Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Final Judgment: Readings for the 33rd Sunday of OT


“Tempus fugit,” the Romans used to say.  “Time flies.”  It’s hard to believe that we are already at the second-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year.

[My brother Tim used to say, “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”  But that has nothing to do with anything.]

Where has the year gone?  How can it be so close to the end already?  Yet these feelings are very appropriate for Mass we will celebrate this Sunday, whose readings encourage us to count time carefully, to be aware of its passage, to meditate on our mortality and the passing of all things, and to think soberly of the end and the final judgment. 

The Church gives us the entire month of November to contemplate the Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  We still have about two weeks left, and we should resist letting Advent and Christmas “creep forward” in our thoughts and spirituality, causing us to miss the graces that are meant for us in November. 

1. The Readings look forward to the final judgment.  The First is Daniel 12:1-3:

Monday, November 12, 2018

No One Knows the Day or Hour (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's The Mass Readings Explained video is now out.  Check it out below.

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

Now, when you read those verses, your first move — the first you think of — will probably be the final coming of Jesus, the end of time. … And there is a sense in which that’s definitely true of these verses.  

However, a number of scholars have pointed out that if you look at Jesus’ words in light of the Old Testament, the very images he uses here of the sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light, the stars falling from heaven — are also images that the prophets…use to refer to the destruction of a city or the destruction of an empire.



Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Acting on Faith: Readings for 32nd Sunday in OT


In this month of November, we are pondering the Last Things (Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell) and gearing up for the celebration of Christ the King in two weeks (!).  The falling leaves remind us that our bodies will one day fall to the ground, and our spirits return to God (Eccl. 12:7) to face judgment for the “deeds done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10).  Can anyone face the judgment of God?  Only those who trust completely in him, and we call this trust “faith.”  This Sunday’s Readings give us a powerful lesson in faith.

1.  Our First Reading is from 1 Kings 17:10-16, the story of Elijah’s visit to the widow of Zarephath:

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Widow's Two Cents (The Mass Readings Explained)

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

Also, Year C begins with Advent -- right around the corner -- so be sure to subscribe.

Year C, which primarily focuses on the Gospel of Luke, is when this series all began 3 years ago.  And, we're re-filming the entire year!  So, be sure to subscribe.

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

“It [the temple] has all the money it could possibly need.   But, this woman takes her money and she makes an offering to God.  Now, was it a whole burnt offering, was it money for some gold for the temple, was it money for a free-will offering?  We don’t know.  Was she paying her tithe for the year?  We don’t know.

But, what we do know is that it’s all that she had.  And, Jesus takes that moment and he uses it to teach the apostles that although the rich people put in quantitatively more money than she did, she qualitatively far exceeded them with her donation because she gave all that she had.  She gave the last of her living to God, and to the sacrifices and to the temple.”


Friday, November 02, 2018

Loving God: The 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time





The Readings for this upcoming Sunday revolve around the themes of love of God and perfect priesthood.

1.  The First Reading is Deuteronomy 6:2-6:

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
"Fear the LORD, your God,
and keep, throughout the days of your lives,
all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,
and thus have long life.
Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,
that you may grow and prosper the more,
in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,
to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today."

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Greatest Commandments (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time on the Greatest Commandments.

Enjoy!

Catholic Productions' notable quote from this week's video:
"Now, once he makes that leap — when he recognizes that it’s the interior movement of the heart and the mind that God ultimately desires and that that’s the most valuable thing — Jesus says something that he says really only to him here … “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”  In another words, “You are really close here to the mystery I’ve come to unveil…”, which is about driving the law of God into the human heart, mind and the soul.

Not just engaging in those exterior actions — although they are important — but rather making the interior movements of the heart and mind conform to the exterior worship.  So, that what is expressed is ultimately what God wants from us, which is our love."



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

20/20 Vision: The Readings for the 30th Sunday in OT



My vision is terrible.  Uncorrected, it’s probably much worse than 20/200.  My glasses prescription is about -8.5 diopters, for those of you who know what that means.  Without my glasses, the whole world looks like a poorly-executed Impressionist painting.  I’ve often wondered if Monet had bad eyesight, too. 
Bad vision usually isn’t too much of an inconvenience these days.  High index lenses have taken the bulk out of the old “coke bottles.”  For sports, I can slip in a pair of contacts.  However, there remains a more serious form of “visual impairment” in the spiritual realm: the inability to see reality properly, to see it from God’s perspective.  The Readings for this Sunday seem to be about physical sight on the surface, but on a deeper level point us to our need to see things through the eyes of God.
1. Our First Reading is Jer 31:7-9

Monday, October 22, 2018

Jesus and Blind Bartimaeus (The Mass Readings Explained)

The Mass Readings Explained video is now out.   Check it out below.


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

“‘The Way’ is an evocative term because if you are asking Jews about ‘The Way’ or ‘The Road’ another connotation would be the road through the desert, the time of the exodus — when God made a path in the wilderness.  So, there are two ‘ways’ in the Bible: there’s the way or the path of the Exodus under Moses, and then there’s the way or the path of the new exodus under Jesus. …You’ve got all these Exodus images swirling around beneath the surface of Mark’s Gospel.  Well, here’s one more: the new exodus, the new path, the new way that we’re all called out of bondage and called to journey into is the way of discipleship.”



Thursday, October 18, 2018

His Life as a Ransom for Many: 29th Sunday of OT


The First Reading for this Lord’s Day is personally very significant to me, because it caused me to be disturbed as a young man, and even contributed to a bout of depression I had. 

When I was in college, a group of Messianic (Christian) Jewish singers called “The Liberated Wailing Wall” came to my home church to put on a concert.  One of their numbers was a setting of Isaiah 53 adapted for choir.  They got to verse 10 and belted out in a very catchy way, “It was the will of the Father to crush him!”  Musically, it made a great impact, but the line stuck with me and nagged me for years.  

A few years later I began to face several severe family and career setbacks and began to slip into depression.  “If it was the will of the Father to crush Jesus,” I thought, “How much more is it the Father’s will to crush me?”  I felt that God had it in for me and was trying to destroy me.  I didn’t get over the resulting depression until my old spiritual director assured me that God didn’t want to destroy me, but rather loved me.  That let loose on emotional dam and I had a spiritual experience that enabled me to break through the darkness.

Nonentheless, that line from Isaiah 53:10 begins our First Reading for this Lord’s Day.  Is God cruel?  Why would he crush anyone, much less his own son?  This raises the question of the mystery of redemptive suffering, which we will get into as we explore these readings.

Reading 1 Is 53:10-11

Monday, October 15, 2018

Did Jesus Die for "Many," or For All? (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video for The Mass Readings Explained is now out.  You can check it out over at Catholics Productions.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:

"I think this is an important teaching to highlight from the Catechism for a couple of reasons.  First, the idea that Jesus is just a good teacher or a great prophet or a world leader of a religion has become much more widespread where we have this tendency to just look at religions as created equal.  And, that can mislead us about the unique character of Christianity and in particular about the radical nature of the claim that we’re making in Christianity.  

When we say that the death of Jesus of Nazareth atoned for all the sins of all humanity — from the beginning of time to the end of time — that’s a big claim.  …You can’t make that claim about a regular human being, about just an ordinary human being.  There were lots of…prophets who were tortured and killed over the course of Israel’s history.  No one ever claimed that any of their deaths made up for the sins of all humanity."


Thursday, October 11, 2018

How Do I Live Forever? The 28th Sunday of OT








Very few of us want to die.  In fact, there’s an obsession in this country with staying young and looking young.  Entire industries have developed around cosmetics, nutritional supplements, plastic surgery, and fitness gyms, all for the sake of staying young and staving off the natural effects of aging.  I think it’s partly a refusal to embrace the inevitability of death.   

Along one of the roads between Steubenville (where I live) and Pittsburgh, there is a cyrogenics warehouse that stores the frozen corpses and heads of persons who paid a lot of money to be preserved until medical technology is able to thaw them out and cure their ailments.  I suppose that’s the ultimate attempt to gain eternal life for those who believe we are composed of nothing but a physical body.

The desire to live forever is not new.  We see it in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, when a wealthy young man comes to Jesus to ask for the path to eternal life.  Jesus’ answer does not involve cyrogenics or nutritional supplements.  His answer is as relevant now as it was then.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Camel and the "Eye of the Needle" (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time is now out.

Check out the intro below and you can subscribe and get a 14 day free trial if you haven't already.

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

"I just pause on that for just a second because sometimes Catholics are accused of being unbiblical because of our focus on keeping the Commandments.
Sometimes Catholics are accused of teaching a “works righteousness” religion that earns our way into heaven because we insist on keeping the Commandments. And, the reality of the fact is that the authentic Catholic faith its emphasis on obedience to the Commandments is something that flows straight out of the teaching of Christ himself. When asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus told the young man, “Keep the commandments.”
This is an essential part of what it means to be a disciple; and, it’s an essential part of entering the kingdom of heaven. Now, it doesn’t encompass everything — we’re going to see that in just a minute — but it is an essential component."





Friday, October 05, 2018

“What God Has Joined Together”: 27th Sunday of OT B





You don’t need to read a lot of news to realize marriage and family in the United States and Western culture generally are really in a bad state and getting worse.  Marriage and birth rates in the US are at historic lows and continue to decline.  The average age a person gets married in the U.S. has sky rocketed in recent years, reflecting the fact that fewer are getting married, and they wait longer before they do.  Divorce rates both inside and outside the Church remain high. Only one-third of all children in the United States will spend their whole growing up with both biological parents in the home.  The vast majority grow up with just their mother, mother and step-father, or some other mixed situation.  Does this have psychological and social effects on children?  You bet it does, but no one is too concerned about the kids these days, unless faux concern for children can be used as a proxy battle to advance some identity-politics ideology. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

Jesus, Divorce, and Remarriage (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video for the Mass Readings explained is now up. Check it out 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:

This week's video for the Mass Readings explained is now up. Check it out below. Notable quote from this week's video: But Mark’s Gospel doesn’t just mention the husband. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus mentions both a husband initiating divorce and a wife initiating divorce. So, both parties — whether it’s the man or woman, the husband or the wife — should they divorce their spouse and marry another person, they’re guilty of adultery. Why? Because marriage cannot be dissolved by a human being. Because it is something God has joined together and made permanent, or, as we say today, indissoluble. And therefore whoever divorces and then remarries breaks the sixth commandment, the commandment against adultery.


Jesus, Divorce, and Remarriage (27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ralph Martin's Critique of Karl Rahner

I absolutely despise thinking about damnation. The concept, it seems to me, is often used in a less than charitable and prudent way. Nonetheless, because I am writing a book on salvation, I'm forced to now think through issues relating to it.
Image result for martin "will many be saved"
I've been carefully re-reading Hans Urs van Balthasar and Karl Rahner. I'm naturally inclined to their more optimistic view of salvation--wouldn't it be nice if in the end most if not all were saved?

Yet I'm now reading through Ralph Martin's Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012). 

I was particularly struck by this section of Martin's critique of Rahner. 
"Apart from the scriptural and magisterial witness to the contrary, even from an empirical point of view it is difficult to understand Rahner's optimistic view of human beings' response to what he postulates as the supernatural existential. He acknowledges that's optimistic theory of the 'positive response rate' of human beings needs to be tested against empirical observation of actual human beings and what we can observe of their response. The puzzling empirical fact is that he spent virtually his whole priesthood (1932-1984) first under Nazi rule and then, after World War II, with half of Germany under Soviet communism. He published his first major works in 1939 and 1941. He spent the whole of World War II in Nazi Germany and Nazi occupied Austria, free to lecture although not at a university. From 1939 to 1944 he lectured in Leipzig, Dresden, Strasbourg, and Cologne, laying the theological groundwork for his theories. Consider the slaughter of so many tens of millions--including the firebombing of Dresden; the horrifying realities of the campaign to exterminate the Jews and the millions of concentration camp deaths--including those of many Polish Catholics; the fiendish medical experimentation. Did this not give pause to his theory that almost everybody says 'yes' to the offer of salvation contained in the 'supernatural existential' apart from any hearing of the gospel? Is it at all credible to posit that the grace of God has 'overtaken' the 'false choices' of men in these and many other empirically observable situations?" (p. 103)
Indeed, the more I think about it, it does seem that many Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century failed to come to terms with the truly horrifying reality of the holocaust. It is surprising to see how little it actually is accounted for in much modern theology. It is affirmed, yes. I'm certainly not implying people like Rahner are holocaust deniers. The issue is deeper. What real impact did it make on his thought? In the case of Rahner's rather optimistic view of humanity, that does seem to be a valid question.


Releasing Your Inner Prophet: The 26th Sunday of OT


The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that we are baptized into Christ’s prophethood, but if you cornered any typical Catholic coming out of mass on a Sunday morning, they would vehemently deny having any prophetic gifts, because “I’m not Charismatic.” 
Well, the prophetic role of the Christian is not limited to people involved in the Charismatic Renewal.  The Readings for this mass are, in a sense, united by a theme of prophethood, discussing what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ and his prophetic charism.

Our First Reading is Numbers 11:25-29:

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. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Feeding of the 5,000 (The Mass Readings Explained)

For the next 5 Sundays, the Church will take us through John 6 in the Gospel readings.  Video 1 was just released for this Sunday's Mass Readings.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Good Shepherds and the Sheep: 16th Sunday in OT


At this time in the Church year, we are working our way through the Gospel of Mark, approaching the record of the Feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6).  In the next five weeks, we are going to take a break from Mark in order to meditate on John’s account of the same event (John 6), which will provide a lengthy opportunity to reflect on the theology and biblical basis for the Eucharist.  This Sunday, however, we will only read the introduction of the account of the 5,000, and focus on the issue of leadership for God’s people rather than the Eucharist itself.

1.  Our first reading comes from the prophet Jeremiah:
 Jer 23:1-6:

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: