Thursday, May 24, 2018

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Feast of Pentecost!


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

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

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

The Vigil of Pentecost: Gathering the Family of God




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

The First Reading Options for the Vigil:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Pentecost (The Mass Readings Explained)

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



Thursday, May 10, 2018

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

(Readings for Ascension Day are below)


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

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




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

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

Monday, May 07, 2018

Jesus Prays for Unity (The Mass Readings Explained)

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


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Mary Arose!

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


Here is the English translation:

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

All You Need is Love! 6th Sunday of Easter


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

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

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

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


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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book on Work Comes Out

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

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

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

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

Cajetan and His Continued Relevance

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Scandal of Jesus: The 4th Sunday of Easter


The readings for this Sunday’s Masses are truly “scandalous” in more ways than one. Our English word “scandal” comes ultimately from the Greek skandalon, “a stumbling block.”  A “scandal” is something that causes people to “stumble,” i.e. that offends or injures them in some way.  As we will see, the exclusive claims made for and by Jesus in the readings for this Sunday are scandalous to the “inclusive” and “diverse” culture we live in today, which does not recognize the possibility of a religious truth binding on all humanity.


1.  The first reading is Acts 4:8-12:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Salvation History as a Good Movie: The 3rd Sunday of Easter



One of my favorite movies is M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.”  It’s a cross between Robert Benton’s “Places in the Heart” and Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day,” and probably a couple other movies I’m forgetting at the moment.  Anyway, one of the marked features of the movie is its foreshadowing.  Shyamalan introduces all sorts of strange themes associated with the different characters who surround Fr. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), an (Anglican?) priest who’s lost his faith and left his ministry: the strange last words of his dying wife, his brother’s obsession with hitting home runs, his son’s asthma, his daughter’s water-drinking compulsion.  The significance of these motifs does not become clear to the viewer until the final scenes, where one discovers that a strong hand of Providence was guiding the life of Fr. Hess through it all.

Friday, April 06, 2018

The 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.

The blood and water flowing from the side of Christ is the background for the Divine Mercy image seen by St. Faustina. 
This “river” that flows out from the side of Christ is understood in the Church’s spiritual tradition as a river of mercy, but there is also a rich biblical background to this passage of John.  

Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter Sunday Readings


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:

Easter Vigil Readings


The Readings for the Easter Vigil recount the history of salvation by focussing on the various covenant stages throughout the Biblical storyline.  My book Bible Basics for Catholics follows this same pattern, using stick figure drawings to illustrate these various stages.

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:

Readings for Good Friday


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:

The Readings for Holy Thursday




The Readings for the Holy Thursday Mass focus on the continuity between the ancient Jewish Passover and the institution of the Eucharist.  As the Passover was the meal that marked the transition from slavery to Egypt to the freedom of the Exodus, so the Eucharist is the meal that marks the transition from slavery to sin to the glorious freedom of the children of God.

1.  Our First Reading is from Ex 12:1-8, 11-14: