Thursday, June 14, 2018

Now Seeds, START GROWING!: The Readings for the 11 Sunday of OT


In this week’s Mass readings, Jesus teaches us about himself and the Church using agricultural images.

We have to get re-oriented to what is going on in Ordinary Time of Year B.  The Gospel is moving ad seriatim (sequentially) through Mark.  We are going to read a substantial amount of Mark this year by the end of November, with the exception of the Passion and Resurrection accounts (Mark 14-16), which were already read at Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter.  

The second reading is moving through Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians.  

The first readings for the rest of the year are selections from the Old Testament chosen to complement the Gospel reading.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Reality of Satan: 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time



This Sunday we return to Ordinary Time for the first time since February 11.  That was the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, but the seventh, eighth, and ninth Sundays were overridden by Pentecost, Trinity, and Corpus Christi.  So we pick up with the Tenth Sunday in Year B on this Lord’s Day.  We are still near the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, following Our Lord’s early ministry.  On this Sunday, the readings are tied together by the theme of defeating Satan.

1. Our First Reading recalls the sorry introduction of Satan’s influence into human history: Gn 3:9-15:

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Scandal of Divine Intimacy: The Readings for Corpus Christi


This is a truly joyful time of the Church year as we conclude the long sequence from Advent to Pentecost with these great feasts celebrating central truths of our faith: the Trinity last Sunday, and the Eucharist this week, followed by the Sacred Heart on Friday.

One might ask, What is the relationship between the Trinity and the Eucharist?  Why does the one feast follow the other?

There is, of course, a strong inner unity between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Eucharist.  It is striking, for example, that Jesus’ clearest teaching on the Trinity—the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—is all delivered during the Last Supper Discourse (John 13–17), in the context of the institution of the Eucharist.  In a sense, it is in the Eucharist that the reality of the Trinity becomes most personal to us, and is applied to each one of us.  Yes, we speak of receiving Jesus “body, blood, soul, and divinity” in the Eucharist, but we must remember that in Christ we also receive the Father, for “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38), and the Spirit, who is the bond of love between the Father and Son.  So there is a sense in which the whole Trinity comes to live within us through the Eucharist: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” and, “the Spirit of Truth … dwells with you, and will be in you” (John 4:23 and 4:16).

The readings show us that the Eucharistic meal is the culmination of a tradition of sacred covenant meals throughout salvation history.

1.  The first reading is Exodus 24:3-8:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  While the Trinity might evoke a “Ho-hum, don’t we know that already …” response from many Catholics, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to—and distinctive of—the Christian faith and is vital to our daily prayer and walk with God.  The doctrine of the Trinity touches on who God is; if one has this doctrine wrong, one has the wrong idea of God and may in fact be worshiping a god who does not exist.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Feast of Pentecost!


(For a better biblical-theological understanding of Pentecost, it’s best to read the commentary on the Vigil readings below.)

Now let’s turn to the Readings for Pentecost Sunday Mass during the Day.

The First Reading is, finally, the account of Pentecost itself, from Acts 2:1-11:

The Vigil of Pentecost: Gathering the Family of God




Pentecost is a very important feast in the liturgical life of the Church, and it has it’s own vigil.  Not only so, but the Readings for the Vigil are particularly rich.  I cannot think of another that has such a wide variety of options, for example, for the First Reading.  Even though only one First Reading will be proclaimed in any given Mass, it is well worth pondering them all, in order to come to understand the significance of Pentecost more deeply:

The First Reading Options for the Vigil:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Pentecost (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's Mass Readings Explained is now out.  You can check it out below and subscribe here to get your 14 day free trial.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Royal Priesthood: Readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter

(Readings for Ascension Day are below)


Those of you fortunate enough to live in a diocese where the Ascension is observed on its proper Thursday will be able to hear proclaimed this Sunday the proper Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  Pre-empting this Sunday by the Solemnity of the Ascension is a bit unfortunate, because it damages the pattern of the Lectionary.  During the later Sundays of Easter, we read from the Last Supper Discourse (John 13-17), culminating in the Seventh Sunday, on which we read the grande finale of the Last Supper Discourse, namely the High Priestly Prayer (John 17).  Ironically, although John 17 is important enough that it is read on the final Sunday of Easter in all years (A,B,C), due to the transference of Ascension Day, this remarkable and beautiful chapter—the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture!—is never read at a Sunday Mass.  A passage that the framers of the Lectionary wished the faithful to hear every year is thus never heard.  Hopefully some kind of adjustment will be made in the future. 

God Mounts His Throne with Shouts of Joy: The Readings for Ascension Day




In the Diocese of Steubenville, as well as in most of the USA, Ascension Day is observed this Sunday.  I wish the traditional observance on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter was retained, but reality is what it is.

Therefore, this weekend we will look at the powerful readings for Ascension Day. 

Monday, May 07, 2018

Jesus Prays for Unity (The Mass Readings Explained)

This weeks Mass Readings Explained is now available for the 7th Sunday of Easter.  In it we discuss Jesus' prayer for unity among his disciples and the casting of lots in Acts to replace Judas with Matthias.


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Mary Arose!

Although it is the Easter Season and this might be more appropriate for Passion Week, I thought I'd share this beautiful song, "Qamat Mariam," ("Mary Arose"), sung by Fairuz, who is something like the Celine Dion or Barbara Streisand of Lebanon.  It was sent to me by someone who spent 8 years in a Syrian Catholic monastery, serving the Syrian Catholic community.  


Here is the English translation:

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

All You Need is Love! 6th Sunday of Easter


In 1967 the Beatles wrote and performed a song for one of the first world-wide TV broadcasts called, “All You Need is Love.”  It became a classic and as late as the 1980’s I can remember working on the trombone line of an adaptation of it for high school band.  It’s one of a number of Beatles songs where they stumbled on something true out of their Christian heritage, without understanding the full implications.  In fact, they actively distorted the real implications.

Be that as it may, “All You Need is Love” could serve as the theme for this Sunday’s readings, but as we will see, the Readings define “love” in a far more demanding way than the Beatles would have. 

1.  The first reading is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Roman centurion, Cornelius:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

How Do You Know That You Are Saved? 5th Sunday of Easter


Back in the nineties, when I was serving as an urban pastor/missionary in West Michigan, I did a lot of door-to-door and contact evangelism.  I was trained to talk with people and hone in on their assurance of salvation: the key question was, “If you died tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?”  This would often lead to a follow-up where I would share some Scriptures with them that seemed to show that you could know with certainty that you were saved provided you “believed” in Jesus. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book on Work Comes Out

I was delighted to find in my mail today my contributors copy of the book Work: Theological Foundations and Practical Implications (eds. R. Keith Loftin & Trey Dimsdale; London: SCM Press, 2018).

I was given the opportunity to write the first chapter of the body of the book (after the intro), on the theology of work in the creation narratives and the Pentateuch. 

This was a lot of fun, as the other contributors included luminaries like Miroslav Volf (Yale), Jay Richards (CUA), J├╝rgen von Hagen (Bonn) and Darrel Bock (Dallas Seminary).

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the chapter, and am indebted to my colleague Jeff Morrow, who has written several similar essays.  As is often the case, I started off with some ideas I knew were present in Genesis 1-2, but as I pursued those themes through the canon, many new insights arose that I had never seen before.  Human work is an important theme in Scripture and is an integral part of salvation.  I really encourage economists, theologians, Bible scholars, and those interested in social justice to pick up a copy of this essay collection.

Cajetan and His Continued Relevance

A student who is something of an expert on Cardinal Cajetan sent me a brief essay that I found very edifying and relevant for Catholic believers soldiering forward nowadays in this valley of tears, so I thought I'd share a portion of it: