Friday, December 28, 2012

TSP 30: Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents: The Rest of the Story (Podcast)

Today the Church remembers the slaughter of the innocents, Herod's savage massacre of all the children two years and younger in the region of Bethlehem after Jesus' birth. The story is recounted in Matthew 2.

Who was Herod? How did he become king? How were the Romans involved in Palestinian political affairs? Understanding the historical backdrop of first-century Judea helps us put the story in perspective. It also reveals its historical plausibility. This podcast will give you the complete run down.

I hope you enjoy it!

As always, you can listen on iTunes or click the link below and, as always, your comments are welcome in the comment box below.

Video: Behind the Scenes of the Pope's New Book, "Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 3"

Fascinating! h/t

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Joy and Challenge of Family Life: Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family

The Sunday within the Octave of Christmas is always dedicated to contemplation of the Holy Family, giving us the opportunity to meditate on the way in which the family structure, established by God and perfectly mirrored in the Holy Family, reflects His own familial nature (as Father, Son, and Spirit) and shows us the truth about ourselves and our deepest longings for love, acceptance, and communion with other persons.

The Readings for this beautiful feast provide the celebrant with a dizzying array of options—too many for me to adequately handle during this busy week of family activities and end of the year deadlines.  I will have to limit myself to some remarks on the First Reading and Gospel proposed for Year C.  (For an overview of the options, see Fr. Felix Just’s excellent website dedicated to the Lectionary.  Click here.)

1.  The First Reading option for Year C is 1 Sam 1:20-22, 24-28, the preferred choice to complement this year’s gospel:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

St. Stephen: Deacon, Martyr, Theological Genius (Special Podcast)

Today our focus--as it should be--is on Christmas. Tomorrow we continue to celebrate the Christmas season, but, as we do that, we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.

Why is he so important that he is the follow-up to Christmas Day?

I've always had a fascination with St. Stephen. Over on the right you can see a picture of me standing at the traditional site of his burial site in Rome. So I couldn't let December 26th go by without posting some thoughts on this great figure from the Acts of the Apostles.

Learn more in this special podcast.

Listen on iTunes or click the link below.

As always, we welcome your comments below.

Merry Christmas!

St. Stephen TSP Podcast

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Tour of the Christmas Readings

Over the next twenty-four hours there are four Masses celebrated by the Church: the Vigil of Christmas, Midnight Mass, Mass at Dawn, and Christmas Day Mass.  The Readings for all four are so beautiful, it is like one continual spiritual feast, a veritable gorging on Scripture.

The text for this Feast Day include some of the most pivotal in all of Scripture, and there is no end to the comments that could be made on each.  Books have been written on John 1:1-18 (the Gospel for Christmas Day) alone, so here I am just going to be very brief and selective.

We start off with appetizers at the Vigil Mass, the Readings for which are here:

The First Reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) includes this beautiful promise of the restoration of the nuptial (or spousal) relationship between God and his People:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

TSP 29: "The First Christmas: The History and Theology of Jesus' Birth in Matthew and Luke"

With Christmas upon us, The Sacred Page Podcast turns to look at the birth narrative of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

Are the infancy narratives hopelessly contradictory? Were they simply invented out of whole cloth? Why are there so many hymns in Luke 1-2? Why did Luke not tell us about Magi? Why did Joseph seek to divorce Mary? Was he really suspicious of her?

Find out the answers to these and many other questions in this podcast.

For more on Joseph, see this post.

Listen on iTunes or click the link below.

Your comments are welcome as always in the comment box. 

Was Joseph Really Suspicious of Mary? A Look at the Gospel for Christmas Eve

I have added an update below to respond to the objection that the angel's words to Joseph make it clear that he was unaware of the miraculous conception of Christ. See below. 

On Christmas Eve, the Gospel reading is taken from Matthew 1. Here we read about the annunciation to Joseph. 
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:18–21).
Here's the question I want to deal with here: why does Matthew tell us that Joseph wanted to "send [Mary] away quietly"? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mary, Queen Mother of the Crown Prince: Readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent


The Fourth Sunday of Advent marks a switch in focus from John the Baptist (on the previous two Sundays) to the events immediately leading up to the birth of Christ.

The Readings for this Sunday focus on Jesus’ royalty: his descent from the line of Davidic kings.  As we will see, this royal status also accrued to his mother Mary, and this is the basis for the practice of Marian veneration in the Catholic Church.  In fact, the first instance of Marian veneration by another human being takes place in this Sunday’s Gospel.

1. Our First Reading is from the prophet Micah, 5:1-4a:

Thus says the LORD:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rejoice! The Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

This Sunday is “Gaudete” Sunday, from the Latin gaudete, “Rejoice!” which traditionally begins the introit for this Mass, taken from Phil. 4:4.  Many parishes will mark this Sunday with rose-colored vestments (not “pink”—“pink” is not a liturgical color!), and the theme of joy runs through the readings and the liturgy. 

Gaudete Sunday marks the half-way point of Advent, and the Church rejoices because Jesus’ coming is near.  Actually, in most years, as in this, it marks much more than half-way.  In our case, Christmas is only nine days from this Sunday!

1.  Our First Reading is Zephaniah 3:14-18a:

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Make Straight the Paths: The Second Sunday of Advent

As we start the second week of Advent, the Church turns her attention from the second coming of Christ to his first coming, and in particular to the figure of John the Baptist, the forerunner or herald of Jesus Christ.

Usually the Church reads heavily from the prophet Isaiah during the Advent season, and indeed, Isaiah 40 would have made a good First Reading for this Sunday because it is quoted in the Gospel.  However, in Year C, the Church takes a little break from exclusive attention to Isaiah and reads some other Old Testament texts that are also important for understanding the significance of Christ’s coming. 

The readings for this Mass are heavily marked by what we may call a “New Exodus” theme.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

CNN: Discovery of the Oldest Manuscript of Romans

Very cool. Of course, as Jim observes, CNN's video of it is upside down. Of course, "it's all Greek to them". . . but it's sort of funny for those who have actually taken Greek.

Catholic Bible Conference with Scott Hahn in Riverside, CA in January

January 19-20, 2013 | Riverside, CA
The Bible and Spiritual Warfare: God's Word and the Transformation of Culture

Register here.

Yes, the election season is over but those of us at the St. Paul Center are focused on battles much bigger than political ones. We are focused on spiritual battles, both the spiritual battles we face as individuals and the spiritual battles we face as a culture.

As St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12, “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

With that in mind, this year’s West Coast Biblical Studies Conference will be on “The Bible and Spiritual Warfare: God’s Word and the Transformation of Culture.” Hosted by St. Paul Center President Dr. Scott Hahn and featuring additional talks by St. Paul Center Fellows Dr. Brant Pitre and Dr. Michael Barber, the conference will take place from January 19-20, 2012, in Riverside, California.

For those who are not able to attend in person, there will be a live web stream that will allow you to register to watch from home on your computer. Through a series of dynamic talks, which draw upon Sacred Scripture, conciliardocuments, and papal writings, Hahn, Pitre, and Barber will explore how we can best fight the spiritual battles we face, as well as what is really at stake in those battles for each of us, for our Church, and for the world in which we live.

As 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 reminds us, “though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Accordingly, over the course of the weekend, special attention will be given to the liturgy as our primary aid in contending against “this present darkness.”

We will also look at how liturgy, rather than politics or economics, is the real driving force behind the movement of history, and how the “Our Father,” with its closing petition to “deliver us from evil” can help us in the months and years ahead. Finally we will address the New Evangelization and the Year of Faith and how both can be the occasion for the graces we need to engage in the great struggles of our life and times.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fr. James Swetnam, S.J.

We at John Paul the Great Catholic University have been blessed to host Fr. James Swetnam (center in photo right [apologies to all the students who didn't get into the picture here]) as Distinguished Visiting Faculty. He is lecturing on the Epistle to the Hebrews in a graduate level course and has been saying Mass on campus. This has been a rare treat.

You can read more about his work and find his articles on his website here.

I first met Fr. Swetnam in Rome over 10 years ago on a visit there with Scott Hahn (who dedicated his magnum opus, Kinship by Covenant, to Fr. Swetnam), but our past encounters have been brief and it has been a great privilege to spend quality time with him during his stay in San Diego.

Fr. Swetnam is truly a treasure. He lived in Rome for 50 years, teaching at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where he served as Vice Rector and managing editor of the famous biblical studies journal, Biblia. He is full of fascinating stories of conversations with legendary figures such as Joseph Ratzinger, D. J. McCarthy, Roderick McKenzie (of Liddell and Scott fame), Joseph Fitzmyer, Joachim Jeremias, William F. AlbrightRoland De Vaux (who--among other things--did pioneering work in the Dead Sea Scrolls), Henri de Lubac, and many, many others.

What a life story! He cheered the famous "Gashouse Gang" (legendary 1930s St. Louis Cardinal Baseball Team), witnessed the start and end of WWII, did a doctorate in Scripture at Oxford University (under Morna Hooker and Geza Vermes), met popes, and witnessed Vatican II (while living in Rome!). And I think that was just two lunch conversations!

Fr. Swetnam also has a long history of publications that is also impressive. His two-volume Greek grammar is widely respected (which I am grateful I can now read on my Logos Bible Software). He has also published a work looking at the use of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac ("Aqedah") in the Epistle to the Hebrews as well as numerous articles and reviews in major academic journals--well over 200 of them!

I highly recommend that TSP readers take a look at his website, which includes a working draft of a commentary on Hebrews that is the product of decades of research. It emphasizes Eucharistic readings of various passages whose liturgical connections are often overlooked by scholars. He has made the case for this approach in numerous articles, published in leading journals such as Biblica (e.g., see this one).

I want to take the opportunity here to thank Fr. Swetnam for lecturing to our graduate students in Biblical Theology. What a great experience it has been for all of us!

Of course, for more information on our Graduate Program in Biblical Theology at JP Catholic, go here (where you can also learn about an incredible scholarship opportunity).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happy New Year! The First Sunday of Advent

Happy New Year, everyone!  This Sunday, December 2, is the first day of Liturgical Year 2013, which is Lectionary Cycle C for readings on Lord’s Days and Holy Days.  Obviously, it is also the First Sunday of Advent.  Now, the tradition of the Church is to read the Book of Isaiah during Advent, because this prophetic book, more than any other, is regarded as a prophecy of the Coming of Christ (adventus Christi), both his first coming and his second coming.  Thus, if you examine the Sunday Lectionary for Years A and B, and the weekday Lectionary for Advent, you will see that the First Readings are dominated by selections from Isaiah.

However, in Year C of the Lectionary, the Church opts to do something slightly different for a change.  The First Readings for this year are taken from other important prophetic passages concerning the coming of the Christ outside the Book of Isaiah—passages that otherwise would be neglected if only Isaiah were read.

1.  Our First Reading is Jeremiah 33:14-16:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NCCYM in Orlando this Saturday

I'll be giving my overview of salvation history, "How to Get through the Bible in an Hour!" at the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry in Orlando, Florida, this Saturday, December 1.  For those attending, it is session D-11, in room Northern A-3, 2:30pm-4:00pm.

Mountains and Mediators: New Scholarship

People familiar with Bible Basics for Catholics or some of my classroom teaching know that I like to draw stick figures on mountains as a way of summarizing salvation history.  It looks whimsical, but what I am doing is actually based on scholarship about the concept of the cosmic mountain in the ancient Near East and the biblical tradition.  Here's a book that's just been published on the subject:

The Tabernacle Prefigured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus (Biblical Tools and Studies 15; Peeters, 2013)

L. Michael Morales (
Old Testament/Pentateuch, Trinity College/University of Bristol


This thesis examines the creation, deluge, and exodus (sea crossing/Sinai) accounts of Genesis and Exodus in relation to cosmic mountain ideology, demonstrating in each narrative the cosmogonic

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Viva Cristo Rey!” The Solemnity of Christ the King

This Sunday is the 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time, and as everyone knows, that means it is the Solemnity of Christ the King!  This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  The last day of the liturgical year will be Saturday, December 1, and Liturgical Year 2013 will begin with the First Sunday of Advent, December 2.

I give thanks to God for many things at this time of year, including the joy of living the liturgical calendar, which is such a consolation and guide for one’s spirituality through the seasons of life and the seasons of the year.  Each liturgical year is like a whole catechesis of the Christian faith, as well as a kind of microcosm of the entire life of the believer, from birth and baptism to final anointing and death.

Earlier this year a movie about the struggle for religious freedom of the Catholics of Mexico was released called "For Greater Glory."  The rallying cry of the persecuted Mexican believers was “Viva Cristo Rey!”, “Long Live Christ the King!”  For many of them, these were the last words out of their mouths before their violent deaths.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tempus Fugit: The Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“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. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

"Widows, Miracles and Sacrifice" (Sunday Readings Podcast for 11/11/12)

This Sunday we turn to the story of the widow's mite. Notably, we read this story against the backdrop of a miracle worked by Elijah and the Epistle to the Hebrews. [Readings here]

Who was Elijah? Why was he important? How do the Gospels portray Jesus as a New Elijah? How does the reading from the Gospel relate to the first and second readings?

Learn about all that in more in this brief podcast.

Listen on iTunes or click the link below.

As always, we welcome your comments below.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Speaking on Scripture and the Year of Faith in Newport Beach Thursday, 11/8

I'll be speaking on Scripture and the Year of Faith tomorrow (Thursday, 11/8) at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Newport Beach, CA. The talk begins at 7:30pm. There's a Q & A that follows.

O'Donnell Hall @ Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
1441 West Balboa Blvd. Newport Beach 92661

Hope to see some of you there!

A Lesson on Faith for the Year of Faith: 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we are still in the beginning of the Year of Faith, our Readings for this Sunday give us a lesson in the practice of faith.

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

In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath.
As he arrived at the entrance of the city,
a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her,
"Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink."
She left to get it, and he called out after her,
"Please bring along a bit of bread."

Thursday, November 01, 2012

"The Greatest Commandment" (Sunday Readings Podcast for 11/4/12)

This Sunday's Gospel has Jesus explain the greatest commandment.

The first reading is taken from Deuteronomy and the second is from Hebrews. Find out how they all fit together.

We also talk about how Jesus slightly alters the "greatest commandment" in Deuteronomy, emphasizing the importance of loving the Lord with all one's mind. What does this mean?

Listen on iTunes or click the link below.

As always, we welcome your comments below.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some Quick Thoughts on All Saints

A happy Feast of All Saints to one and all!  This is one of my favorite feasts.  The month of November is not formally a liturgical season, but since it begins with All Saints and ends with Christ the King, these four weeks really do have the feel of a liturgical season focused on meditation on the Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Death, and Judgment.

The Readings for All Saints are, of course, beautiful.  The full text of the readings are here.  Here are some quick thoughts:

Luther's Belief in Papal Authority, Purgatory and Other Shockers in the 95 Theses: "Celebrating" Reformation Day

Today is not just Halloween (check out my post and podcast on Ghosts and Saints in Scripture and Catholic Teaching here), it is also "Reformation Day". Today Protestants celebrate Martin Luther's nailing of 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church.

But I wonder how closely Protestants actually have read these. Did you know that Luther affirms the pope's authority to remit sins in them? That he affirms that God uses priests to communicate his forgiveness?

I'm even more surprised that Protestants still celebrate these! People don't read primary texts and that's a shame.

Of course, I think there's a lot of misrepresentation / misunderstanding here of Catholic teaching and practice. Indeed, even Protestant scholars today seem to recognize that Luther had some pretty big gaps in his understanding of Catholic teaching.

Still, the 95 Theses--which my Protestant friends are celebrating--contain numerous statements they would surely not celebrate. Let's take a look.

The Pope as God's Agent
"6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God's remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven." [emphasis added]
In sum, Luther affirms that the pope can only remit guilt because God has granted him such authority. To deny "his right to grant remission in such cases . . . the guilt would remain. . . "

As a Catholic, I say, "Amen"!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Love and Priesthood: 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,

Monday, October 29, 2012

Radio Interview on Petrine Authority and the New Testament Sources

I'll be on Catholic Answers Live on EWTN Radio later today (4pm). For anyone interested, here are some of the texts I'll be discussing. You can listen live at Just follow the links to the radio show.

Hope you'll tune in!

For more on this topic see this blog post and the links therein.

Peter’s Primacy in the Gospels Catholic Answers Radio Show

Friday, October 26, 2012

TSP 28: Ghosts and Saints in Scripture and Catholic Teaching (Halloween / All Saints Days Podcast)

The Sacred Page Podcast is back! Due to some illness in late September, I fell way behind on a number of things. Getting this podcast up was just not possible. But now we're back. . . with our spookiest podcast ever!

Halloween and All Saints Day is right around the corner. With that in mind, we cover a topic that doesn't get much attention: "ghosts" in Sacred Scripture.

Scripture in fact says that we have already come to "the spirits of just men made perfect". Where does that happen? When? How? What did Augustine, Jerome and Aquinas say about Scripture's teaching?

Listen here and you'll learn all about it.

Oh yes. . . and please tell your friends that we're back! Next week we'll also be back to our Sunday Readings Podcast.

Listen on iTunes or click the link below.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

I'm also including a .pdf below including some of the primary sources cited, i.e., biblical references, an excerpt from Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae where he draws from Jerome and Augustine, etc. . .

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The New Exodus: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Notice Bartimaeus and Baptism in this icon
The readings for this Sunday revolve around the theme of return from exile for God's people.  In the Old Testament, we read about God's people Israel being exiled from their land because of their violations of their covenant with God.  The great Isrealite prophets, however, predicted that God would bring his people back from the places they were exiled, just as he brought them out of Egypt by the hand of Moses long ago.  This is often called the "New Exodus" theme in the prophets.

1. Our First Reading is one such prophetic oracle, Jeremiah 31:7-9:
Thus says the LORD:
Shout with joy for Jacob,
exult at the head of the nations;
proclaim your praise and say:
The LORD has delivered his people,
the remnant of Israel.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My New CD on the Year of Faith

I am very pleased to announce the release of a new CD on the Year of Faith from Lighthouse Catholic Media. In this talk I explain:
  • Why Pope Benedict has proclaimed a Year of Faith?
  • Why Pope Benedict calls this year the "Year of Catechism"
  • Why the Catechism of the Catholic Church is vitally important, how it came to be and how to read it for all its worth
  • Why Scripture is at the heart of catechesis and why it must play an essential role in the Year of Faith
Go here to place your order.

Feast Day of St. Luke

The Feast of St. Luke is just past.  On the Eve of the Feast, Matt Leonard and I sat down at the St. Paul Center to discuss this great biblical author.  After Matt mocks me for about 30 seconds, we get down to talking about St. Luke's contributions to Scripture and the Faith.  Enjoy!

Frank Moore Cross, Rest in Peace

The Biblical Archeology Review is reporting that Frank Moore Cross, arguably the senior Old Testament scholar in North America, has passed away.  The full obituary is here.

Cross was a student of the "dean" of American Old Testament scholars, William Foxwell Albright, and for most of his career taught at Harvard.  Cross was the Doktorvater (dissertation director) of my own Doktorvater, James C. VanderKam.  So I guess that makes him my Doktorgrossvater.   

In any event, he was a scholar almost without peer.  An accomplished paleographer, he was one of the first scholars to see and work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.  But for me, his most valuable contributions concerned the understanding of the Old Testament concept of "covenant," especially in the first chapter of his classic From Epic to Canon: History and Literature in Ancient Israel. In my own little book Bible Basics for Catholics, I make a big deal about the covenants in salvation history, and how covenant is related to kinship. In this, I am drawing in part from Cross (see BBFC, p. 159), who famously said: "Often it has been asserted that the language of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘fatherhood,’ ‘love,’ and ‘loyalty’ is ‘covenant terminology.'" But this is “to turn things upside down. The language of covenant, kinship-in-law, is taken from the language of kinship, kinship-in-flesh" (Epic to Canon, p. 12).  This insight, that covenant forms kinship, is key to understanding Scripture.

The past few years have seen the passing of so many "greats": Moshe Greenberg, Moshe Weinfeld, Jacob Milgrom, David Noel Freedman, and now Cross. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen!" (2 Sam 1:19).

Frank Moore Cross, rest in peace. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Suffering and Leadership: The 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Readings for this upcoming Lord's Day focus on the themes of suffering and leadership: in particular, how Christ, our definitive leader, embraced suffering on our behalf, and so modeled true leadership for all who would follow him.

1.  Our First Reading is Isaiah 53:10-11:
The LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,

he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction

he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
This is an excerpt from the larger "Suffering Servant Song" that extends from Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Leroy Huizenga on Dei Verbum

My friend, New Testament scholar, Leroy Huizenga, has a wonderful lecture up on the Second Vatican Council's document, Dei Verbum. Have a look!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Embracing Lady Poverty: 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

St. Francis Wedding Lady Poverty
October 4th, this past Thursday, was the Feast of St. Francis of Assissi, and as you might imagine it was a big deal here at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  The all-campus Mass was reverent and moving, and the festivities over the weekend, including the annual Medieval Festival, were full of good-natured merry-making.

One of the themes that always comes up in this yearly recollection of St. Francis is his radical embrace of poverty.  Together with St. Dominic, St. Francis helped establish the tradition of mendicant (begging) religious orders, that is, groups of religious men who owned no property and were dependent on the good will of others for their necessities.

St. Francis used to refer lovingly to "Lady Poverty," and said he learned a great deal from her.  The Readings for this Sunday's Mass also treat of the theme of poverty for the sake of the Good News and the Kingdom of God.

1. Our First Reading is from Wisdom 7:7-11:

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Catholic Church

Next weekend I'll be in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, at the Church of the Incarnation giving a set of five talks on the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relevance to the Catholic Faith.  We'll learn about the Scrolls and use them as a lens to examine the Jewish and Biblical roots of Catholic teaching and practice.  Here's the schedule:
Friday, October 12, 7pm-9pm:
1. An Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls
2. John the Baptist and Baptism
Saturday October 13, 9am-12pm
3. The Jewish Roots of the Eucharist
4. Marriage, Celibacy, and Holy Orders
5. The Reformation and "Salvation by Faith Alone"
Hope you can make it if you're in the greater Albuquerque area!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

God Loves Marriage and Children: The 27th Week of Ordinary Time

The Readings for this Sunday provide the homilist with an ideal opportunity to teach Christian doctrine concerning marriage and children.  The opportunity is timely, too, as one of our political parties has taken an official stand supporting "same-sex marriage," an arrangement that is not intrinsically related to the birth and rearing of children, does not provide the same benefit to society as true marriage, and can never be as optimal for the well-being of children as to be raised by their own biological father and mother.  In the midst of the confusion about the very nature of marriage and its purpose, these Readings shed the light of God's revelation on how we should live this most intimate aspect of our lives.

1.  The First Reading is Genesis 2:18-24:
The LORD God said: "It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him."
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;

Monday, October 01, 2012

On the Year of Faith @ Good Shepherd Parish, San Diego, Oct. 9

This month we begin the Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. I'll be giving an overview on what it is and how we can fully enter into this celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 9 @ Good Shepherd Catholic Church in San Diego, CA. The flyer with all the information is just below. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sin is No Match for the Spirit of God: The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Readings for this Sunday may seem dour at first, dominated by discussion of going to hell and the merits of self-amputation, but the First Reading actually points us in the right direction to overcome sin and hell and live in joy.  We will see how as the Readings unfold:

1.  Our First Reading is from Numbers 11:25-29:
The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.

Friday, September 28, 2012

To Everything There Is a Season ...

OK, so how many people went to Mass today and were hearing the Byrds in their heads during the First Reading?

Move over Dan Schutte—try the Byrds as liturgical musicians.

I wonder how many people in America think those lyrics were actually written by the Byrds.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Now Ecclesiastes Gets Its Turn

"Vanity of Vanities! All is Vanity! saith the Preacher."

Yes, indeed.  So the classic catch-line of Ecclesiastes rings out through churches across the land.

If you are a daily communicant, you know that Ecclesiastes is now getting its 15 minutes (or less) of fame in the daily readings.

To honor the occasion, let's talk about Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes is one of the most atypical books of the Old Testament, a composition virtually unique in its genre that voices opinions seemingly contrary to the mainstream of biblical

Wrapping Up on Proverbs

That's it!  If you blinked, you missed it.  Proverbs has just three days of seriatim reading during ferial days, and now they're done.  In this post, we wrap up Proverbs, giving a liturgical perspective on the book:
Liturgical Perspective
Proverbs emphasizes the practice of virtue in daily life in an international context, so there is less focus on the liturgy than in some other books.  Nonetheless, a Christian reading of the Book does perceive some important liturgical themes, even beyond a few individual proverbs that encourage diligent participation in the cult (Prov. 3:9).
            Proverbs identifies “Fear of the LORD” as the beginning of wisdom, and the term “fear” conveys an attitude of reverence, which is broader than, but would include, formal acts of worship. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More on Proverbs

Today is the last day Proverbs is read in the First Reading for daily mass (Prov. 30:5-9), so I'm posting more on this gem of a book:

Authorship and Date
The text of Proverbs attributes most of the book to Solomon himself (1:1; 10:1; 25:1), but some parts to anonymous sages (“the wise,” 22:17; 24:23) or the two otherwise-unknown Gentiles Agur (30:1-14) and King Lemuel (31:1-9).  Certain scribes working for Hezekiah gain credit for compiling chs. 25-29 (25:1).
            In modern critical scholarship, Solomonic authorship of Proverbs is usually dismissed, for a variety of stated reasons, at the heart of which is a general skepticism about the historicity of

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Proverbs Makes Its Cameo Appearance

If you are a daily communicant, you might notice that the Book of Proverbs is making its "cameo appearance" right now in the First Reading of daily Mass. In Weeks 25-26 of Year II of Ordinary Time, we get readings from the Wisdom Literature in the First Reading of ferial days.  Proverbs gets just three days allotted: Monday through Wednesday of Week 25.  That's right now.

So, to mark this special occasion, one of the few occassions that Proverbs gets "air time" in the Liturgy, I thought I'd post some discussion of this wisdom book for the entertainment of our blog readers:

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of short, pithy statements expressing the basic principles for leading a prudent and therefore prosperous life.  It is the foundational book of the wisdom literature collection.  Proverbs lays out the fundamental principles of “wisdom” (Heb. hokhmah), or prudence for living, and all other wisdom books may be viewed as building on it, either by dealing with exceptions to the principles it lays out (e.g. Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon) or by further development of the principles themselves (e.g. Wisdom, Sirach).
            In the Jewish tradition, Proverbs (Heb. sepher mishlēy, “The Book of the Proverbs of [Solomon]”, or simply mishlēy, “Proverbs of”) is found in the third canonical division, the

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Great Catholic Commentary Set

For those looking for good Catholic commentaries on the New Testament, I'd like to remind everyone about the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series, which includes volumes by Peter Williamson, Mary Healy, Curtis Mitch, Edward "Ted" Sri, and several others.  This is a great resource for those looking for a critically informed yet theological and liturgically sensitive commentary series.  Click here for more information.

Gentleness in the Midst of Suffering: The Readings for the 24th Week of Ordinary Time

Looking over the readings for this week, I was reminded of a classic scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when Han Solo and Luke Skywalker find themselves, after a long separation, suddenly reunited—but as prisoners of their common enemy, Jabba the Hutt:

Han Solo: Together again, huh?
Luke: Wouldn't miss it.
Han Solo: How we doin'?
Luke: Same as always.
Han Solo: That bad, huh?

In this Sunday's readings, we have texts from a wide range of periods in salvation history: a psalm of David (c. 1000 BC), a reading from Wisdom (c. 100 BC), a gospel narrative (c. AD 30), and a letter of St. James to the early Church (c. AD 50).  Every text reflects the godly person or persons being persecuted in some way.  Furthermore, as we read these texts we can't help but think of the various forms of hostility or persecution the Church is experiencing in our own country and throughout the world.  So: "How we doin'? --"Same as always."  Persecution is nothing new: it is the "normal" of those who would follow Jesus.  Nonetheless, we find in these readings that the hope of resurrection empowers us to be both joyful and gentle in the midst of the sufferings we experience.

1. Our First Reading is Wis 2:12, 17-20: