Thursday, September 21, 2017

Is God Fair? Readings for 25th Sunday of OT


The Gospel Reading for this Lord’s Day raises the issue of the
fairness of God.  Jesus, being a good teacher, wants his students to think.  He teaches in parables that—on the one hand—do indeed communicate truth and answer questions, but—on the other—do raise new, puzzling questions that require the student (disciple means student, after all) to think. 

1.  Our First Reading emphasizes the distance between God’s perspective and ours:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Aquinas Would Give For A Copy of Chrysostom's Commentary on Matthew

Happy Feast Day of St. John Chrysostom! 

Chrysostom was one of Thomas Aquinas' favorite commentators on Scripture. 

In fact, the following story was told at the inquiry for his canonization in 1319. Accounts of this episode can be found in different forms in some of the earliest accounts of Aquinas' life.  
"Once Thomas was returning to Paris from St. Denis with a number of brethren, and when the city came into view they sat down to rest a while. And one of the company, turning to Thomas, said: 'Father, what a fine city Paris is!' 'Very fine,' answered Thomas. I wish it were yours,' said the other; to which Thomas replied, 'Why, what would I do with it?' 'You would sell it to the king of France, and with the money you would build houses for Friar Preachers.' 'Well,' said Thomas, 'I would rather have Chrysostom on Matthew.' This story, the witness said, he had from—among others—brother Nicholas Malasorte of Naples, who had been an advisor to the French king and a particular friend and pupil of his own; he told it when he came on a mission from the same king of France to King Charles II of noble memory . . . ; saying that it was well known in Paris."
For more sources go here.

By the way, the episode is also mentioned in a new book I want to plug by Romanus Cessario, O.P. and Cajetan Cuddy, O.P., entitled, Thomas and the Thomists: The Achievement of Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017). 

You need this short but important little book!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Forgiveness: The 24th Sunday in OT

 


The Readings for this Lord’s Day are unified around the theme of forgiveness.  We begin and end with the words of “Jesus” on this topic: the First Reading records the words of Jesus, son of Sira, and the Gospel records the words of Jesus, Son of God.

One of the last books of the Christian Old Testament to be written, Sirach (also known as Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus) often seems to anticipate the teachings of Christ himself:

1. Reading 1 Sir 27:30-28:7:

Stylistic Differences between Mark and Luke

Yesterday in my Luke-Acts course at the Augustine Institute we examined some of the stylistic differences between the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

As is well known, Luke seems to smooth out some of the features of Mark.

I thought this might make for a brief but interesting blog post. Here are some examples - obviously, much more could be said!

Luke's Smoother Renderings of Awkward Constructions

Mark's Greek can be a bit awkward in places. Luke's expressions are a bit easier to read. 

For example, 
  • Mark 2:7: “Who can forgive sins except one, God?” (literal; likely alluding to the Shema)
  • Luke 5:21: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Parable of the Merciless Servant (The Mass Readings Explained)

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Friday, September 08, 2017

Hoffmann on Why God's Love Makes 'Sin' Possible

"The specifically Christian core of sin is grasped only when sin is conceived as the rejection of the call to that sonship whose innermost nature consists in being the continuation of Christ’s eternal sonship within the realm of creation, which is the 'other' that stands over against God. Sin means the refusal of the grace of allowing the creaturely 'I' to become the earthly abode of the trinitarian act whereby Father and Son turn toward one another. From this it becomes evident that man is not capable of 'sinning' in this way all on his own. In the sense of revelation, 'sin' becomes a possibility—to put it quite crudely for the sake of clarity—only on account of God’s paternal love for man, which opens wide to man down to its most intimate depth."

--Father Norbert Hoffmann, "Atonement and the Ontological Coherence Between the Trinity and the Cross," in Towards a Civilization of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 241. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Watchman on the Walls: Readings for the 23rd Sunday of OT

 
I don’t like personal conflict.  I try to avoid it as much as possible.  Probably most Americans do.  I’m not sure what it’s like in other cultures, although I’ve heard of others where open social confrontation is more common.

This Sunday’s readings deal with situations in which Christians have a duty to confront one another.  They don’t make for comfortable reading in a culture that puts a high value on keeping the peace and minding one’s own business.

1. The First Reading is the great “Watchman” passage from the prophet Ezekiel:

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Harnack on Luke's Paul vs. the "Paul of the Epistles"

As I continue to teach Luke-Acts this semester at the Augustine Institute, I'm working through various issues related to the study of that corpus.

This week in class we tacked the question of whether the author of Luke-Acts is indeed the same Luke mentioned by Paul in his letters (cf. Phlm 24; cf. Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11).

Of course, one of the arguments many have found compelling against such an identification is that the Paul of Acts seems different from the Paul of the Epistles. For some, the differences are so pronounced it precludes the possibility that the "historical Luke" is the actual author.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Jesus and the Authority of the Church (The Mass Readings Explained)

The video for this upcoming's Sunday's Mass Readings is now out over at Catholic Productions.  Please like and share if you can.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Luke's Role in Catholic Tradition

This week I taught my first class at the Augustine Institute. I'm quite impressed by the students so far.

As I mentioned, this semester I'm teaching Luke-Acts. As I prepped for the first day of the course, it struck me just how important Luke really is in Catholic tradition.

More of the New Testament is attributed to Luke than any other author; Luke-Acts comprises roughly 28% of the New Testament! That means that he wrote more of the New Testament than Paul, Matthew, and John. We often forget this.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship: 22nd Sunday in OT




If last Sunday’s Readings were a soft-ball pitch, a nice high arc to knock out of the park, this Sunday’s Readings are a wicked curve ball for the Catholic preacher.  Nonetheless, while these readings aren’t the “feel good” homiletical experience of last week’s, the truths are just as important and just as “Catholic.”

We begin with a troublesome passage from the prophet Jeremiah:

Monday, August 28, 2017

Suffering and Discipleship (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video is now out.  I hope it is helpful for this Sunday. And, please like and share if you'd like to share this with others who may want to be aware of this series.  Thanks!



Friday, August 25, 2017

The Biblical Basis for the Papacy: 21st Sunday in OT


In terms of Catholic “preachability,” this Sunday’s Readings are a soft-ball pitch, a long high arc that every homilist ought to be able to knock out of the park.  The lectionary readings have been set up for a clear explanation of the nature of the Papacy and its basis in Scripture.

The context of the Old Testament reading should be explained.  During the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah, the royal steward of the palace, a certain Shebna, was arrogating himself by adopting royal privileges.  In particular, he was having a tomb cut for himself in the area reserved for the royal sons of David.  Like Denethor in the Return of the King (not an accidental parallel, by the way—Tolkien was a devout Catholic), he was forgetting his place as steward and confusing his role with that of the king.  As a result, the LORD sends an oracle to Shebna via Isaiah, to the effect that Shebna will be replaced in his position by a more righteous man, a certain Eliakim son of Hilkiah:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Lost Latin Gospel Commentary Found and Made Available Public Domain!

This may be old news to some Gospel scholarship geeks, but I just came across this article this
morning: the lost Gospel commentary of Fortunatianus of Aquileia, a mid-fourth century Italian bishop, has been found and translated into English.  De Gruyter is making the English translation available in the public domain (! Thanks, De Gruyter!) here. 

Fortunatianus' commentary is fascinating for a number of reasons, as he works in Latin from a pre-Vulgate (OL or Old Latin) translation of the Gospels.  On the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, he adopts the Levirate marriage solution to the Jacob-Heli problem, although mentions that "many" commentators prefer to see Matthew's genealogy as that of Joseph, and Luke's as that of Mary (which is my own preferred solution).  In any event, it is intriguing to watch him work through many of the well-known interpretive cruces in the Gospels at this early stage in the Church's history.




Monday, August 21, 2017

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Papacy (The Mass Readings Explained)

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

This is the 1st video of the 4th quarter of this liturgical year, so now is a perfect time to subscribe if you were considering it and think these weekly videos would be helpful.

You can subscribe here for the remaining 14 videos (a mere $2.85/video for the next 14 weeks).  Thank you!


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.

Oh -- and you may want to check out Catholic Productions Facebook page throughout the day today -- I've heard they may be releasing this video for free for everyone to view in the next few hours .... :-)





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)

This week's video is now out.  Please like and share if you subscribe and want to help us spread awareness of this series.  Thanks!



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)

My latest video is now out over at Catholic Productions.   I hope it is helpful.  Please like and share if you are a subscriber and would like to help spread the word about the series.

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)

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.