Monday, September 24, 2018

Jesus and Gehenna (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out!  Check out the intro below and you can subscribe over at Catholic Productions to watch the full version.  Thank you.

Catholic Productions' notable quote from this week's video:

"Before I jump into the Gospel, just as a preface: I think it’s really important to notice that although in our own day and time the topic of hell — the idea of eternal separation from God — has become very unpopular, it’s important to remember that in the Gospels — if you look at the New Testament and the Gospels as a whole — Jesus actually speaks about the fires of hell, the punishments of hell, and the reality of Gehenna more times in the Gospels than the rest of the New Testament combined.  So, this really an important issue in the teaching and preaching ministry of Jesus Christ.  And, so it needs to be important for us as well, however unpopular it might be."



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why Being Good Doesn't Pay: 25th Sunday of OT


When I was younger, especially from high school through my early days as a Protestant pastor, I had this strong sense that if a person always did what was right, “things would work out.”  That is to say, righteousness was the path to the good life.  God would pave the way in front of the person that does his will. 

There is some truth to that, of course.  A great deal of interior and exterior suffering is cause by our wicked and selfish choices.  When I used to work as an urban missionary, occasionally I would have the chance to witness a fairly significant conversion in the life of a person who had been living a life basically consisting of criminal activity.  Sometimes there would often be a “honeymoon” period after the person’s conversion, as so much stress and sadness in their life faded away as they stopped making evil choices.  

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Second Passion Prediction (The Mass Readings Explained)

This Sunday's video is now available over at Catholic Productions.  Check it out and subscribe today if you haven't already.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote from this week's video:

"The description of this suffering righteous man in the Book of Wisdom is strikingly similar to what we see of Christ in the New Testament.  The most important part being here is that the righteous man calls himself “God’s Son.”  The reason that’s so critical is that in the Old Testament “Son of God” is a term that gets applied to the angels as a group.  It gets applied to Israel as a group — they are the “sons of God.”  But, whenever it’s applied to an individual, it’s exclusively applied to the King of Israel…  So, when the Wisdom of Solomon uses the language of a suffering, righteous, Son of God, it’s also a Messianic context.  So, this is about a coming Messiah who’s going to suffer, who’s going to be persecuted, and who’s going to die."



Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Paradox of Discipleship: The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 
We have been getting a number of rousing challenges from Jesus in the past several weeks, as our readings have followed the progress of his ministry, and Jesus repeatedly makes clear that following him is not going to be easy in any way.  This Sunday we get another challenge from Jesus to “fish or cut bait” in our relationship with him.  Paradoxically, however, if we think we are going to preserve our lives and comfort by turning away from him, Jesus warns us: long term, that’s a bad strategy.

1.  Our First Reading is one of the Servant Songs of the Book of Isaiah:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Discipleship and Self-Denial (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote from this week's video:

"Notice what Jesus is saying.  Not only will he be a suffering and crucified Messiah, but he calls his disciples to imitate that life.  He calls his disciples to also, in a sense, be crucified — die to this world and live for the kingdom.  The whole Church is supposed to be cruciform in its shape.  It’s not that Jesus dies on the cross so that I don’t have to.  It’s that Jesus takes up his cross so that I have the grace and the power to do the same in my own life … and in my own walk of discipleship.  …You can believe in Jesus without ever getting into the question of suffering.  But you cannot be a disciple of Jesus apart from self denial and the cross.  That’s what he’s saying here."




Friday, September 07, 2018

To See and To Hear: 23rd Sunday of OT


The reality of sight and hearing are a great mystery that natural science has difficulty explaining. 

Robots, of course, can be equipped with sensors to detect sound and light, and react in various ways to audio and visual stimuli.  But a robot cannot “see” or “hear” in the way that a human person does.  A robot cannot create the visual field that each of us “sees” when we open our eyes.  A robot can sense the frequencies of sound but cannot feel the harmonies of Mozart or experience the sensations of good music.  A robot is not conscious.  True sight and hearing are experiences of consciousness, of the mind.  Without the gift of the mystery of consciousness, everything is blackness and silence.  When God breathed into Adam the “breath of life” and gave him the gift of consciousness, then light and sound came into being for the first man.

To hear and to see are mysterious gifts of the creator God.  In this Sunday’s readings, we are invited to ponder more deeply the different senses of what it means to be blind and deaf, and how Jesus can heal us of these maladies.

1.  Our First Reading is from Isaiah 35:4-7:

Friday, August 31, 2018

Jesus Makes the Law More Demanding: 22nd Sunday of OT


It’s commonly thought that Jesus came to make things easier on everyone, and relax the moral laws that the Pharisees kept so rigidly.  So the Pharisees become the image of hated religious conservatives, people who think that there actually is right and wrong which doesn’t evolve with changing times.  

The truth is a little more complicated.  In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches on the nature of God’s Law.  It is not that God’s Law is not demanding or that it changes with time.  God’s Law, however, does not consist primarily in do’s and don’ts of external behavior, as important as that can be.  It is primarily a rule of the soul, a guide for our interior person, which then reflects itself in our actions. 

1.  Our First Reading is from the introductory chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Does This Shock You? The 21st Sunday in OT


There are many times in life when circumstances force you into making a decision that has lasting consequences.  There are times when you have to decide whether to accept an offer on your house or turn it down, whether to take a job or decline it, whether to propose marriage—or accept a proposal—or enter religious life.  Often we don’t want to decide, yet circumstances force us, and even not deciding will constitute a kind of decision.  These are stressful times, times of crisis.  The readings for this Sunday likewise put us in the position of having to decide whether we are going to trust God and his Word, or cast off on our own, trying to find salvation somewhere else.  

Our First Reading recounts Joshua putting the people of Israel into a "crisis" in which they must decide to follow the LORD:

Monday, August 20, 2018

Many of Jesus' Disciples Left Him - John 6, Part 5 (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's Mass Readings Explained video for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time is now out.  You can check it out below or subscribe here if you aren't subscribed and would like to see the full version.



Friday, August 17, 2018

The Feast of Wisdom: 20th Sunday of OT


Every Catholic should take the time at some point in their life to watch “Babette’s Feast,” a beautiful movie about a French cook in Denmark who wins the lottery and spends her entire earnings on a lavish feast for the two old spinsters she works for, and all their friends.

Babette’s Feast was an obvious and intentional Eucharistic allegory, and one can’t help thinking of it while reflecting on the readings for this Sunday (20th of Ordinary Time), which are all closely united by the themes of eating, wisdom, and thankfulness.

1.  Our first reading is taken from Proverbs 9:1-6:

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Bread of Life Discourse II - John 6, Part 4 (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video for the Mass Readings Explained is now out.  Check it out below.  You can subscribe here and get a 14 day free trial if you'd like to see what this series is all about.


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Strength for the Journey: 19th Sunday in OT


In J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, the hero Frodo, a hobbit or “Halfling”, while on his long and arduous journey through the land of shadows governed by the Satan-figure Sauron, finds sustenance in lembas, the elven-bread given to him by Galadriel the elven-queen in Lothlorien, the mystic land of the Elves.  Each loaf of lembas is round and flat and tastes slightly of honey, and strengthens a man enough for a day’s journey.  While wandering with his faithful companion Samwise Gamgee in a land of monsters, demons, goblins, and giant spiders, Frodo stays alive on the sweetness of the elf-bread that breathes the odor of the golden woods and the beauty of the elf-queen.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Bread of Life: 17th Sunday in OT





This weekend we begin a five-week stretch of meditation on John 6, a kind of summer Eucharist-fest that comes around every three years.  The rationale for this is that we are in Year B of the Lectionary, which covers the second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.  Now, Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, so in order to fill it out, the Church inserts John 6 into the middle of the Lectionary readings, near Mark 6, which recounts the same event, the Feeding of the 5,000.  John’s account, however, is much longer and includes a long discourse on the theme “Bread of Life” after recounting the miracle itself.  John doesn’t have its own lectionary cycle year, but rather most of the Fourth Gospel is read during Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter or other significant feast days.  John 6, however, doesn’t fit naturally into either the Advent-Christmas cycle or the Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle, so the Church shoehorns it into the middle of Ordinary Time in Year B.