Friday, July 27, 2012

The Prophet Who Feeds the New Israel: The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Barley Ripens Near Passover
God could have made us with solar cells in our skin, so all we would have to do is lie in the sun to get the energy we need for life.

But he didn't.  In his divine plan, God created us as creature that need to eat.  The first command he ever gave us concerned food: what to eat and what not to eat.  We turned away from him by an act of eating.  And now, since the coming of Christ, we can turn back to him by an act of eating.

Our need to eat reminds us that we are dependent on something or someone outside ourselves—ultimately God—to stay alive.

At this time in the Church year, we begin a five-week meditation on John 6 and the account of Jesus' miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000.  Each week we will read another section of the account of the miracle and Jesus' subsequent discourse.  Each week a different Old Testament passage will appear in the First Reading, showing a different type or anticipation of the Eucharist from Israel's history.

1. Our First Reading comes from the narratives about the prophet Elisha in 2 Kgs 4:42-44:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Faith and Reason Site Goes Live at Franciscan

 Dion Dimucci, best know for "[Why Must I Be] A Teenager in Love," "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer," talks about his faith journey back to the Catholic Church in this clip from

Franciscan University of Steubenville has just launched an exciting new website,   Over the years, Franciscan University has accumulated thousands of hours of video, audio, and print content from some of the world's finest Catholic thinkers, authors, churchmen, politicians, artists, entertainers, and public personalities.  Now the University is making this storehouse of insight and information available through the web.  TSP readers will note that will be pulling from our blog occasionally, as well.  Check it out now, and I'm sure you'll agree the University has posted more good stuff than there are hours in the week to watch!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Good Shepherd Teaches the Flock: The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Inscription from the "dividing wall of enmity" in the Temple (see 2nd Reading)
The appointment of Bishop Samuel J. Aquila as the new Archbishop of Denver was much in the news this week.  In my own lowly home of Steubenville, we likewise have been excited about the appointment of Msgr. Monforten, rector of Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, as our new bishop—even if the doings in Steubenville don’t make the national news.  The appointment of these new church leaders naturally turns our minds to the need for “shepherds” for the “flock” of God, which is the theme for the readings of the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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,

Friday, July 13, 2012

God Likes to Choose the Unlikely: The Readings for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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:

Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,
"Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king's sanctuary and a royal temple."
Amos answered Amaziah, "I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
Go, prophesy to my people Israel."

A little background: Amos was a prophet sent to the northern kingdom of Israel, consisting of the ten tribes that had broken away from the descendants of David who ruled in Jerusalem to

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What We're Reading Now: St. Bernard on Song of Songs

Lately I've been reading through St. Bernard's four volumes of sermons on the Song of Songs.  I find it both spiritually edifying and historically interesting.

Frequently, St. Bernard's descriptions of the moral terpitude of twelfth-century Europe sound scarcely any different from contemporary American culture.  Truly there is "nothing new under the sun."

St. Bernard's style of exegesis is certainly a far cry from the methods one learns in modern graduate programs in Scripture.  In truth, St. Bernard often simply uses his text—typically a single verse or part of a verse from the Song—to provide him with a theological or spiritual theme which he then expounds.

And he takes his time!  I'm up to about his twenty-fifth sermon, and he is still only about three verses into the first chapter! 

One can ask if there is any legitimacy to his method, or if the saint is simply engaging in eisegesis—that is, reading his theology into the text.

I think one can ground St. Bernard's method theologically and philosophically, if one has a robust notion of the creation of mankind in the image of God.  If such is the case, human love does truly mirror the love which resides in God between the persons of the Trinity, and is expressed to man through the processions of the Son and Spirit.  So the Song of Songs, which in the first instance is an exploration of the phenomenon of human love, can be used as the basis for insights into the love of God and our love for him.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Hard-Hearted and Stiff-Necked: Readings for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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:

Reading 1 Ez 2:2-5
As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist--for they are a rebellious house--
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

On Faith, Freedom, and the Fourth of July

For Independence Day, a short reading from one of our founding fathers, on what is necessary for successful governing of a republic:


Mr. President: 

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other -- our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own wont of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their  Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. -- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

--Benjamin Franklin, June 28, 1787