Thursday, October 29, 2015

All Saints is Here! Reflections on the Readings

We are coming up on the Solemnity of All Saints, which falls this year on Sunday.  This is one of my favorite feasts.  Although the month of November is not formally a liturgical season, it does  have the feel of one.  It begins with All Saints and ends with Christ the King,  and its common in Catholic piety to meditate during this month on the Last Things: Heaven, Hell, Death, and Judgment.  So consider November to be the unofficial liturgical season dedicated to the Last Things.

1. The First Reading is Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14:
I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Bible is a Dangerous Book" says Pope

Pope Francis described the Bible as a "dangerous book" in his introduction to the new German edition of the YouCat Bible.  The whole introduction is worth pondering.  I reproduce it here, from the translation provided by Jules Germain at Aleteia:

My dear young friends:

If you could see my Bible, you would not be particularly impressed. What—that’s the Pope’s Bible? Such an old, worn-out book!

You could buy me a new one for $1,000, but I would not want it. I love my old Bible, which has accompanied me half my life. It has been with me in my times of joy and times of tears. It is my most precious treasure. I live out of it, and I wouldn’t give anything in the world for it.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Getting 20/20 Vision: The Readings for the 30th Sunday in OT

Sorry this post is late. I'm subbing for John Kincaid, whose had some stresses this week.  Plus I've been gone all weekend and only seldom had internet access.--JB

My vision is terrible.  Uncorrected, it’s probably much worse than 20/200.  My glasses prescription is about -8.0 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 in 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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"And Ransom Captive Israel": Readings for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Messiah died.

As Christians we have become numb to the oddity of such a message. The thought was apparently abhorrent to some of Jesus' disciples. When Jesus announces his coming passion, Peter protests, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matt 16:22). Likewise, Paul explains that Christ (the Greek word for "Messiah") crucified was "a stumbling block for Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23).

Indeed, it is hard to find clear evidence that ancient Jews before Jesus believed the future Messiah would be defeated. Yes, the idea could be seen as hinted at in Daniel 9, where we hear about a future "anointed one" (i.e., "Messiah") who will be "cut off" (Dan 9:26). But the disciples apparently didn't think this passage relevant for Jesus' mission.

More popular seems to have been the vision of the Messiah in the non-biblical work, the Psalms of Solomon, which depicts the Messiah as a triumphal figure who defeats the enemies of God's people (cf. Ps. Sol. 17)

This Sunday's Gospel contains one of Jesus' clearest passion predictions. In fact, not only does Jesus announce his coming death, he also explains the rationale behind it--he will give his life as a "ransom" for many.

What does that mean?

Let us unpack the readings and find out.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

How Can I Live Forever? The 28th Sunday in 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.

1. Our First Reading is Wis 7:7-11:

Friday, October 02, 2015

"The Two Shall Become One Flesh": Readings for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday the lectionary readings focus our attention on marriage and family. Indeed, the texts we read here will serve as the basis for the discussion of the upcoming Synod Pope Francis has called together in Rome.

So much could be said about them. Here are some brief thoughts to consider.

FIRST READING: 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;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man. 
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep,
he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib
that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
"This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called 'woman, '
for out of 'her man’ this one has been taken."
That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.
Obviously, much has been written on this text. For our sake here let us simply highlight five important elements of the text.