Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Cry of the Poor: The 30th Sunday of OT

Last year Christians around the world were shocked and saddened by the execution of twenty-one Egyptian Christian men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and fell under the power of ISIS.  This martyrdom is just one of the more dramatic examples of abuse and oppression that seems so prevalent in the contemporary world.  Where is God in all this?  Does he pay attention to poor and the oppressed?  The Readings for this Sunday dwell on these and related issues.

1. Our First Reading is Sir 35:12-14, 16-18:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Pharisee & the Tax Collector – Which One are You?: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Good Book for Tough Times

The Road of Hope

It seems likely that in the immediate and probably indefinite future, faithful Catholics in America, and their institutions (schools, hospitals, parishes) are going to find themselves under a fair amount of social and judicial pressure.  I think we can safely expect an onslaught of legislative and juridical attempts within the next eighteen months to force Catholic institutions to comply with the new sexual/gender ideology or else close their doors.  It's been a few generations in America since faithful Catholics have faced pressure to this extent, and so it would be good to prepare spiritually.  I recommend a good book for tough times, The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison by Francis Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan.  Cardinal Van Thuan was made coadjutor Bishop of Saigon in 1975, just a few months before the city fell to hostile Communist forces.  He was imprisoned by the leftist regime for thirteen years, during which time he scribbled notes to his flock on scraps of paper which were smuggled out of the prison camp.  These notes were collected into The Road of Hope.  In spirituality and style, it is very much like the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva, who likewise spent many years living under leftist persecution of the Church (during the Spanish Civil War).  In any event, The Road of Hope is both bracing and consoling, helping the reader to focus his or her thoughts and spirit on things above, even in the midst of a world that can seem so dark.  Cardinal Van Thuan reminds us how to maintain joy and hope even under profound distress. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Battle of Prayer: 29th Sunday of OT

Usually we think of men of prayer and men of war as complete opposites.  A monk in a habit—such as St. Francis—is a man dedicated to peace, a total contrast to one clad in armor brandishing weapons.  Yet the Readings for this Sunday combine the imagery of war and prayer in interesting ways that provoke our thoughts about the nature and reality of supplicating God.

1.  Our First Reading is Exodus 17:8-13:

The Persistent Widow & Growing Weary in Prayer: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

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Sunday, October 09, 2016

Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research

I am participating in a conference on paradigm change in Pentateuchal research in Basel, Switzerland, this coming March.  It is good to see a growing movement to overcome some positions in Pentateuchal scholarship that have ossified into rigid dogmas.  This is from the official website:

Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research

Scientific Conference at the STH Basel, 16-18 March 2017
The Pentateuch forms both in Judaism and in Christianity the first and fundamental piece of the Bible and is the basic document of Western religious history. The currently prevailing paradigm for the study of the Pentateuch in Biblical Studies dates from the 19th century and forms a cornerstone of Biblical Studies and of the reconstruction of a history of ancient Israel. This paradigm extends to the narratives of the Pentateuch as well as to its legal collections. According to this paradigm, the Pentateuch was composed over a longer period, with the three most important stages JE (from before the Deuteronomy), D (the core of Deuteronomy originated in the 7th century) and P (Priestly texts exilic/postexilic). This paradigm was established by Julius Wellhausen's «Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels» (1878). While it has been modified in many ways, also it has been in the last thirty years more and more in a crisis; nevertheless, no fundamental paradigm shift has taken place. It is the aim of this conference to discuss this paradigm critically and to explore whether a fundamental paradigm change can lead out of the current impasse of old models and open new approaches to the Pentateuch. The international speakers are experts in the fields of Biblical Studies, Legal History, Linguistics, and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

Prof. Dr. Matthias Armgardt, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
Ass.-Prof. Dr. Benjamin Kilchör, STH Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Prof. Dr. Markus Zehnder, Biola University Los Angeles, USA
Picture Credits: «Moses zerschmettert die Gesetzestafeln» (Rembrandt van Rijn, 1659) – Public Domain

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Is Anyone Grateful? The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Thanksgiving holiday is coming upon us shortly, and this season of the year always makes me think, How do you give thanks if you don’t believe there’s anyone there to thank?  Thanksgiving is not a holiday that ever could have arisen in an atheist culture. 

The themes of the Readings for this Sunday focus on the gratitude for God’s salvation.  Gratitude is an important psychological and spiritual disposition.  Dr. Daniel G. Amen, the popular brain researcher and public health spokesman, identifies gratitude as a key character quality of persons with physiologically healthy brains.  That’s right: gratitude affects your physical health, including the shape and functioning of your brain.  This Sunday’s Readings focus particularly on gratitude to God, and how it should be expressed.

1.  Our First Reading is 2 Kgs 5:14-17:

Leprosy, the Priesthood & the Sacraments: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Hey Everyone,

My latest video is out for this Sunday's Mass Readings.  I hope it proves helpful to you.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Mass Readings Explained Video Series

Hello all,

I just wanted to invite you to check out our Kickstarter campaign for "The Mass Readings Explained" video series.  If you can help support the project and pass this on to others who can benefit from it, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Article on Covenant Appears

My bibliographic article on the term "covenant" (Heb berith, Gk diatheke) has just appeared in the online publication, Oxford Bibliographies, from Oxford University Press.  The beginning of the article can be accessed here, but the full article is behind a paywall.
Much thanks to those who recommended me to the editors of Oxford Bibliographies as being knowledgeable in this area of biblical scholarship.  It was an honor and a heavy responsibility to consider so many excellent books and articles in order to choose a limited number of the most seminal works on each facet of covenant scholarship.  The decisions were not easy and I do not claim always to have judged perfectly, but overall I am satisfied with the resulting article. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Living by Faith: The 27th Sunday of OT

By accident in the past few weeks I stumbled on an interview with Rev. T.D. Jakes, one of the nations most prominent African-American megachurch pastors.  The interview concerned the recent canonization of St. Theresa of Calcutta, and the interviewer was questioning Rev. Jakes about the revelation that Mother Theresa suffered interior darkness and even temptations against faith. Rev. Jakes gave an excellent reply, explaining how true faith can be compatible with experiencing doubt and struggling against darkness.  In fact, his discussions reminded me of passages from Benedict XVI on the relationship of faith and doubt.  

Our readings this week take up the theme of faith, both Israel’s faith under the old covenant and the faith to which we are called in the new.  Jesus urges us not to despair even if we feel our faith is pitiful.  God can work wonders using small material.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lazarus & the Realm of the Dead: Mass Readings Explained (The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Check out my latest video on this Sunday's Mass readings.  I hope it's helpful to you.

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Does it Matter How We Treat Others? The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Does it matter how we treat others?  What does my neighbor’s suffering have to do with me?  Can I continue living in comfort while bypassing those around me who are in misery?  These are questions that the Readings for this Sunday raise, and to which they provide uncomfortable answers.  Let’s read and let the Holy Spirit move us outside our comfort zone.

1.  The First Reading is Am 6:1a, 4-7:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God and Mammon: The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Sorry I posted the Year A reading earlier!)

As Jesus continues his “death march” to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 9–19), he challenges us this Sunday to choose, in a clear and conscious way, our goal in life: God or money.  The First Reading reminds us that wealth was a seductive trap for the people of God throughout salvation history.

1. The First Reading is Amos 8:4-7:

Friday, September 09, 2016

Lost Sheep, Lost Coin & Lost Son: Mass Readings Explained (The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

My latest video on the Sunday Mass readings is out -- I hope it helps you!

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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Prodigal Son Sunday: 24th Sunday in OT

This upcoming Sunday marks one of only two times in the main lectionary cycle that we hear the Parable of the Prodigal Son proclaimed (the other being the 4th Sunday of Lent [C]).  The Readings are marked by the theme of repentance and forgiveness. 

1. Our First Reading is Ex 32:7-11, 13-14:

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Cost of Discipleship: 23rd Sunday in OT

Dietric von Bonhoeffer as a young man
One of the most famous German opponents of Adolf Hitler and Nazism was the Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom the Nazis executed by hanging in April 1945 for his involvement in a plot against Hitler himself.  Bonhoeffer’s most famous work was a meditation on the Sermon on the Mount entitled (in English) The Cost of Discipleship.  In it, Bonhoeffer parted ways with a Protestantism that understood “salvation by faith alone” as some kind of easy road to heaven.  Bonhoeffer criticized “easy-believism” as “cheap grace”: