Friday, July 13, 2018

Unlikely Candidates for God's Service: The 15th Sunday of OT


Ancient Photo of Amos Found Among the Dead Sea Scrolls (colorized)
The readings for this upcoming Sunday are united by the theme of God’s choice of his messengers.  And, as is typical for God, he chooses some unlikely candidates. 

1.  Our first reading is from the prophet Amos 7:12-15:

A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament is Shipping!

The Catholic Introduction to the Bible that Dr. Pitre and I have been working on since 2012 has finally appeared in physical reality!  What you see in the picture is one of the fifty copies that magically appeared on my porch late last night.  I've heard that the printer has delivered them to Ignatius and Ignatius is trying to fulfill the orders as quickly as possible.
This book started with a conversation between Dr. Pitre and myself in a hotel room at what I believe would have been the 2009 SBL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, if I remember correctly.  We discussed the need for a biblical introduction for Catholic major seminarians and masters-level students that was on par with the introductions provided to Protestant seminarians and graduate students.  It took two years to gather the necessary funding and arrange the sabbaticals to have the time to write, but I began the first draft of the Old Testament volume in January 2012.  I would have had it completed by December, but in October of that year the birth of my special-needs son Niklaas, after a high-risk complicated pregnancy, really cut into my productivity and delayed the project, and when I went back to full time teaching in Jan 2013, I could make hardly any progress.  Although I was almost done in December of 2012, just the last two chapters, on The Twelve and Maccabees, took about six months, until around June 2013.  It took Dr. Pitre another year to make his editorial additions (largely the Patristic exegesis portion of each chapter, but many other improvements as well), and in July 2014 we sent the "final" draft to Ignatius Press.  That was about a year and a half later than planned, which caused difficulty with the press, as they had several high-profile books in the works that took priority. The project lay dormant until Spring 2016, when Ignatius began the layout and editing process in earnest.  That involved a great deal of work on the part of Dr. Pitre and I, as multiple drafts went back and forth, cleaning up images and footnotes, revising text, etc.  Finally, at the beginning of 2018, it felt like we were getting close to seeing this become a reality, the "light at the end of the tunnel," and now finally it is out, in time for adoption as a text for Fall classes, for those so inclined.
This book is a labor of love, and if it is long, it is because love wants to linger.  St. Josemaria said, "You think the Mass is long because your love is short."  The same concept applies to this book for those who might think it is too long.  Dr. Pitre and I well understand the need to be succinct and pedagogical, and I challenge any other Bible scholar to write something more succinct than my Bible Basics for Catholics, for example.  However, this book is not for the same audience as Bible Basics.  This is for serious Catholic students, who want to move on from milk to meat, so to speak.  It's written for persons who presumably have a strong grasp of English written rhetoric, some familiarity with the Scriptures, and a strong desire to embrace the Scriptures more fully with mind and heart.
Every single book of the Old Testament is precious to Dr. Pitre and I, and we treated each one with loving care, like a father who proudly lines up his children to introduce each one in turn to a respected guest who has come to visit.  Each biblical book is a universe in itself, and the Gospel can be found in each, though each time painted in different tints and hues.  We hope this book will find a warm reception from Catholics who love and are in love with God's Word, who have the patience and time to sit with the Word and develop a relationship with him.






Monday, July 09, 2018

Jesus Calls the Twelve Apostles (The Mass Readings Explained)

The latest video for this upcoming Sunday's Mass Readings is now out.  Jesus sends his twelve apostles, the prophet Amos is rejected by Amaziah, and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick are all covered in the Scripture readings for this Sunday's Mass.


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Neck Stiff? Heart Hard? Get Jesus! 14th Sunday of OT


This Sunday’s readings draw a comparison between three groups: (1) stiff-necked Israelites in the time of the prophets, (2) the townsfolk of Nazareth in the days of Jesus, and (3) you and I sitting in the pew.  The message to us is: repent, and believe the Good News.

1. Our first reading comes from near the beginning of the book of Ezekiel, when that great prophet was receiving his initial call from God:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Pilgrimage to Holy Land and Qumran, May 16-25, 2019

To coincide with the release of my new book on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus and the Scrolls: The Jewish Roots of the Church (Random House; April 2019), I'll be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with special attention to Qumran and the Scrolls.  The specifics are here. I hope to have an electronic sign-up form available soon.  Till then, you can contact me for a pilgrimage application.


The Goodness of Life: The 13th Sunday of OT


The readings for this Sunday focus on the theme of death, and God’s power over it.  They discuss God’s relationship with, and intentions for, the natural world: topics that resonate with Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment Laudato Si. The first reading poses some issues that have to be discussed:

Reading 1 Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Birth of a Glorious Failure: The Nativity of John the Baptist



This Sunday we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, a great saint and biblical character who led a very difficult life and ministry. 

In hindsight, the conflict that led to his demise and martyrdom has a strangely modern ring to it: he was jailed by Herod Antipas for speaking out on marriage (Mark 6:17-18).  Specifically, John the Baptist held to the principle of one man, one woman, for life—a theology of marriage founded in Scripture (Mal. 2:13-16) and reflected in the Essene movement at Qumran (CD 4:19–5:2) and in the teachings of Our Lord (Matt 19:3-12).  This got him into trouble with the nation’s chief executive, Herod Antipas, whose own views on marriage had evolved: he had wed Herodias, his divorced ex-sister-in-law, who was also his niece.  John the Baptist said the marriage was unlawful.  Herod invoked executive privilege to have John arrested and detained for expressing his intolerant views on marriage in public.  Eventually, Herod had him beheaded at the request of his wife Herodias’ daughter Salome, who gave a “hot” hip-hop performance for the king and his cabinet that earned her a political favor (Mark 6:14-29).

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.