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.