food left over.

The Elisha story looks back to Moses, the prophet who fed God's people in the wilderness (see Exodus 16). Moses prophesied that God would send a prophet like him (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). The crowd in today's Gospel, witnessing His miracle, identifies Jesus as that prophet.

 The Gospel today again shows Jesus to be the Lord, the good shepherd, who makes His people lie down on green grass and spreads a table before them (see Psalm 23:1,5).

 The miraculous feeding is a sign that God has begun to fulfill His promise, which we sing of in today's Psalm - to give His people food in due season and satisfy their desire (see Psalm 81:17).

 But Jesus points to the final fulfillment of that promise in the Eucharist. He does the same things He does at the Last Supper - He takes the loaves, pronounces a blessing of thanksgiving (literally, "eucharist"), and gives the bread to the people (see Matthew 26:26). Notice, too, that 12 baskets of bread are left over, one for each of the apostles.

 These are signs that should point us to the Eucharist - in which the Church founded on the apostles continues to feed us with the living bread of His body.

 In this Eucharist, we are made one body with the Lord, as we hear in today's Epistle. Let us resolve again, then, to live lives worthy of such a great calling.

Direct download: B_17_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 7:35pm EDT

Readings:

Jeremiah 23:1-16

Psalms 23:1-6

Ephesians 2:13-18

Mark 6:30-34

 As the Twelve return from their first missionary journey in today's Gospel, our readings continue to reflect on the authority and mission of the Church.

 Jeremiah says in the First Reading that Israel's leaders, through godlessness and fanciful teachings, had mislead and scattered God's people. He promises God will send a shepherd, a king and son of David, to gather the lost sheep and appoint for them new shepherds (see Ezekiel 34:23).

 The crowd gathering on the green grass (see Mark 6:39) in today's Gospel is the start of the remnant that Jeremiah promised would be brought back to the meadow of Israel. The people seem to sense that Jesus is the Lord, the good shepherd (see John 10:11), the king they've been waiting for (see Hosea 3:1-5).

 Jesus is moved to pity, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. This phrase was used by Moses to describe Israel's need for a shepherd to succeed him (see Numbers 27:17). And as Moses appointed Joshua, Jesus appointed the Twelve to continue shepherding His people on earth.

 Jesus had said there were other sheep who did not belong to Israel's fold, but would hear His voice and be joined to the one flock of the one shepherd (see John 10:16). In God's plan, the Church is to seek out first the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and then to bring all nations into the fold (see Acts 13:36; Romans 1:16).

 Paul, too, in today's Epistle, sees the Church as a new creation, in which those nations who were once far off from God are joined as "one new person" with the children of Israel. 

 As we sing in today's Psalm, through the Church, the Lord, our good shepherd, still leads people to the verdant pastures of the kingdom, to the restful waters of baptism; He still anoints with the oil of confirmation, and spreads the Eucharistic table before all people, filling their cups to overflowing.    

Direct download: B_16_2015_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 1:49pm EDT

Readings:

Job 38:1, 8-11
Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

"Do you not yet have faith?" Our Lord's question in today's Gospel frames the Sunday liturgies for the remainder of the year, which the Church calls "Ordinary Time."

In the weeks ahead, the Church's liturgy will have us journeying with Jesus and His disciples, reliving their experience of His words and deeds, coming to know and believe in Him as they did.

Notice that today's Psalm almost provides an outline for the Gospel. We sing of sailors caught in a storm; in their desperation, they call to the Lord and He rescues them.

Mark's Gospel today also intends us to hear a strong echo of the story of the prophet Jonah. He, too, was found asleep on a boat when a life-threatening storm broke out that caused his fellow travelers to pray for deliverance, and then to marvel when the storm abated (see Jonah 1:3-16).

But Jesus is something greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41). And Mark wants us to come to see what the apostles saw - that God alone has the power to rebuke the wind and the sea (see Isaiah 50:2; Psalm 18:16). This is the point of today's First Reading.

If even the wind and sea obey Him, shouldn't we trust Him in the chaos and storms of our own lives?

As with the apostles, the Lord has asked each of us to cross to the other side, to leave behind our old ways to travel with Him in the little ship of the Church.

In their fear today, they call Him, "Teacher." And it is only faith in His teaching that can save us from perishing. We should trust in Christ, and like Christ - who was able to sleep through the storm, confident that God was with Him (see Psalm 116:6; Romans 8:31).

We should live in thanksgiving for our salvation, as today's Epistle tells us - as new creations, no longer for ourselves but for Him who died for our sake.
    

Direct download: B_12_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:21pm EDT

Feast of Christ the King 

When the End Comes

Readings:
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28

Matthew 25:31-46

The Church year ends this week with a vision of the end of time. The scene in the Gospel is stark and resounds with Old Testament echoes.
  
The Son of Man is enthroned over all nations and peoples of every language (see Daniel 7:13-14). The nations have been gathered to see His glory and receive His judgment (see Isaiah 66:18Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in Sunday’s First Reading, judging as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.
  
Each of us will be judged upon our performance of the simple works of mercy we hear in the Gospel.
  
These works, as Jesus explains today, are reflections or measures of our love for Him, our faithfulness to His commandment that we love God with all our might and our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:36-40).
  
Our faith is dead, lifeless, unless it be expressed in works of love (see James 2:20Galatians 5:6). And we cannot say we truly love God, whom we cannot see, if we don’t love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20).
  
The Lord is our shepherd, as we sing in Sunday’s Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11Ephesians 5:1). 
  
He healed our sickness (see Luke 6:19), freed us from the prison of sin and death (see Romans 8:2,21), welcomed us who were once strangers to His covenant (see Ephesians 2:12,19). He clothed us in baptism (see Revelation 3:52 Corinthians 5:3-4), and feeds us with the food and drink of His own body and blood.
  
At “the end,” He will come again to hand over His kingdom to His Father, as Paul says in the Epistle this week.
  
Let us strive to be following Him in right paths, that this kingdom might be our inheritance, that we might enter into the eternal rest promised for the people of God (see Hebrews 4:1,9-11).

Direct download: A_Christ_King.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:43pm EDT

Readings:

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128:1-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

The day of the Lord is coming, Paul warns in today's Epistle. What matters isn't the time or the season, but what the Lord finds us doing with the new life, the graces He has given to us.

This is at the heart of Jesus' parable in today's Gospel. Jesus is the Master. Having died, risen, and ascended into heaven, He appears to have gone away for a long time.

By our baptism, He has entrusted to each of us a portion of His "possessions," a share in His divine life (see 2 Peter 1:4). He has given us talents and responsibilities, according to the measure of our faith (see Romans 12:3,8).

We are to be like the worthy wife in today's First Reading, and the faithful man we sing of in today's Psalm. Like them, we should walk in the "fear of the Lord" - in reverence, awe, and thanksgiving for His marvelous gifts. This is the beginning of wisdom (see Acts 9:31; Proverbs 1:7).

This is not the "fear" of the useless servant in today's parable. His is the fear of a slave cowering before a cruel master, the fear of one who refuses the relationship that God calls us to.

He has called us to be trusted servants, fellow workers (see 1 Corinthians 3:9), using our talents to serve one another and His kingdom as good stewards of His grace (see 1 Peter 4:10).

In this, we each have a different part to play.

Though the good servants in today's parable were given different numbers of talents, each "doubled" what he was given. And each earned the same reward for his faithfulness - greater responsibilities and a share of the Master's joy.

So let us resolve again in this Eucharist to make much of what we've been given, to do all for the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). That we, too, may approach our Master with confidence and love when He comes to settle accounts.

Direct download: A_33_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:30pm EDT

Readings 

Ezekiel 47:1-28-9,12 
 
Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9
 
1 Corinthians 3:9-1116-17 
 

John 2:13-22 



Why commemorate a church dedication that happened in fourth-century Rome? First, because St. John Lateran is no ordinary church—it’s the cathedral church of the Pope and still known as “the mother of all the world’s churches.”

But more than that, because God has from all time intended the church building to be a symbol of His Church and our bodies. This is what the readings for today’s feast invite us to consider. God’s prototype for the church is the Jerusalem Temple, described in this week’s First Reading and Psalm. It’s God’s “holy dwelling,” site of His presence in our midst, source of “living waters”—of all life and blessing. But God intended the Temple to give way to the Body of Christ. That’s what our Lord’s words and actions in Sunday’s Gospel are intended to dramatize. Christ’s Body is now the dwelling of God’s “glory” among us (see John 1:14). It’s the new source of living waters (John 4:10,147:37-3919:34), the living bread (John 6:51), the new sanctuary where people will worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:21,23). By Baptism, we are joined to His Body in the Church (see 1 Corinthians 12:13). Sunday’s Epistle says the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and makes us “God’s building…the temple of God” (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9). Jesus drove out the sellers of oxen, sheep and doves, signaling an end to the animal sacrifices that formed the worship of the old Temple. In the spiritual worship of the new Temple, we offer our bodies—our whole beings—as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). Like living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) built on the cornerstone of Christ (see Mark 12:10Acts 4:11), together we are called to build up the new Temple of God, the Church.

As the Jerusalem Temple was, so the Church will always be under construction—until at last it is perfected in the new Jerusalem, our mother Church, come down from heaven (see Revelation 21:3,10,2222:1Galatians 4:26).

Direct download: Week_2_Novemeber_2008.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:00pm EDT

Readings:

Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 23:1-6 
Romans 6:3-9 
John 6:37-40

When St. Paul talked about the resurrection of the dead with the philosophers at Athens, many laughed and mocked him (Acts 17:32). The Gospel, he would later write, is “foolishness” to the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18).

Yet this week’s First Reading tells us that it is foolish to think that the souls of the just are dead. Instead, theirs is a “hope full of immortality.”

By His resurrection, Jesus frees the human race from the fear of death—from the terrible fear of the unknown, of our own disintegration—that holds us in a kind of slavery (seeHebrews 2:14-15).

Because He has walked the dark valley of death before us, because He has promised to walk alongside us, we can take “courage” and “fear no evil,” in the words of this week’s Psalm.

This is God’s will for us, the reason Jesus came into the world, according to Sunday’s Gospel: that we will recognize Jesus as the Son of God, and by believing in Him be raised to eternal life.

If we believe in Him, we will follow Him, as the Psalmist says: He will refresh our souls in the waters of Baptism, anoint our heads with the oil of Confirmation, and set before us the table of the Eucharist.

There our cups will be filled to overflowing. And by these mysteries of His kindness and goodness, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord” in this life and in the life to come.

The First Reading seems to allude to the doctrine of Purgatory, to the souls of the just being chastised, purified as gold in a furnace and made worthy of God (see 1 Cor. 3:11–12). This reading also tells us of the glory of the saints, who will share in the rule of Christ, judging and ruling over the nations (see Luke 22:30). Through the “newness of life” we have in the sacraments, this week’s Epistle adds, we “grow into union with Him,” confident that we will be “united with Him in the Resurrection.”

Direct download: Week_1_Novemeber_2008.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:00pm EDT

Readings:

Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51
1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Matthew 22:34-40

Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament law but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17)

And in today's Gospel, He reveals that love - of God and of neighbor - is the fulfillment of the whole of the law (see Romans 13:8-10).

Devout Israelites were to keep all 613 commands found in the Bible's first five books. Jesus says today that all these, and all the teachings of the prophets, can be summarized by two verses of this law (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).

He seems to summarize the two stone tablets on which God was said to have engraved the ten commandments (see Exodus 32:15-16). The first tablet set out three laws concerning the love of God - such as the command not to take His name in vain; the second contained seven commands regarding love of neighbor, such as those against stealing and adultery.

Love is the hinge that binds the two tablets of the law. For we can't love God, whom we can't see, if we don't love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20-22).

But this love we are called to is far more than simple affection or warm sentiment. We must give ourselves totally to God - loving with our whole beings, with all our heart, soul and mind. Our love for our neighbor must express itself in concrete actions, such as those set out in today's First Reading.

We love because He first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). As we sing in today's Psalm, He has been our deliverer, our strength when we could not possibly defend ourselves against the enemies of sin and death.

We love in thanksgiving for our salvation. And in this become imitators of Jesus, as Paul tells us in today's Epistle - laying down our lives daily in ways large and small, seen and unseen; our lives offered as a continual sacrifice of praise (see John 15:12-13; Hebrews 13:15).

Direct download: A_30_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:34pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 45:1,4-6
Psalm 96:1,3-5, 7-10
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Matthew 22:15-21

The Lord is king over all the earth, as we sing in today's Psalm. Governments rise and fall by His permission, with no authority but that given from above (see John 19:11; Romans 13:1).

In effect, God says to every ruler what he tells King Cyrus in today's First Reading: "I have called you . . . though you knew me not."

The Lord raised up Cyrus to restore the Israelites from exile, and to rebuild Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1-4). Throughout salvation history, God has used foreign rulers for the sake of His chosen people. Pharaoh's heart was hardened to reveal God's power (see Romans 9:17). Invading armies were used to punish Israel's sins (see 2 Maccabees 6:7-16).

The Roman occupation during Jesus' time was, in a similar way, a judgment on Israel's unfaithfulness. Jesus' famous words in today's Gospel: "Repay to Caesar" are a pointed reminder of this. And they call us, too, to keep our allegiances straight.

The Lord alone is our king. His kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36) but it begins here in His Church, which tells of His glory among all peoples. Citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20), we are called to be a light to the world (see Matthew 5:14) - working in faith, laboring in love, and enduring in hope, as today's Epistle counsels.

We owe the government a concern for the common good, and obedience to laws - unless they conflict with God's commandments as interpreted by the Church (see Acts 5:29).

But we owe God everything. The coin bears Caesar's image. But we bear God's own image (see Genesis 1:27). We owe Him our very lives - all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, offered as a living sacrifice of love (see Romans 12:1-2).

We should pray for our leaders, that like Cyrus they do God's will (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2) - until from the rising of the sun to its setting, all humanity knows that Jesus is Lord.

Direct download: A_29_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:21pm EDT

Isaiah 25:6-10
Psalm 23:1-6
Philippians 4:12-1419-20
Matthew 22:1-14

Our Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel is again a fairly straightforward outline of salvation history.

God is the king (see Matthew 5:35), Jesus the bridegroom (see Matthew 9:15), the feast is the salvation and eternal life that Isaiah prophesies in today’s First Reading. The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God’s servants, the prophets (see Isaiah 7:25). For refusing repeated invitations and even killing His prophets, Israel has been punished, its city conquered by foreign armies.

Now, Jesus makes clear, God has sending new servants, His apostles, to call not only Israelites, but all people - good and bad alike - to the feast of His kingdom. This an image of the Church, which Jesus elsewhere compares to a field sown with both wheat and weeds, and a fishing net that catches good fish and bad (see Matthew 13:24-4347-50).

We have all been called to this great feast of love in the Church, where, as Isaiah foretold, the veil that once separated the nations from the covenants of Israel has been destroyed, where the dividing wall of enmity has been torn down by the blood of Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-14).

As we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord has led us to this feast, refreshing our souls in the waters of baptism, spreading the table before us in the Eucharist. As Paul tells us in today’s Epistle, in the glorious riches of Christ, we will find supplied whatever we need.

And in the rich food of His body, and the choice wine of His blood, we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem, when God will destroy death forever (seeHebrews 12:22-24).

But are we dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness (see Revelation 19:8)? Not all who have been called will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus warns. Let us be sure that we’re living in a manner worthy of the invitation we’ve received (see Ephesians 4:1).

Direct download: A_28_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:26pm EDT

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

In today's Gospel Jesus returns to the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach about Israel, the Church, and the kingdom of God.

And the symbolism of today's First Reading and Psalm is readily understood.

God is the owner and the house of Israel is the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted in a fertile land specially spaded and prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem, watched over by the towering Temple. But the vineyard produced no good grapes for the wine, a symbol for the holy lives God wanted for His people. So God allowed His vineyard to be overrun by foreign invaders, as Isaiah foresees in the First Reading.

Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah's words to describe the vineyard's wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel's religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel's past. Instead of producing good fruits, they've killed the owner's servants, the prophets sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls.

In a dark foreshadowing of His own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants' final outrage will be to seize the owner's son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls.

For this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, will be taken away and given to new tenants - the leaders of the Church, who will produce its fruit.

We are each a vine in the Lord's vineyard, grafted onto the true vine of Christ (see John 15:1-8), called to bear fruits of the righteousness in Him (see Philippians 1:11), and to be the "first fruits" of a new creation (see James 1:18).

We need to take care that we don't let ourselves be overgrown with the thorns and briers of worldly anxiety. As today's Epistle advises, we need to fill our hearts and minds with noble intentions and virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near.

Direct download: A_27_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:16pm EDT

Readings:
Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-9
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

Echoing the complaint heard in last week's readings, today's First Reading again presents protests that God isn't fair. Why does He punish with death one who begins in virtue but falls into iniquity, while granting life to the wicked one who turns from sin?

This is the question that Jesus takes up in the parable in today's Gospel.

The first son represents the most heinous sinners of Jesus' day - tax collectors and prostitutes - who by their sin at first refuse to serve in the Lord's vineyard, the kingdom. At the preaching of John the Baptist, they repented and did what is right and just. The second son represents Israel's leaders - who said they would serve God in the vineyard, but refused to believe John when he told them they must produce good fruits as evidence of their repentance (see Matthew 3:8).

Once again, this week's readings invite us to ponder the unfathomable ways of God's justice and mercy. He teaches His ways only to the humble, as we sing in today's Psalm. And in the Epistle today, Paul presents Jesus as the model of that humility by which we come to know life's true path.

Paul sings a beautiful hymn to the Incarnation. Unlike Adam, the first man, who in his pride grasped at being God, the New Adam, Jesus, humbled himself to become a slave, obedient even unto death on the cross (see Romans 5:14). In this He has shown sinners - each one of us - the way back to the Father. We can only come to God, to serve in His vineyard, the Church, by having that same attitude as Christ.

This is what Israel's leaders lacked. In their vainglory, they presumed their superiority - that they had no further need to hear God's Word or God's servants.

But this is the way to death, as God tells Ezekiel today. We are always to be emptying ourselves, seeking forgiveness for our sins and frailties, confessing on bended knee that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father.

Direct download: A_26_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:30pm EDT

Readings

Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Matthew 20:1-16

The house of Israel is the vine of God - who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7; 27:2-5).

Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel's kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5-10).

This is the biblical backdrop to Jesus' parable of salvation history in today's Gospel. The landowner is God. The vineyard is the kingdom. The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant. Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13). In the Lord's great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations.

This provokes grumbling in today's parable. Doesn't the complaint of those first laborers sound like that of the older brother in Jesus' prodigal son parable (see Luke 15:29-30)? God's ways, however, are far from our ways, as we hear in today's First Reading. And today's readings should caution us against the temptation to resent God's lavish mercy.

Like the Gentiles, many will be allowed to enter the kingdom late - after having spent most of their days idling in sin.

But even these can call upon Him and find Him near, as we sing in today's Pslam. We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we have loved ones who remain far from the vineyard.

Our task is to continue laboring in His vineyard. As Paul says in today's Epistle, let us conduct ourselves worthily, struggling to bring all men and women to the praise of His name.

 

Direct download: A_25_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:23pm EDT

Readings:

Ezekiel 33:7-9
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 13:8-10
Matthew 18:15-20

As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today's first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16).

He also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on s of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:13). The heads of the new Israel, however, receive extraordinary powers - similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19). They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).

But the powers He gives the apostles and their successors depends on their communion with Him. As Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father.

But today's readings are more than a lesson in Church order. They also suggest how we're to deal with those who trespass against us, a theme that we'll hear in next week's readings as well.

Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them.

This is the love that Paul in today's Epistle says we owe to our neighbors. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation. We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths.

We should never correct out of anger, or a desire to punish. Instead our message must be that of today's Psalm - urging sinner to hear God's voice, not to harden their hearts, and to remember that He is the one who made us, and the rock of our salvation. 

Direct download: A_23_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:34pm EDT

Readings:

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27


Today's First Reading catches the prophet Jeremiah in a moment of weakness. His intimate lamentation contains some of the strongest language of doubt found in the Bible. Following God's call, he feels abandoned. Preaching His Word has brought him only derision and reproach.

But God does not deceive - and Jeremiah knows this. He tests the just (see Jeremiah 20:11-12), and disciplines His children through their sufferings and trials (see Hebrews 12:5-7).

What Jeremiah learns, Jesus states explicitly in today's Gospel. To follow Him is to take up a cross, to deny yourself - your priorities, preferences, and comforts. It is to be willing to give it all up, even life itself, for the sake of His gospel. As Paul says in today's Epistle, we have to join ourselves to the passion of Christ, to offer our bodies - our whole beings - as living sacrifices to God.

By His cross, Jesus has shown us what Israel's sacrifices of animals were meant to teach - that we owe to God all that we have.

God's kindness is a greater good than life itself, as we sing in today's Psalm. The only thanks we can offer is our spiritual worship - to give our lives to the service of His will (see Hebrews 10:3-11; Psalm 50:14,23).

Peter doesn't yet get this in today's Gospel. As it was for Jeremiah, the cross is a stumbling block for Peter (see 1 Corinthians 1:23). This too is our natural temptation - to refuse to believe that our sufferings play a necessary part in God's plan.

That's how people think, Jesus tells us today. But we are called to the renewal of our minds - to think as God thinks, to will what He wills.

In the Mass, we once again offer ourselves as perfect and pleasing sacrifices of praise (see Hebrews 13:15). We bless Him as we live, confident that we will find our lives in losing them, that with the riches of His banquet, our souls will be satisfied.

Direct download: A_22_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:10pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 22:15, 19-23

Psalm 138:1-3, 6, 8

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20 

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" Paul exclaims in today's Epistle. Today's Psalm, too, takes up the triumphant note of joy and thanksgiving. Why? Because in the Gospel, the heavenly Father reveals the mystery of His kingdom to Peter. 

With Peter, we rejoice that Jesus is the anointed son promised to David, the one prophesied to build God's temple and reign over an everlasting kingdom (see 2 Samuel 7). 

What Jesus calls "my Church" is the kingdom promised to David's son(see Isaiah 9:1-7). As we hear in today's First Reading, Isaiah foretold that the keys to David's kingdom would be given to a new master, who would rule as father to God's people. 

Jesus, the root and offspring of David, alone holds the kingdom's keys (see Revelation 1:18; 3:7; 22:16). In giving those keys to Peter, Jesus fulfills that prophecy, establishing Peter - and all who succeed him - as holy father of His Church. 

His Church, too, is the new house of God - the spiritual temple founded on the "rock" of Peter, and built up out of the living stones of individual believers (see 1 Peter 2:5). 

Abraham was called "the rock" from which the children of Israel were hewn (see Isaiah 51:1-2). And Peter becomes the rock from which God raises up new children of God (see Matthew 3:9).

The word Jesus uses - "church" (ekklesia in Greek) - was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the "assembly" of God's children after the exodus (see Deuteronomy 18:16; 31:30).

His Church is the "assembly of the firstborn" (see Hebrews 12:23; Exodus 4:23-24), established by Jesus' exodus (see Luke 9:31). Like the Israelites, we are baptized in water, led by the Rock, and fed with spiritual food (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-5). 

Gathered at His altar, in the presence of angels, we sing His praise and give thanks to His holy name.

Direct download: A_21_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

Most of us are the foreigners, the non-Israelites, about whom today's First Reading prophesies.

Coming to worship the God of Israel, we stand in the line of faith epitomized by the Canaanite woman in today's Gospel. Calling to Jesus as Lord and Son of David, this foreigner shows her great faith in God's covenant with Israel.

Jesus tests her faith three times. He refuses to answer her cry. Then, He tells her His mission is only to Israelites. Finally, he uses "dog," an epithet used to disparage non-Israelites (see Matthew 7:6). Yet she persists, believing that He alone offers salvation.

In this family drama, we see fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy and the promise we sing of in today's Psalm. In Jesus, God makes known among all the nations His way and His salvation (see John 14:6).

At the start of salvation history, God called Abraham (see Genesis 12:2). He chose his offspring, Israel, from all the nations on the face of the earth, to build His covenant kingdom (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Isaiah 41:8).

In God's plan, Abraham was to be the father of many nations (see Romans 4:16-17). Israel was to be the firstborn of a worldwide family of God, made up of all who believe what the Canaanite professes - that Jesus is Lord (see Exodus 4:22-23; Romans 5:13-24).

Jesus came first to restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:6; 13:46). But His ultimate mission was the reconciliation of the world, as Paul declares in today's Epistle.

In the Mass we join all peoples in doing Him homage. As Isaiah foretold, we come to His holy mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice at His altar (see Hebrews 12:22-24,28). With the Canaanite, we take our place at the Master's table, to be fed as His children.

Direct download: A_20_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:18pm EDT

Readings:

1 Kings 19:9, 11-13
Psalm 85:9-14
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

How do we find God in the storms and struggles of our lives, in the trials we encounter in trying to do His will?

God commands Elijah in today's First Reading to stand on the mountain and await His passing by. And in the Gospel, Jesus makes the disciples set out across the waters to meet Him.

In each case, the Lord makes himself present amid frightening tumult - heavy winds and high waves, fire and earthquakes.

Elijah hides his face. Perhaps he remembers Moses, who met God on the same mountain, also amid fire, thunder, and smoke (see Deuteronomy 4:10-15; Exodus 19:17-19). God told Moses no one could see His face and live, and He sheltered Moses in the hollow of a rock, as He shelters Elijah in a cave (see Exodus 33:18-23).

The disciples, likewise, are too terrified to look on the face of God. Today's Gospel is a revelation of Jesus' divine identity. Only God treads across the crest of the sea (see Job 9:8) and rules the raging waters (see Psalm 89:9-10). And the words of assurance that Jesus speaks - "It is I" - are those God used to identify himself to Moses (see Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:10).

Even Peter is too overcome by fear to imitate his Lord. His fears, Jesus tells him, are a sign of his lack of faith. And so it often is with us. Our fears make us doubt, make it hard to see His glory dwelling in our midst.

Yet, we should know, as we sing in today's Psalm, that His salvation is near to those who hope in Him. By faith we should know, as Paul asserts in today's Epistle, that we are heirs to the promises made to His children, Israel.

We must trust that He whispers to us in the trials of our lives - that He who has called us to walk along the way of His steps, will save us whenever we begin to sink.

Direct download: A_19_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:24pm EDT

1 Kings 3:5,7-12     

Psalm 119:57,72,76-77,127-130 

Romans 8:28-30      

Matthew 13:44-52 

What is your new life in Christ worth to you? 

Do you love His words more than gold and silver, as we sing in today’s Psalm? Would you, like the characters in the Gospel today, sell all that you have in order to possess the kingdom He promises to us? If God were to grant any wish, would you follow Solomon’s example in today’s First Reading—asking not for a long life or riches, but for wisdom to know God’s ways and to desire His will? 

The background for today’s Gospel, as it has been for the past several weeks, is the rejection of Jesus’ preaching by Israel. The kingdom of heaven has come into their midst, yet many cannot see that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises, a gift of divine compassion given that they—and we, too—might live. 

We too must ever discover the kingdom anew, to find it as a treasure - a pearl of great price. By comparison with the kingdom, we must count all else as rubbish (see Philippians 3:8). And we must be willing to give up all that we have—all our priorities and plans—in order to gain it. 

Jesus’ Gospel discloses what Paul, in today’s Epistle, calls the purpose of God’s plan (see Ephesians 1:4). That purpose is that Jesus be the firstborn of many brothers. 

His words give understanding to the simple, the childlike. As Solomon does today, we must humble ourselves before God, giving ourselves to His service. Let our prayer be for an understanding heart, one that desires only to do His will. 

We are called to love God, to delight in His law, and to forsake every false way. And we are to conform ourselves daily ever more closely to the image of His Son. 

 

If we do this, we can approach His altar as a pleasing sacrifice, confident that all things work for the good—that we whom He has justified, will also one day be glorified.

Direct download: A_17_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:06pm EDT

Readings:

Wisdom 12:13,16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Romans 8:26-27
Matthew 13:24-43 

God is always teaching His people, we hear in today’s First Reading. 

And what does He want us to know? That He has care for all of us, that though He is a God of justice, even those who defy and disbelieve Him may hope for His mercy if they turn to Him in repentance. 

This divine teaching continues in the three parables that Jesus tells in the Gospel today. Each describes the emergence of the kingdom of God from the seeds sown by His works and preaching. The kingdom’s growth is hidden - like the working of yeast in bread; it’s improbable, unexpected—as in the way the tall mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds. 

Again this week’s readings sound a note of questioning: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does He permit some to reject the Word of His kingdom?

Because, as we sing in today’s Psalm, God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. He is just, Jesus assures us - evildoers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace at the end of the age. But by His patience, God is teaching us—that above all He desires repentance, and the gathering of all nations to worship Him and to glorify His name. 

Even though we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit will intercede for us, Paul promises in today’s Epistle. But first we must turn and call upon Him, we must commit ourselves to letting the good seed of His Word bear fruit in our lives. 

So we should not be deceived or lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin. 

 

For now, He makes His sun rise on the good and the bad (see Matthew 5:45). But the harvest draws near. Let’s work that we might be numbered among the righteous children—who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

Direct download: A_16_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:18pm EDT

Readings:

Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65:10-14

Romans 8:18-23      

Matthew 13:1-23 

Today’s readings, like last week’s, ask us to meditate on Israel’s response to God’s Word—and our own. Why do some hear the word of the kingdom, yet fail to accept it as a call to conversion and faith in Jesus? That question underlies today’s Gospel, especially. 

Again we see, as we did last week, that the kingdom’s mysteries are unfolded to those who open their hearts, making of them a rich soil in the which the Word can grow and bear fruit. 

As we sing in today’s Psalm, in Jesus, God’s Word has visited our land, to water the stony earth of our hearts with the living waters of the Spirit (see John 7:38; Revelation 22:1). 

The firstfruit of the Word is the Spirit of love and adoption poured into our hearts in baptism, making us children of God, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle (see Romans 5:5; 8:15-16). In this, we are made a “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), the firstfruits of a new heaven and a new earth (see 2 Peter 3:13). 

Since the first humans rejected God’s Word, creation has been enslaved to futility (see Genesis 3:17-19; 5:29). But God’s Word does not go forth only to return to Him void, as we hear in today’s First Reading. 

His Word awaits our response. We must show ourselves to be children of that Word. We must allow that Word to accomplish God’s will in our lives. As Jesus warns today, we must take care lest the devil steal it away or lest it be choked by worldly concerns. 

In the Eucharist, the Word gives himself to us as bread to eat. He does so that we might be made fertile, yielding fruits of holiness. 

 

And we await the crowning of the year, the great harvest of the Lord’s Day (see Mark 4:29; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:10)—when His Word will have achieved the end for which it was sent.

Direct download: A_15_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:59pm EDT

Readings:

Zechariah 9:9-10
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14
Romans 8:9, 11-13
Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus is portrayed in today’s Gospel as a new and greater Moses. 

Moses, the meekest man on earth (see Numbers 12:3), was God’s friend (see Exodus 34:12,17). Only he knew God “face to face” (see Deuteronomy 34:10). And Moses gave Israel the yoke of the Law, through which God first revealed himself and how we are to live (see Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5). 

Jesus too is meek and humble. But He is more than God’s friend. He is the Son who alone knows the Father. He is more also than a law-giver, presenting himself today as the yoke of a new Law, and as the revealed Wisdom of God. 

As Wisdom, Jesus was present before creation as the firstborn of God, the Father and Lord of heaven and earth (see Proverbs 8:22; Wisdom 9:9). And He gives knowledge of the holy things of the kingdom of God (see Wisdom 10:10).

In the gracious will of the Father, Jesus reveals these things only to the “childlike”—those who humble themselves before Him as little children (see Sirach 2:17). These alone can recognize and receive Jesus as the just savior and meek king promised to daughter Zion, Israel, in today’s First Reading. 

We too are called to childlike faith in the Father’s goodness, as sons and daughters of the new kingdom, the Church.

We are to live by the Spirit we received in baptism (see Galatians 5:16), putting to death our old ways of thinking and acting, as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle. Our “yoke” is to be His new law of love (see John 13:34), by which we enter into the “rest” of His kingdom. 

 

As we sing in today’s Psalm, we joyously await the day when we will praise His name forever in the kingdom that lasts for all ages. This is the sabbath rest promised by Jesus—first anticipated by Moses (see Exodus 20:8-11), but which still awaits the people of God (see Hebrews 4:9).

Direct download: A_14_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:33pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 12:1–11    

Psalm 34:2–9

2 Timothy 4:6–8, 17–18    

Matthew 16:13–19

This Sunday’s celebration of the great apostles Peter and Paul is a celebration of the Church. Peter’s deliverance from jail is compared to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Like Israel he is rescued at Passover from “the hand” of his enemy by an “angel of the Lord” after girding himself with belt, sandals, and cloak (see Ex 3:8; 12:8, 11–12; 14:19). 

The Church is, as Peter says, “all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” As he affirms in his great confession of faith in Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is “the Christ,” the Messiah that the prophets had taught Israel to hope for. 

But Christ is more than what the Jewish people had been hoping for. 

He is the Christ. But He is also, as Peter confesses, “the Son of the living God.” Born of the flesh of the Jewish people, he is a son of Abraham and David (see Mt 1:1; Rm 1:3). Through Him and the Church founded on the rock of Peter’s faith, God fulfills the promise he made to Abraham—to bless all nations in his seed (see Gen 22:18). 

What Christ calls “my Church,” is the new Israel, the kingdom of God, the family made up of all peoples—Jews and Gentiles—who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (see Gal 3:26–29; 6:16). And we must make this confession our own. Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” is addressed to each of us personally. 

We must confess our faith in Christ not only with our tongues, but with our lives. As Paul describes his discipleship in this week’s Epistle, we must make our lives a oblation, an offering of love for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom (see Rm 12:1). 

 

We know, as we sing in this week’s Psalm, that the Lord has rescued us in Christ Jesus. We know that he will stand by us, giving us strength to face every evil—and that He will bring us to the heavenly kingdom we anticipate in this Eucharist.

Direct download: A_Peter_and_Paul.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 9:46am EDT

Readings:

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16

Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

John 6:51-58

The Eucharist is given to us as a challenge and a promise. That's how Jesus presents it in today's Gospel.

He doesn't make it easy for those who hear Him. They are repulsed and offended at His words. Even when they begin to quarrel, He insists on describing the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood in starkly literal terms. 

Four times in today's reading, Jesus uses a Greek word - trogein - that refers to a crude kind of eating, almost a gnawing or chewing (see John 6:54,56,57,58). 

He is testing their faith in His Word, as today's First Reading describes God testing Israel in the desert. 

The heavenly manna was not given to satisfy the Israelites' hunger, as Moses explains. It was given to show them that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

In today's Psalm, too, we see a connection between God's Word and the bread of life. We sing of God filling us with "finest wheat" and proclaiming his Word to the world. 

In Jesus, "the living Father" has given us His Word come down from heaven, made flesh for the life of the world. 

Yet as the Israelites grumbled in the desert, many in today's Gospel cannot accept that Word. Even many of Jesus' own followers abandon Him after this discourse (see John 6:66). But His words are Spirit and life, the words of eternal life (see John 6:63,67).

In the Eucharist we are made one flesh with Christ. We have His life in us and have our life because of Him. This is what Paul means in today's Epistle when He calls the Eucharist a "participation" in Christ's body and blood. We become in this sacrament partakers of the divine nature (see 1 Peter 2:4). 

This is the mystery of the faith that Jesus asks us believe. And He gives us His promise: that sharing in His flesh and blood that was raised from the dead, we too will be raised up on the last day.

Direct download: A_Corpus_Christi.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 8:00am EDT

Readings:

Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9

Daniel 3:52-56

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

John 3:16-18

We often begin Mass with the prayer from today's Epistle: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." We praise the God who has revealed himself as a Trinity, a communion of persons. 

Communion with the Trinity is the goal of our worship - and the purpose of the salvation history that begins in the Bible and continues in the Eucharist and sacraments of the Church.

We see the beginnings of God's self-revelation in today's First Reading, as He passes before Moses and cries out His holy name. 

Israel had sinned in worshipping the golden calf (see Exodus 32). But God does not condemn them to perish. Instead He proclaims His mercy and faithfulness to His covenant. 

God loved Israel as His firstborn son among the nations (see Exodus 4:22). Through Israel - heirs of His covenant with Abraham - God planned to reveal himself as the Father of all nations (see Genesis 22:18). 

The memory of God's covenant testing of Abraham - and Abraham's faithful obedience - lies behind today's Gospel. 

In commanding Abraham to offer his only beloved son (see Genesis 22:2,12,16), God was preparing us for the fullest possible revelation of His love for the world. 

As Abraham was willing to offer Isaac, God did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all (see Romans 8:32). 

In this, He revealed what was only disclosed partially to Moses - that His kindness continues for a thousand generations, that He forgives our sin, and takes us back as His very own people (see Deuteronomy 4:20; 9:29). 

Jesus humbled himself to die in obedience to God's will. And for this, the Spirit of God raised Him from the dead (see Romans 8:11), and gave Him a name above every name (see Philippians 2:8-10). 

 

This is the name we glorify in today's Responsorial - the name of our Lord, the God who is Love (see 1 John 4;8,16).

Direct download: A_Trinity.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:05pm EDT

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 3:2-8Romans 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 5:17Galatians 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: A_Pentecost.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:22pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 

Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20

1 Peter 3:15-18

John 14:15-21

Jesus will not leave us alone. He won't make us children of God in Baptism only to leave us "orphans," He assures us in today's Gospel (see Romans 8:14-17) . 

He asks the Father to give us His Spirit, to dwell with us and keep us united in the life He shares with the Father. 

We see the promised gift of His Spirit being conferred in today's First Reading. 

The scene from Acts apparently depicts a primitive Confirmation rite. Philip, one of the first deacons (see Acts 6:5), proclaims the Gospel in the non-Jewish city of Samaria. The Samaritans accept the Word of God (see Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13) and are baptized. 

It remains for the Apostles to send their representatives, Peter and John, to pray and lay hands on the newly baptized - that they might receive the Holy Spirit. This is the origin of our sacrament of Confirmation (see Acts 19:5-6), by which the grace of Baptism is completed and believers are sealed with the Spirit promised by the Lord. 

We remain in this grace so long as we love Christ and keep His commandments. And strengthened in the Spirit whom Jesus said would be our Advocate, we are called to bear witness to our salvation - to the tremendous deeds that God has done for us in the name of His Son. 

In today's Psalm, we celebrate our liberation. As He changed the sea into dry land to free the captive Israelites, Christ suffered that He might lead us to God, as we hear in today's Epistle. 

This is the reason for our hope - the hope that sustains us in the face of a world that cannot accept His truth, the hope that sustains us when we are maligned and defamed for His name's sake. 

Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit, Paul tells us today. And as He himself promises: "Because I live, you will live." 

Exodus and Easter 

Israel's exodus from Egypt forms the background for many of the readings we hear in Easter. 

On the Third Sunday, both the Gospel and Epistle describe Jesus "redeeming" or "ransoming" Israel (see Luke 24:21; 1 Peter 1:18). The Greek word in both is only used elsewhere to refer to Israel's redemption from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 7:8). In the First Reading, Jesus is said to work "mighty deeds, wonders and signs" (see Acts 2:22) - the same words used to describe Moses' work (see Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 34:10-12).

Moses told the Israelites not to fear but to trust that God would go before and find them a place in the promised land (see Deuteronomy 1:29-32). Jesus uses the same words in the Fifth Sunday's Gospel. He also quotes Moses to claim that His words are God's words and His works are God's works (see Deuteronomy 18:18; 34:10-12).

There is much more exodus imagery in this month's readings. The point is to show us that Jesus' death and resurrection marked a new exodus (see Luke 9:31). The Christian life is like the sojourning of the Israelites in the wilderness. We have passed through the waters of Baptism and are now fed with bread from heaven as we make our way to the promised land of eternal life (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Peter 1:4).

Direct download: A_6_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 6:1-7

Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

1 Peter 2:4-9

John 14:1-12 (see also "Exodus and Easter")

By His death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in His Father's house. 

His Father's house is no longer a temple made by human hands. It is the spiritual house of the Church, built on the living stone of Christ's body. 

As Peter interprets the Scriptures in today's Epistle, Jesus is the "stone" destined to be rejected by men but made the precious cornerstone of God's dwelling on earth (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).

Each of us is called to be a living stone in God's building (see 1 Corinthians 3:9,16). In this edifice of the Spirit, we are to be "holy priests" offering up "spiritual sacrifices" - all our prayer, work and intentions - to God. 

This is our lofty calling as Christians. This is why Christ led us out of the darkness of sin and death as Moses led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. 

God's covenant with Israel made them a royal and priestly people who were to announce His praises (see Exodus 19:6). By our faith in Christ's new covenant, we have been made heirs of this chosen race, called to glorify the Father in the temple of our bodies (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:1). 

In today's First Reading, we see the spiritual house of the Church being built up, as the Apostles consecrate seven deacons so they can devote themselves more fully to the "ministry of the Word."

The Lord's Word is upright and all His works trustworthy, we sing in today's Psalm. So we can trust Jesus when He tells us never to be troubled, but to believe that His Word and works come from the Father. 

His Word continues its work in the world through the Church. We see its beginnings today in Jerusalem. It is destined to spread with influence and power (see Acts 19:20), and to become the imperishable seed by which every heart is born anew (see 1 Peter 1:23). 

Direct download: A_5_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:59pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 2:14, 36-41

Psalm 23:1-6

1 Peter 2:20-25

John 10:1-10

Easter's empty tomb is a call to conversion.

By this tomb, we should know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, as Peter preaches in today's First Reading. 

He is the "Lord," the divine Son that David foresaw at God's right hand (see Psalms 110:1,3; 132:10-11; Acts 2:34). And He is the Messiah that God had promised to shepherd the scattered flock of the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23; 37:24).

As we hear in today's Gospel, Jesus is that Good Shepherd, sent to a people who were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mark 6:34; Numbers 27:16-17). He calls not only to the children of Israel, but to all those far off from Him - to whomever the Lord wishes to hear His voice. 

The call of the Good Shepherd leads to the restful waters of Baptism, to the anointing oil of Confirmation, and to the table and overflowing cup of the Eucharist, as we sing in today's Psalm.

Again on this Sunday in Easter, we hear His voice calling us His own. He should awaken in us the response of those who heard Peter's preaching. "What are we to do?" they cried. 

We have been baptized. But each of us goes astray like sheep, as we hear in today's Epistle. We still need daily to repent, to seek forgiveness of our sins, to separate ourselves further from this corrupt generation. 

We are called to follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd of our souls. By His suffering He bore our sins in His body to free us from sin. But His suffering is also an example for us. From Him we should learn patience in our afflictions, to hand ourselves over to the will of God.

Jesus has gone ahead, driven us through the dark valley of evil and death. His Cross has become the narrow gate through which we must pass to reach His empty tomb - the verdant pastures of life abundant.

Direct download: A_4_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:34pm EDT

Readings:

Acts 2:14,22-28

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

1 Peter 1:17-21

Luke 24:13-35

We should put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples in today's Gospel. Downcast and confused they're making their way down the road, unable to understand all the things that have occurred. 

They know what they've seen - a prophet mighty in word and deed. They know what they were hoping for - that He would be the redeemer of Israel. But they don't know what to make of His violent death at the hands of their rulers. 

They can't even recognize Jesus as He draws near to walk with them. He seems like just another foreigner visiting Jerusalem for the Passover. 

Note that Jesus doesn't disclose His identity until they they describe how they found His tomb empty but "Him they did not see." That's how it is with us, too. Unless He revealed himself we would see only an empty tomb and a meaningless death.

How does Jesus make himself known at Emmaus? First, He interprets "all the Scriptures" as referring to Him. In today's First Reading and Epistle, Peter also opens the Scriptures to proclaim the meaning of Christ's death according to the Father's "set plan" - foreknown before the foundation of the world. 

Jesus is described as a new Moses and a new Passover lamb. He is the One of whom David sang in today's Psalm - whose soul was not abandoned to corruption but was shown the path of life. 

After opening the Scriptures, Jesus at table took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples - exactly what He did at the Last Supper (see Luke 22:14-20). 

In every Eucharist, we reenact that Easter Sunday at Emmaus. Jesus reveals himself to us in our journey. He speaks to our hearts in the Scriptures. Then at the table of the altar, in the person of the priest, He breaks the bread. 

The disciples begged him, "Stay with us." So He does. Though He has vanished from our sight, in the Eucharist - as at Emmaus - we know Him in the breaking of the bread.

Direct download: A_3_Easter.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:53pm EDT

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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 9:11am 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 11:35am 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:17pm 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 7:41pm 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:53pm 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 2:15pm 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:14pm 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:52pm 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:15pm EDT

Jesus tells us in the Gospel this week that he has come not to abolish but to “fulfill” the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.

His Gospel reveals the deeper meaning and purpose of the Ten Commandments and the moral Law of the Old Testament. But his Gospel also transcends the Law. He demands a morality far greater than that accomplished by the most pious of Jews, the scribes and Pharisees.

Outward observance of the Law is not enough. It is not enough that we do not murder, commit adultery, divorce, or lie.

The law of the new covenant is a law that God writes on the heart (see Jer. 31:31–34). The heart is the seat of our motivations, the place from which our words and actions proceed (seeMatt. 6:2115:18–20).

Jesus this week calls us to train our hearts, to master our passions and emotions. And Jesus demands the full obedience of our hearts (see Rom. 6:17). He calls us to love God with all our hearts, and to do his will from the heart (see Matt. 22:37Eph. 6:6)

God never asks more of us than we are capable. That is the message of this week’s First Reading. It is up to us to choose life over death, to choose the waters of eternal life over the fires of ungodliness and sin.

By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has shown us that it is possible to keep his commandments. In baptism, he has given us his Spirit that his Law might be fulfilled in us (Rom. 8:4).

The wisdom of the Gospel surpasses all the wisdom of this age that is passing away, St. Paul tells us in the Epistle. The revelation of this wisdom fulfills God’s plan from before all ages.

Let us trust in this wisdom, and live by his Kingdom law.

As we do in this week’s Psalm, let us pray that we grow in being better able to live his Gospel, and to seek the Father with all our heart.

Direct download: Feb_2014_6th_Sunday.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 4:14pm EDT

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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 3:05pm 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, 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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:56pm EDT

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.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 5:00am EDT