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)

My latest installment of The Mass Readings Explained is now out.  Please like and share if you are a subscriber if you'd like to help us spread the word about the series.  Thanks!







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)

My latest video is out for this upcoming Sunday's Mass Readings.  If you are subscribed please be sure to Like and Share to help us spread the word about this series.  We greatly appreciate it, and I hope the video is helpful!




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:

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video is now out; I hope it is helpful.

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Thank you.





Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fear No One: Twelfth Sunday of OT Year A


Two Sparrows Sold for a Penny


After the celebrations of Pentecost, Trinity, and Corpus Christi, this Sunday finds us transitioning back to Ordinary Time, and the transition is a bit painful.  The Readings for this Sunday shift right back into the reality of persecution in the Christian life, as we read about Jesus advising the apostles to be prepared for the opposition they will encounter as they do the work of evangelization.
You would think that following the Prince of Peace would lead to a peaceful life, but sadly that’s not how it usually works out.  Those who follow Jesus often find themselves hated, because they speak the truth and thus pose a threat to those who want to promote false ideologies.  The practice of virtue also makes the non-virtuous look bad by contrast, so virtuous people are often resented.  And finally, there is a spiritual warfare dimension: Satan and his demons will oppose everyone who chooses to follow Christ. 
In the Readings for this Sunday, we find the common theme of persecution, beginning with the prophet Jeremiah, then the ancient psalm writer, and finally Our Lord’s words to the apostles about mission.

1. Our First Reading is Jer 20:10-13:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Do Not Fear Those Who Can Kill You (The Mass Readings Explained)

Latest video his now up for The Mass Readings Explained video series.  Check it out and please Like and Share if you are already subscribed and would like to help us spread the word.

Thanks!



Friday, June 16, 2017

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi




This weekend is another great liturgical feast, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, otherwise known as Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi is one of a handful of feasts that celebrates the very gift of the Eucharist itself.  It is one of my favorite feasts, because the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was instrumental in my becoming Catholic.

Back in the Fall of 1999 I was reading through the Apostolic Fathers and came to this passage in Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Smyrneans (c. AD 106):

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Body and Blood of Christ (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video for this week is out on The Body and Blood of Christ.  Please Like and Share if you'd like to share awareness of this series to friends and family.  Thanks!



Friday, June 09, 2017

Circle of Love: Readings for Trinity Sunday!


The Easter Season usually ends with a sort of “trifecta” of major feasts: Pentecost, Trinity, and Corpus Christi, as the Church celebrates the central mysteries of the faith before entering into Ordinary Time once more.

In any event, this weekend is Trinity Sunday, a meditation and celebration of the central mystery of the Christian faith, the dogma that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions.  Christians alone believe in one God, who nonetheless exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Strangely, our Readings for this Sunday tend not to be classic “proof texts” for the idea that there is more than one person in the Godhead.  Instead, the readings tend to focus on the character or essence of God.  This is appropriate, because as we will see, the character of God is very different, and the meaning of salvation history as well, when one knows God to be a Trinity of persons. 

Reading 1: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9:

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Mystery of the Trinity (The Mass Readings Explained)

This Sunday's video is now out: The Mystery of the Trinity.

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Thursday, June 01, 2017

Is the Holy Spirit Divine in Scripture? The Mass Readings Explained (An Excerpt)

Catholic Productions released an excerpt from my video for this Sunday's Mass Readings (for Pentecost Sunday). Check it out and please be sure to Like and Share.  Thanks!



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Feast of Pentecost!

 
I highly recommend reading the commentary below on the Readings for the Vigil in preparation for the Mass of Pentecost Day.  The Readings for the Mass of the Pentecost pick up, as it were, where the Readings for the Vigil left off.

The First Reading is, finally, the account of Pentecost itself, from Acts 2:1-11.  We have already remarked on the intimate relationship between this event and Babel (Pentecost is the Un-Babel) and Sinai (Pentecost is the giving of the New Law of the New Covenant).  It is important to note that the congregation gathered around the apostles comes not only from a wide variety of nations of the earth, but also consists of “Jews and converts to Judaism.”  In other words, there are both ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles here: those who hear the apostles are truly a representative cross-section of humanity.

The Vigil of Pentecost!




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 29, 2017

The Eucharist and Spiritual Battle

The guys over at Catholic Productions posted a video on their blog that I recently gave at a men's retreat.  I hope it proves helpful!


Pentecost and Speaking in Tongues (The Mass Readings Explained)

The video for this Sunday's Mass Readings is now out: Pentecost and Speaking in Tongues.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Easter


In the provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Omaha, Ascension Day is observed on it's proper day, and this Sunday is observed as the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  It's a shame that so much of the country will not have a chance to meditate on these Scriptures, but perhaps even those of us living in areas where the Seventh Sunday is not celebrated can benefit by bringing these Readings to our prayer.

(If you're looking for the Ascension commentary, it's below.)

Holy Mother Church offers as an intriguing theme in these Readings: the paradoxical relationship between glory and suffering.  We find these two motifs expressed particularly in the Second Reading and Gospel.

Ascension Day!

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If you are living in Nebraska or the northeastern US, then congratulations, this is Ascension Day! (The rest of the country will observe it this Sunday.) This is an unusual Solemnity, in which the “action” of the Feast Day actually takes place in the First Reading.  We typically think of all the narratives of Jesus’ life as recorded in the Gospels, overlooking that Acts records at least two important narratives about the activity of the Resurrected Lord (Acts 1:1-11; also 9:1-8).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Samaritan Pentecost: 6th Sunday of Easter



So we have arrived at the sixth Sunday of Easter, and Pentecost is only two weeks away!  It is hard to believe that this blessed season has traveled by so quickly.  Yet we are approaching the end, now is the time to prepare more seriously than ever to be filled anew with the Holy Spirit on this upcoming Feast. 
Our Readings for this Sunday are filled with instruction and narrative about the gift  of the Holy Spirit.  In the First Reading, we have the account of the “Samaritan Pentecost,” as the Holy Spirit falls on these much-maligned descendants of northern Israel.  In the Second Reading, Peter encourages us that, though we be maligned and persecuted in this life, we will be brought to eternal life in the Spirit with Christ.  In the Gospel, Jesus teaches us about the Spirit, who communicates to us the Life and the Love of the Father.

1.  Our First Reading is Acts 8:5-8, 14-17:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jesus, the Advocate, and Confirmation (The Mass Readings Explained)

The video for this Sunday's Mass Readings is now out: Jesus, the Advocate, and Confirmation.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Building the New Temple: The 5th Sunday of Easter


Since the beginning of time, human beings have sought to construct buildings that would bridge the gap between the temporal and eternal, earthly and heavenly planes of existence.  These temples have taken widely differing forms in many cultures.  One of the greatest was the Jerusalem temple begun by Herod the Great (73–4 BC), an architectural marvel of the ancient world while it stood (finished in AD 66, razed in AD 70). 

The authors of the New Testament texts in this Sunday’s Readings were well familiar with Herod’s great temple, yet they were convinced that God had begun the construction new and greater dwelling place for himself in their own time, consisting not of gathered stones, but of a gathering (ekklesia) of human beings, first of whom was Jesus the Christ.  Thus, our Readings are filled with images of the building of the Church, the new sanctuary that would replace the old and continue to serve as God’s habitation on earth till the end of time.

1.  Our First Reading is Acts 6:1-7:

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Way, the Truth, and the Life (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video for this Sunday's Mass Readings is now out: The Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

For those who subscribe, if you would like to help spread the word about this series, please be sure to Like and Share.  Thank you!



Saturday, May 06, 2017

Good Shepherd Sunday: 4th Sunday of Easter


So we have reached the mid-point of the Easter Season and come to the Lord’s Day unofficially called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” because every year at this time we read from John 10, the famous “Good Shepherd Discourse.”   For the most part, the Readings are focused around the idea of Jesus Christ as our divine Shepherd.

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Good Shepherd and the Gate (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video for this Sunday's Mass Readings is now out.

For those who subscribe, if you would like to help spread the word about this series, please be sure to Like and Share.  Thank you!


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Burning Hearts and Open Scriptures: 3rd Sunday of Easter


How do we know that Jesus was someone and something different than the numerous religious leaders or founders of religions that have appeared on the stage of world history over the centuries?  Last week, we saw one way that he is different: unlike Buddha, Mohammed, or Zarathustra, Jesus rose from the grave after his death, appearing and talking to his followers at length.  In this week’s liturgy, we examine another remarkable piece of evidence for the uniqueness of Jesus: the fact that his suffering and resurrection were strikingly foreshadowed by the sacred writings of the prophets of Israel, hundreds of years before his earthly sojourn.

The Nicene Creed stresses: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The inclusion of this line the most widely-used and recognized statement of the Christian faith should cause us to realize: the fact that Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection fulfilled the oracles of the prophets is central to the Gospel message.  Moreover, in the early Church, it was of considerable apologetic and evangelistic power, because no other religious or political leader could claim to have fulfilled ancient prophecies in the way that Jesus had.

1.  Our First Reading is Acts 2:14, 22-33:

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Road to Emmaus (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video is out on the Mass readings for this Sunday. Check it out and please Like and Share if you can. Thank you.








Thursday, April 20, 2017

Living the Life of Mercy: Readings for Divine Mercy Sunday

Behind the readings for this Sunday lies a Gospel text which is never read, but whose influence is felt and whose concepts and images serves as a link between the texts that are read.  That passage is John 19:34:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.  35 He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth — that you also may believe.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Origins of Confession (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video on the Origins of Confession is now out; I hope it helps. Please Like and Share if you can - thank you.




Friday, April 14, 2017

Basking in the Glow of the Son: Easter Day


The Mass of Easter Day is one of the most joyful in the Church calendar, as the Church basks in the afterglow of the most remarkable intervention of God into human history, the resurrection of his own son. 

1.  The First Reading is Acts 10:34a, 37-43:

A Complete Course in Biblical Theology: Readings for the Vigil


When I teach biblical theology, I focus on a series of covenants which are central to the economy of salvation: the (1) Creation (or Adamic; Genesis 1-3; Hosea 6:7), (2) Noahic (David Noel Freedman preferred "Noachian"; Genesis 9), (3) Abrahamic (Genesis 15, 17, 22); (4) Mosaic (Exodus 24), (5) Davidic (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89); and (6) New (Jeremiah 31:31; Luke 22:20).  It has always struck me, and my students, how well this overview of the divine economy accords with the readings of the lectionary of the Mass, especially the readings of the Easter Vigil.

I'll proceed to point out how all these covenants appear in various forms in the seven Old Testament readings that form the backbone of the Liturgy of the Word for the Vigil.

1. The First Reading:

Christ the Priest: Reflections on the Good Friday Readings


Every year on Good Friday, we read St. John’s account of the Passion from John 18-19, together with Isaiah 52-53  and Psalm 31.

One of the themes that runs through these reading is the Priesthood of Christ.

1. There is priestly language already in the First Reading, from Isaiah 52 & 53, the famous “Suffering Servant” Song:

See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Blood and Water from the Side of Christ

Catholic Productions has made my latest video -- looking at the Blood and Water from the Side of Christ -- available for all to view on their blog. I hope it helps, in particular for Good Friday. Be sure to share with friends and family. God bless!



Monday, April 10, 2017

The Easter Vigil (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video for this weekend is now out.  Also, a forthcoming video coming out today or tomorrow on The Blood and Water from the Side of Christ will be made available for everyone.  May God Bless your Holy Week.