Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who Let the Riffraff In? Readings for the 20th Sunday of OT

 
According to Wikipedia, “Riffraff is a term for the common people or hoi polloi, but with negative connotations. The term is derived from Old French ‘rif et raf’ meaning ‘one and all, every bit.’”

My ancestors are Dutch, and—like many other ethnic groups—think they're pretty special.  The typical saying is, “If yah ain’t Dutch, yah ain’t much.”

However one may assess the muchness of the Dutch in modern times, from the perspective of the people of Israel in ancient times, the Dutch were mere riffraff, nameless illiterate Germanic tribes eking out a living on the cold shoreline and humid forests of northwestern Europe.  How could such people ever enter into the fullness of God’s covenant?

The extension of God’s covenant to all the “nations” or “Gentiles” (from the Latin gentes, “races, peoples”) is the unifying theme of the Readings for Mass this weekend.

1. We begin with one of the classic passages from the second half of the Book of Isaiah that indicates a change in the covenant economy under which the people of God were living.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jesus, the Canaanite Woman, and the Dogs (The Mass Readings Explained)

My video for this Sunday's Mass readings is now out.  Please like and share if you subscribe and want to help us spread the word about this.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Still Small Voice of God: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time




There is so much turmoil in the national and international news these days, it makes it difficult to maintain a sense of peace.  Instability in Venezuela, Syria, and the Korean Peninsula seem capable of spiraling out of control, leading to regional or international war.  Christians are targeted for elimination in various places in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.  Closer to home, we witness political rhetoric becoming increasingly crass and violent, while little is done to heal the culture of our nation.  If this were not enough, all of us face the turmoil of our private lives: struggles to overcome sin in ourselves and our families; illnesses and surgeries; financial struggles; temptations against faith; discouragement and dryness in prayer.  It can feel overwhelming for the individual believer who wakes up each morning to face what seems to be an overwhelming avalanche of challenges on a personal and public level.  

The Readings for this Sunday Mass address the struggle of the believer to stay in relationship with God in the face of overwhelming distractions and threats.  In the midst of wind, waves, earthquakes, the voice of God still speaks to us.

1.  The First Reading is 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a:

Monday, August 07, 2017

Jesus Walks on Water (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video is now out.   Hope it is helpful!  Please like and share if you can if you are subscribed and would like to help spread the word about this series.  Thank you.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Feast of the Transfiguration

This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration!  This Feast last fell on a Sunday in 2006, and won’t fall on a Sunday again until 2023.

In the first three or “synoptic” Gospels, the Transfiguration marks a pivotal point in the ministry of Jesus, the point at which he begins his “death march” to Jerusalem to suffer his Passion.  It is “the beginning of the end.”  In these three Gospels, too, the Baptism and Transfiguration are paired.  At these two events, the voice of the Father is heard from heaven, “This is my beloved son.”  In this way, the Baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the Transfiguration the end of it, at least in the sense that, from the Transfiguration on, the focus shifts to Jesus’ imminent atoning death. 

1. Our First Reading is Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14:

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Transfiguration of the Lord (The Mass Readings Explained)

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Get Wise!: 17th Sunday in OT


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When I was a kid, the phrase “Get wise!” was a provocative taunt—essentially, a way to start a fight.  It meant: “I invite you to act like a smart aleck, so I will have an excuse to assault you physically.” 

But what does it really mean to “Get wise” or “Gain wisdom”?  The Readings for this Sunday’s Mass teach us about this issue.

During this part of Ordinary Time in Year A, the Church is pursuing a lectio continua (continuous reading, i.e. reading in order) of both Romans and Matthew.  (This excellent website by Fr. Just provides an overview of the pattern of the Lectionary. ) The First Readings are taken from key passages of the Old Testament, chosen (more or less) to complement the Gospel reading.

1.  This weekend’s First Reading is Solomon’s famous encounter with God in a dream early in his reign (1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12):

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Parables of Jesus - Part 3 (The Mass Readings Explained)

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Thanks!



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hypocrites in the Church: Readings for 16th Sunday of OT


Our Readings for this upcoming Lord’s Day involve a meditation on both God’s mercy and his justice, and the complex way both virtues of God are expressed in his government of human affairs in general and his people in particular.  We see that God’s apparent tolerance of evil in the short-term is an expression of his mercy and desire that all should repent; yet ultimately God can and will establish justice.  

1.  Reading 1 Wis 12:13, 16-19:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pope Francis on Openness to Life

Lost in the many of the discussions of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia has been Pope Francis' clear re-affirmation of the Church's traditional teaching on the openness to life of the sexual act within marriage.  This occurs in paragraph 80 of the document:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Seed of the Word: 15th Sunday of OT





Ordinary Time focuses on the growth of the Church.  I would prefer we called it “Extraordinary Time,” because there is nothing ordinary about the Second Person of the Divinity becoming en-fleshed in our presence through the Sacrament.

Be that as it may, the Readings for this Lord’s Day are clearly united by the motif of sowing the seed of God’s Word.

1. The First Reading (Isa 55:10-11) is one of the earliest passages in Scripture where an explicit analogy is drawn between the natural cycles of agriculture and the fertility of God’s Word:

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Parables of Jesus - Part 1 (The Mass Readings Explained)

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Not a Republic, but a Universal Kingdom: 14th Sunday of OT



This Sunday we find Jesus more or less in the middle of his earthly ministry (Matt 11), and the Readings are marked by a strong theme of the restoration of the world-wide Kingdom of David.

Earlier this week, at Independence Day celebrations, the following song was often sung: 

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 

The concept of "from sea to shining sea" is not only a reference from the expanse of the U.S. from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but is inspired by the prophecies of the extent of the Kingdom of David in the Old Testament, from the Dead Sea on the East to the Mediterranean on the West.  As a Christian nation, many older American poets and song writers saw the U.S. as participating in the tradition of the sacred state of the God of Israel, a tradition that has its roots in the Old Testament.  

1. We see this "sea to sea" theme in our First Reading, Zechariah 9:9-10:

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

My New Job at the Augustine Institute

Many of you already know this but, just in case you haven’t heard, I wanted to let you know that, after more than 10 years at JPCatholic University in San Diego/Escondido, CA, I have taken a new job as Associate Professor of Scripture and Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO. The Augustine Institute is home to a rapidly expanding Graduate Theology School. I begin teaching at the AI this August at the start of their Fall Semester. I will be teaching a grad class on Luke-Acts. I will also have a great deal more time for scholarship and writing... as well as, most importantly, for being a husband and father.

I don’t write long posts on Facebook, but this major life-change merits some detail.

First, this was the toughest decision Kim and I have made since getting married. We are both Southern California natives. Leaving our families, who are all still local, was, to put it mildly, a very painful decision. They have been incredibly supportive though and we can never thank them enough for all they have done and are doing for us.

We also leave JPCatholic full of gratitude for the time we’ve had there. We are profoundly thankful for the truly remarkable people we have had the privilege of calling friends. The greatest resource of a university is its people and JPCatholic is rich in this regard. If I begin to name names, this post will simply become too long. So, in the coming days, I plan to write a few more farewell posts highlighting specific individuals at JPCatholic to whom we will always be grateful. For now, I will just say to all of you, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Suffice it to say, as I’ve been telling people, I love the school and the people there so much, it seemed almost impossible to imagine ever leaving.

Yet turning down the opportunity at the Augustine Institute actually ended up being more than “almost” impossible to imagine. I simply can't wait to join Tim Gray, Ted Sri, Mark Giszczak, John Sehorn, Christopher Blum, Ben Akers, Douglas Bushman, to name a few.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The Easy Yoke of Jesus (The Mass Readings Explained)

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Receiving a Prophet: Readings for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time


God is generous, and he rewards those who help his servants as generously as he rewards his servants themselves. That is the message of the Readings for this 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  We begin with an account from 2 Kings concerning the reward of a wife of the town of Shunem, who was consistently gracious to the prophet Elisha.  In the Gospel Reading, Jesus proclaims a blessing on all those who give succor, refuge, and assistance to those he sends out to proclaim the Good News.  This Sunday’s Readings complement last Sunday’s, which emphasized the violent reaction that the proclamation of the Gospel often receives. This Sunday, on the other hand, we are reminded that not everyone opposes the Good News, and those who assist in its spread will be rewarded along with the messengers themselves.

1. Our First Reading is 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a: