Monday, October 21, 2019

The Pharisee and the Tax-Collector (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.  Check out the excerpt below and you can subscribe today for a 14-day free trial for the access to all of the The Mass Readings Explained.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Prayer as Warfare: The 29th Sunday in OT


Usually we think of men of prayer and men of war as complete opposites.  A monk in a habit—such as St. Francis—is a man dedicated to peace, a total contrast to one clad in armor brandishing weapons.  Yet the Readings for this Sunday combine the imagery of war and prayer in interesting ways that provoke our thoughts about the nature and reality of supplicating God.

1.  Our First Reading is Exodus 17:8-13:

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Culture of Gratitude: Readings for 28th Week of OT


The Thanksgiving holiday is coming upon us in a little over a month, and this season of the year always makes me think, How do you give thanks if you don’t believe there’s anyone there to thank?  Thanksgiving is not a holiday that ever could have arisen in an atheist culture. 

The themes of the Readings for this Sunday focus on the gratitude for God’s salvation.  Gratitude is an important psychological and spiritual disposition.  Dr. Daniel G. Amen, the popular brain researcher and public health spokesman, identifies gratitude as a key character quality of persons with physiologically healthy brains.  That’s right: gratitude affects your physical health, including the shape and functioning of your brain.  This Sunday’s Readings focus particularly on gratitude to God, and how it should be expressed.

1.  Our First Reading is 2 Kgs 5:14-17:

Monday, October 07, 2019

The Grateful Leper (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.  Check it out below and subscribe today for your 14 day free trial.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
Remember who Elisha is? This is very important for understanding what’s going on. Elisha is the successor of the prophet Elijah. And if you remember, after Elijah is taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire, his successor Elisha is given a twofold portion of his spirit. This means that Elisha is actually more powerful than Elijah, his predecessor, and he performs greater miracles than Elijah.

So what’s going on here then, is, in the Old Testament, in the scheme of things, Elisha, who is the prophet who heals Naaman, is considered, in a sense, the greatest miracle worker in the Old Testament. If you want an example of this, later in the book of Kings 13, after Elisha dies and is buried, someone is thrown into the grave with him and just touching his bones brings that man back from the dead. That’s how holy, that’s how powerful Elisha was.

Now the reason all of this matters is because if you fast forward to the New Testament, you’ll recall in the Gospels, Jesus identifies John the Baptist as Elijah. And yet, Jesus is like the successor to John the Baptist. Just as Elijah was the precursor of Elisha, so John the Baptist is the precursor of Jesus.

So if John the Baptist is a new Elijah, then Jesus is a new Elisha. But He’s not just a new Elisha, He’s greater than Elisha. So whereas Elisha only healed one leper in the Old Testament, what does Jesus, the new Elisha, do? He heals ten lepers, all at once, and they don’t have to go down to the Jordan River and wash seven times. He does it instantaneously. All they have to do is obey his word and start heading toward the Temple and they’re all cleansed.



Thursday, October 03, 2019

Living By Faith: The 27th Sunday in OT


Our readings this week take up the theme of faith, both Israel’s faith under the old covenant and the faith to which we are called in the new.  Jesus urges us not to despair even if we feel our faith is pitiful.  God can work wonders using small material.

1.  Our First Reading is a famous passage from Habbakuk:   

Monday, September 30, 2019

A Little Shot in the Arm from the Holy Father

On the Feast of St. Jerome, it's like the Holy Father sensed those of us at the Sacred Page needed a little encouragement in these tough times, and decided to give us a gift of The Sunday of the Word of God in his motu proprio "Aperuit Illis".  It is a concise, readable document that does a tremendous job of summarizing a robust Catholic appropriation of divine revelation. Along the way, it corrects misconceptions that may have arisen that the Pope was downplaying the importance of the Word of God in evangelization, etc.  I think I can say it sums up everything that we at The Sacred Page and Catholic Productions are trying to contribute to the Church.  Well worth the read, the link is here.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed & the Mulberry Tree (The Mass Readings Explained)

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

Thanks.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
Now, if you’ve ever tried to pull up a weed, like in your garden, that has a root system that goes out six feet—much less sixty feet—you know how difficult it is to pull a plant out of the ground...even a small plant, if it has a widespread root system. It’s basically impossible, in other words, to yank up a sycamore tree by the stump—or by the trunk—because the root system is so extensive.

So Jesus is presuming his audience is familiar with that reality of what a sycamine tree is like, so he’s saying “even if your faith was as small as a mustard seed, you could say to the sycamine tree”—first point of impossibility—“be uprooted,” and it would. And the second point is “be planted in the sea, and it would obey you.” Now this is a great example of the parabolic twist, right? Jesus always has some element of his parables—or not always, but often—has some element of the parable that’s unexpected or it’s surprising. It’s not what you would think, and it doesn’t actually match life in the natural world. And as a rule, this would qualify. Nobody plants their sycamore trees in the ocean, right? You don’t plant trees in the ocean. They can’t grow there.

And yet, what Jesus is saying is, even if your faith was as small as a mustard seed, you can take this sycamine tree, not only uproot it, but you could plant it in the ocean, and it would obey you.



Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Does It Even Matter How We Treat Others? The 26th Sunday of OT


Does it matter how we treat others?  What does my neighbor’s suffering have to do with me?  Can I continue living in comfort while bypassing those around me who are in misery?  These are questions that the Readings for this Sunday raise, and to which they provide uncomfortable answers.  Let’s read and let the Holy Spirit move us outside our comfort zone.

1.  The First Reading is Am 6:1a, 4-7:

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Parable of the Lazarus and the Rich Man (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video for The Mass Readings Explained is now out on Lazarus and the Rich Man.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
So this is a really powerful parable about how wealth can lead us to fail in charity toward other human beings and that failure—a grave failure—in charity toward other human beings can be the cause of the loss of eternal life. And I just think that that’s something that we don’t often think about nowadays. I mean, how many times have you heard people in the modern world say something like, “Well, I never killed anybody.” You know? “I’m a good person. I never killed anyone.” 

Okay, well, that’s setting the bar rather low in terms of ancient Jewish morality, in particular in terms of Scripture. Sins of commission are evil, but sins of omission can be equally grave depending on the gravity of the omission. And in this case, the factors involved in his failing to love Lazarus by caring for him, or at least feeding him, are two things: luxury and gluttony. He’s living a life of comfort and ease. He’s living a life focused entirely on himself, and both of those, of course, are rooted in the capital sin of pride, which is a disordered self-love that leads him to be blind to the sufferings of those around him and to do anything about it. 

And that is what Jesus is warning us about in this parable—the hardness of heart that can come with luxury and gluttony and wealth. So, I mean, we see it elsewhere in the Gospel: it’s easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is like Exhibit A. This is a parabolic description of that maxim, of that teaching of Jesus, about the dangers of wealth and how it can lead to eternal damnation and the loss of everlasting life.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

God and Mammon: The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As Jesus continues his “death march” to Jerusalem in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 9–19), he challenges us this Sunday to choose, in a clear and conscious way, our goal in life: God or money.  The First Reading reminds us that wealth was a seductive trap for the people of God throughout salvation history.

1. The First Reading is Amos 8:4-7:

Bible Basics for Catholics: for cheap and in Spanish

https://bit.ly/2Z5uvMn
Ave Maria Press is ending the special parish edition of my Bible Basics for Catholics. Right now, you can get it for $3 a copy in bulk, great for parish biblestudies or parish "Christmas gifts"! Click on the image for an online link.

Also, Rialp publishers in Spain have translated it into Spanish and are selling it as La Biblia Paso a Paso.  If anyone is interested in Spanish copies, go ahead and contact me through the Sacred Page website.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward (The Mass Readings Explained)

Why does Jesus praise the dishonest steward, his theft, and encourage us to be like someone who steals from his master for his own benefit?
Check this week's video for The Mass Readings Explained to explore the readings we'll hear for Mass this upcoming Sunday.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
...I’d say the primary question most people have about this parable is: “What does Jesus mean when he says ‘make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous mammon [or unrighteous money or stolen money], so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations’?”

What? What is that talking about? And why does the master commend the steward for, you know, his unjust activities? What's going on here? Well, the first clue to understanding this parable is one that I’ve made a point of emphasizing over and over again in these videos. Namely, that when you're listening to a parable of Jesus, if you just think of it as a nice kind of illustration from daily life that helps give you an insight into the kingdom—it's real simple and straightforward—then this parable doesn't make any sense. 

But if you remember that I told you before, many of Jesus’ parables—most of them—have a twist. In other words, there’s some unexpected element that isn’t in fact commensurate with or analogous to daily ordinary life, and that the twist is usually the key to unlocking the meaning...then you can apply that principle to this parable, and it actually will go a long way toward explaining it. So let’s walk through it together.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Prodigal Son Sunday: 24th Sunday in OT


This upcoming Sunday marks one of only two times in the main Lectionary cycle that we hear the Parable of the Prodigal Son proclaimed (the other being the 4th Sunday of Lent [C]).  The Readings are marked by the theme of repentance and forgiveness. 

1. Our First Reading is Ex 32:7-11, 13-14:

Monday, September 09, 2019

Parables of Lost and Found (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.  Check out the clip below and subscribe today with a 14-day free trial.  Thanks!

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
Let’s look at the lost sheep. So he says, “what man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one doesn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he’s found it?” So pause there. Immediately, we already run into the first twist, the first surprising element, and it’s this: No shepherd in his right mind is going to leave ninety-nine sheep behind to go look for one sheep. Notice, he doesn’t say he puts them in a fold, right, that would make sense. He says he leaves the ninety-nine in the wilderness. He leaves in the desert.

Well that’s precisely where sheep tend to get lost or are exposed to wolves or exposed to thieves, they don’t have any natural form of protection. That’s why the shepherd is with them in the wild. He goes into the wilderness with them to protect them. Like Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me…” He leads me through the wilderness. He leads me to still waters so that the sheep will drink the water. The shepherd is the protector. “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” because they protect me from threats. They guide me, but they also protect me. So the shepherd is the sole source of protection for his flock.

Well if he’s in the desert, no shepherd in his right mind is going to leave ninety-nine sheep behind to go look for one sheep. What he would do is put them in a fold and then go look for the one sheep. But this shepherd is kind of crazy. He’s not very responsible. So immediately Jesus would have the attention of his 1st Century Jewish audience when he says “What man of you if he’s lost one sheep, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine and go look for that one?” And the answer to the question is, well none of us would do that because we are not stupid. So this shepherd seems to be a little off his rocker. He doesn’t seem to be quite all there. So Jesus says he goes, he finds that one sheep, he puts on his shoulders and he brings it home rejoicing. And when he gets home, he calls his friends and neighbors together and he says, “Rejoice with me, for I found my sheep that was lost.”


Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The Cost of Discipleship: Readings for the 23rd Sunday in OT


One of the most famous German opponents of Adolf Hitler and Nazism was the Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom the Nazis executed by hanging in April 1945 for his involvement in a plot against Hitler himself.  Bonhoeffer’s most famous work was a meditation on the Sermon on the Mount entitled (in English) The Cost of Discipleship.  In it, Bonhoeffer parted ways with a Protestantism that understood “salvation by faith alone” as some kind of easy road to heaven.  Bonhoeffer criticized “easy-believism” as “cheap grace” 

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.

Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part VIII: Humility


I’d like to wrap up this series of reflections about the nature of heaven with a meditation on the necessity of humility for entrance into eternal peace and reconciliation with God.

In my last full post (Part VI) on repentance, I noted that, in order to enter heaven, we will have to repent of all our sins.  Every sin is a choice of not-love and not-God, and the will cannot continue to be attached to that which is not-love and not-God when we are in the fullness of God’s presence. That means we will have to let go of each and every sin against God, ourselves, and others if we want to live with God for eternity.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part VII: An Interlude and Reflection

(the commentary for Sunday 22 in OT Year C Sept 1 is in a post further below)

I am shortly going to wrap up these reflections on the possibility of everyone ending up in heaven with a meditation on humility as a requirement for eternal life with God, but before I do, I'd like to reflect on the hymn Breathe On Me Breath of God, which we happened to sing at the mass I attended this past Sunday in Steubenville.  I was struck by these lyrics:
  1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
    Fill me with life anew,
    That I may love what Thou dost love,
    And do what Thou wouldst do.

Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time




In 2005, a quasi-remake of the famous 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner” was released.  Entitled “Guess Who?” it starred Bernie Mac as an African-American father who struggled to deal with his daughter’s Caucasian fiancé (played by Ashton Kutcher).  Much of the comedy of the film revolved around the clash of cultures at the dinner table.  Usually we only share meals with people like us: family members or friends from our own “circle.”  When someone from “outside” comes in, it upsets the balance. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Banquet of the Kingdom of God (The Mass Readings Explained)

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

Catholic Productions Notable Quote:
So for example, in Matthew 22 Jesus actually says, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding feast that a king put on for his son.” So the imagery there is of the joy of salvation, the joy of the world to come. The joy of the kingdom of Heaven is really only comparable to the joy of a wedding feast. So if you’ve ever been to a really great celebration at a wedding, a beautiful holy couple that are united in Holy Matrimony (in the sacrament of marriage) and then you’re celebrating that sacramental union; it’s awesome. It’s amazing. You just feel overcome with joy, filled with joy — at least that is how it should be. Jesus says, well that’s what the kingdom is like, elsewhere. 

So given those parables elsewhere, what he’s really talking about here is how people should act in the kingdom of God. So if you want to be exalted in the kingdom of God, what do you need to do? You need to act humbly now. You need to cultivate the virtue of humility now so that you seek the lowest place in this world, so that when the banquet of the kingdom comes you’ll be exalted.