Friday, December 30, 2016

Mary, Mother of God

This Sunday is the Solemnity (Holy Day) of Mary, Mother of God, one of the more significant liturgical celebrations in the Catholic calendar.

The confession of Mary as “Mother of God” presents a stumbling block for some non-Catholic Christians, but curiously it never did for me.

I think it was back in the Fall of 1992 when I was sitting in a course in Ancient Church History at one of the best Calvinist seminaries in America.  Our professor, a devout Dutch Calvinist (like most of us students), was lecturing on the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus AD 431, the council that recognized Mary as “Theotokos,” “Mother of God” (or more literally, “Bearer of God”).  He began to address the question, Can Calvinists confess Mary as “Mother of God”?  He answered in the affirmative, granted that one understood this not as a claim for Mary’s motherhood of divinity itself, but in the sense that Mary was mother of Jesus, who is truly God.  And that, of course, is precisely how the Catholic Church understands the term.

So far from being a cause of division, the common confession of Mary as “Mother of God” should unite all Christians, and distinguish Christian orthodoxy from various confusions of it, such as Arianism (the denial that Jesus was God) or Nestorianism (in which Mary mothers only the human nature of Jesus but not his whole person).

Happy feast day to all!

A brief commentary on the Readings:

Two themes are present in the Readings: (1) the person of Mary, and (2) the name of Jesus.

1. The First Reading is Numbers 6:22-27:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Readings for Christmas: Vigil, Midnight, Dawn, and Day

The Christmas Solemnity has distinct readings for four separate masses:  Vigil, Midnight, Dawn, and Day.  There’s such a wealth of material here to meditate on, that not everything can be covered.  In fact, there is almost an entire biblical theology in the sequence of readings of these four masses.  In what follows, I am going to offer just a few brief comments on the more salient points.

Christmas Vigil Mass
1. Reading 1 Is 62:1-5

Monday, December 19, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

Letting God In: The 4th Sunday of Advent


As Christians, we tend to assume that the idea of God coming into ones’ life is always an attractive concept.  However, that’s a bit naïve.  Having the almighty creator of the universe come into one’s reality could also be an upsetting prospect.  When doing evangelism, I have encountered people who understood the concept of “letting Jesus into your life” very well, but didn’t want that to happen, because it might upset the apple cart, so to speak.  A God living within you might want to change things.  He might want to take over.  Are we ready for that?

In this Sunday’s Readings, we encounter situations in which people found the “invasion” of God into their lives a little bit distressing.  The Readings remind us that Jesus is not a passive presence within us.  He is a meek and humble babe, yes: but also a challenging Lord.

1.  The First Reading is from Is 7:10-14:

Monday, December 12, 2016

The 4th Sunday in Advent: Born of the Virgin Mary (The Mass Readings Explained)

Catholic Productions just released my latest video on the 4th Sunday of Advent's readings, "Born of the Virgin Mary."  I hope it helps, and please be sure to Like and Share!


Thursday, December 08, 2016

Waiting While Everything Goes Wrong: 3rd Sunday of Advent


(I apologize that last week I was sick and unable to post on the Second Week of Advent.)

I always take consolation from the example of saints who faced death in the middle of a historical situation that offered little in the way of hope.  Three in particular come to mind: St. Augustine died with the Arian Goths surrounding Hippo in what looked like the end for Western Christian civilization.  St. Thomas More was executed at a time when it looked like all was lost for the Church in England.  St. Maximillian Kolbe was killed when it looked like German Fascism was going to triumph over Christianity in Europe. All these men kept their faith in a moment when faith seemed impossible.

It’s hard to wait for salvation, especially when everything around you seems to be getting worse, not better.  That was the case for two figures that we encounter in this Sunday’s readings: Isaiah and John the Baptist.  Together, these two prophets teach us how to wait with faith and courage, even when the winds of history seem to be thrashing us and threatening to collapse everything around our ears.

1.  Our First Reading is Is 35:1-6a, 10:

Monday, December 05, 2016

The 3rd Sunday in Advent: John the Baptist and the Coming of God (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video is out over at Catholic Productions for the 3rd Sunday of Advent.  You can access it with your subscription by clicking on the top video still frame.  They have also put out an excerpt from it on their new blog at the bottom still frame.

Thanks and please Like and Share!


Monday, November 28, 2016

The Second Sunday in Advent: The Mass Readings Explained

My latest video for the 2nd Sunday in Advent is now available at Catholic Productions.  I hope it helps and please be sure to Like and Share!  Thanks!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

First Sunday of Advent, 2017!

Happy New Year, everyone!  The Church Year begins this Sunday with the First Sunday of Advent, and we are back to reading cycle A in Church Year 2017. 

There is a very ancient tradition in the Church of reading the Book of Isaiah during Advent.  In antiquity, both Jews and Christians considered the Book of Isaiah to be one extended prophesy of the “age to come,” the “latter days” when the Anointed One (Heb. “Meshiach,” =”Messiah”) would arrive.  The First Readings for Sunday Mass and for weekday masses, as well as the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, are dominated by Isaiah during this liturgical season.

The Gospel sequence, the First Sunday of Advent focuses on Jesus’ Second Coming, forming a good transition from the month of November with its focus on the Last Things.  The Second and Third Sundays of Advent focus on John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Jesus.  The Fourth Sunday finally casts its gaze on the events leading directly to Jesus birth. 

That’s the journey we are about to begin, so without further ado, let’s plunge in!

1.  The First Reading is Isaiah 2:1-5:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jesus Christ King of the Universe: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (Last Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Well, it is here... The Last Sunday of Ordinary Time.  I hope these videos have been of some assistance to you in preparing for Mass!  If you would like to continue watching the videos for next year's Mass readings, be sure to check out the link below at Catholic Productions' website and subscribe.

Thank you.

To subscribe to next year's videos, go here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Vote for Monarchy: The Solemnity of Christ the King


Here in Steubenville one of my co-workers has a clever bumper sticker that reads: “I’m a Monarchist.  And I Vote.”  This tongue-in-cheek slogan comes to mind in the wake of the most surprising American election almost anyone can remember. 

The day after, President Obama took the high road by reminding us, “We’re not Democrats first, we're not Republicans first, we are Americans first. We're patriots first.”  In the political sphere, that’s true.  But there is a first that comes before that first.  We are Christians first, ‘monarchists’ who are loyal to Jesus Christ the King.  And better Americans for being so.

The Church year comes to an end this Sunday with the Solemnity of Christ the King, one of my favorite feast days.  The Readings focus heavily on the theme of the kingdom of Christ, which was typified or foreshadowed by the Kingdom of David in the Old Testament.

1.  The First Reading is 2 Samuel 5:1-3:

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The End is Near!: The 33rd Sunday in OT

Some years ago I was driving through the back hills of Ohio with my son, and we passed a billboard in a farmer’s field that read: “God has a Judgment Day coming!” 

My son asked me if the farmer who had placed the billboard in his field was Catholic or Protestant.  I suggested he probably was a Protestant.  My son asked why Catholics didn’t put up billboards like that.  I theorized that perhaps fewer Catholics owned farms close to the highway, or maybe they were less convinced that announcing the coming judgment was really an effective means of evangelism. 

Billboards announcing judgment day are not a part of American Catholic culture.  Nonetheless, the Readings for this coming Sunday affirm the truth of that well-meaning farmer’s sign.  God does have a day of judgment coming.  Is that good news or bad news?  It would depend, I suppose, on whether we have suffered injustice or committed it.

1.  Our First Reading Malachi 3:19-20a:

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Will there be Marriage in the Resurrection?: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

My latest video explaining this Sunday's Mass readings along with the new study guide is now out.  I hope it helps.

Kindly Like and Share!  Thank you!

Resurrection from the Dead: The 32nd Sunday of OT

We are advancing in the “unofficial liturgical season” of November, and the Mass Readings turn toward meditation on the Last Things.  This Sunday we are directed especially to the consideration of the resurrection of the dead.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Who From Their Labors Rest: Readings for 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.  Moreover, for those of us in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, the falling leaves, migrating animals, and dying back of the ecosystems with the advancing cold serve as a natural reminder of the end of physical life. 

The Readings for All Saints are, of course, beautiful.  Here are some quick thoughts:

1. The First Reading is Rev 7:2-4, 9-14:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Zacchaeus, the Sycamore Tree & the Son of Man: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time)

After checking out John's post below, my video is now up for viewing explaining this Sunday's Mass Readings.  I hope it proves helpful!

Thanks -- and please Like and Share!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Making Things Right: 31st Sunday of OT

We are drawing close to November, the month constitutes its own unofficial liturgical season, focused on the Last Things.  We begin the month with All Saints and round it out with the Feast of Christ the King.  This Sunday’s Readings introduce themes that will be developed throughout the rest of the liturgical year: repentance, the Kingdom of God, and final judgment.  In particular, the Gospel Reading urges us not merely to repent while we still have time, but also to make right the wrongs we have done to others, that is, to make reparation.  Some non-Catholic theologies deny the need for reparation, but it is a biblical concept that has within it the power of healing and reconciliation.

1. Our First Reading is Wisdom 11:22-12:2:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Cry of the Poor: The 30th Sunday of OT

Last year Christians around the world were shocked and saddened by the execution of twenty-one Egyptian Christian men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and fell under the power of ISIS.  This martyrdom is just one of the more dramatic examples of abuse and oppression that seems so prevalent in the contemporary world.  Where is God in all this?  Does he pay attention to poor and the oppressed?  The Readings for this Sunday dwell on these and related issues.

1. Our First Reading is Sir 35:12-14, 16-18:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Pharisee & the Tax Collector – Which One are You?: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

My latest video is now out.  I hope it helps you prepare for this Sunday's Mass.  Thanks for liking and sharing and for checking out our Kickstarter page to keep these videos going.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Good Book for Tough Times

The Road of Hope

It seems likely that in the immediate and probably indefinite future, faithful Catholics in America, and their institutions (schools, hospitals, parishes) are going to find themselves under a fair amount of social and judicial pressure.  I think we can safely expect an onslaught of legislative and juridical attempts within the next eighteen months to force Catholic institutions to comply with the new sexual/gender ideology or else close their doors.  It's been a few generations in America since faithful Catholics have faced pressure to this extent, and so it would be good to prepare spiritually.  I recommend a good book for tough times, The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison by Francis Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan.  Cardinal Van Thuan was made coadjutor Bishop of Saigon in 1975, just a few months before the city fell to hostile Communist forces.  He was imprisoned by the leftist regime for thirteen years, during which time he scribbled notes to his flock on scraps of paper which were smuggled out of the prison camp.  These notes were collected into The Road of Hope.  In spirituality and style, it is very much like the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva, who likewise spent many years living under leftist persecution of the Church (during the Spanish Civil War).  In any event, The Road of Hope is both bracing and consoling, helping the reader to focus his or her thoughts and spirit on things above, even in the midst of a world that can seem so dark.  Cardinal Van Thuan reminds us how to maintain joy and hope even under profound distress. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Battle of Prayer: 29th Sunday of 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:

The Persistent Widow & Growing Weary in Prayer: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

My latest video is now out on the Sunday Mass Readings Explained.  I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for Liking and Sharing!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research

I am participating in a conference on paradigm change in Pentateuchal research in Basel, Switzerland, this coming March.  It is good to see a growing movement to overcome some positions in Pentateuchal scholarship that have ossified into rigid dogmas.  This is from the official website:

Paradigm Change in Pentateuchal Research

Scientific Conference at the STH Basel, 16-18 March 2017
The Pentateuch forms both in Judaism and in Christianity the first and fundamental piece of the Bible and is the basic document of Western religious history. The currently prevailing paradigm for the study of the Pentateuch in Biblical Studies dates from the 19th century and forms a cornerstone of Biblical Studies and of the reconstruction of a history of ancient Israel. This paradigm extends to the narratives of the Pentateuch as well as to its legal collections. According to this paradigm, the Pentateuch was composed over a longer period, with the three most important stages JE (from before the Deuteronomy), D (the core of Deuteronomy originated in the 7th century) and P (Priestly texts exilic/postexilic). This paradigm was established by Julius Wellhausen's «Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels» (1878). While it has been modified in many ways, also it has been in the last thirty years more and more in a crisis; nevertheless, no fundamental paradigm shift has taken place. It is the aim of this conference to discuss this paradigm critically and to explore whether a fundamental paradigm change can lead out of the current impasse of old models and open new approaches to the Pentateuch. The international speakers are experts in the fields of Biblical Studies, Legal History, Linguistics, and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

Prof. Dr. Matthias Armgardt, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
Ass.-Prof. Dr. Benjamin Kilchör, STH Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Prof. Dr. Markus Zehnder, Biola University Los Angeles, USA
Picture Credits: «Moses zerschmettert die Gesetzestafeln» (Rembrandt van Rijn, 1659) – Public Domain

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Is Anyone Grateful? The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Thanksgiving holiday is coming upon us shortly, 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:

Leprosy, the Priesthood & the Sacraments: The Sunday Mass Readings Explained (The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Hey Everyone,

My latest video is out for this Sunday's Mass Readings.  I hope it proves helpful to you.

Thank you in advance for Liking and Sharing it!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Mass Readings Explained Video Series

Hello all,

I just wanted to invite you to check out our Kickstarter campaign for "The Mass Readings Explained" video series.  If you can help support the project and pass this on to others who can benefit from it, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Article on Covenant Appears

My bibliographic article on the term "covenant" (Heb berith, Gk diatheke) has just appeared in the online publication, Oxford Bibliographies, from Oxford University Press.  The beginning of the article can be accessed here, but the full article is behind a paywall.
Much thanks to those who recommended me to the editors of Oxford Bibliographies as being knowledgeable in this area of biblical scholarship.  It was an honor and a heavy responsibility to consider so many excellent books and articles in order to choose a limited number of the most seminal works on each facet of covenant scholarship.  The decisions were not easy and I do not claim always to have judged perfectly, but overall I am satisfied with the resulting article. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Living by Faith: The 27th Sunday of OT

By accident in the past few weeks I stumbled on an interview with Rev. T.D. Jakes, one of the nations most prominent African-American megachurch pastors.  The interview concerned the recent canonization of St. Theresa of Calcutta, and the interviewer was questioning Rev. Jakes about the revelation that Mother Theresa suffered interior darkness and even temptations against faith. Rev. Jakes gave an excellent reply, explaining how true faith can be compatible with experiencing doubt and struggling against darkness.  In fact, his discussions reminded me of passages from Benedict XVI on the relationship of faith and doubt.  

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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lazarus & the Realm of the Dead: Mass Readings Explained (The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Check out my latest video on this Sunday's Mass readings.  I hope it's helpful to you.

Thanks and please Like and Share!

Does it Matter How We Treat Others? The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

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:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

God and Mammon: The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Sorry I posted the Year A reading earlier!)

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:

Friday, September 09, 2016

Lost Sheep, Lost Coin & Lost Son: Mass Readings Explained (The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

My latest video on the Sunday Mass readings is out -- I hope it helps you!

Thanks, and if you would, please Like and Share!  I appreciate it!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

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:

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Cost of Discipleship: 23rd Sunday in OT

Dietric von Bonhoeffer as a young man
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”:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner? 22nd Sunday in OT

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 (sometimes rude) 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. 

The Wedding Banquet & the Resurrection of the Righteous: Mass Readings Explained (The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

My latest video on the Sunday Mass readings is now out.  Check it out and please Like and Share. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SWIDS 2016

I'm happy to be doing some continuing ed for the permanent deacons in driving distance of Austin, Texas, this weekend.  It's the South West Institute of Diaconal Studies, 2016: SWIDS for short.  They are great men.  I visited with them in 2014. This year we are tackling the Gospel of John.  Here's the link:

Friday, August 19, 2016

Catholic Introduction to the Old Testament Can Be Pre-Ordered!

If anyone has been wondering why Brant Pitre and I haven't been writing and doing more than we have for the past four or five years, it's because a lot of our time has been taken up quietly working on a massive project which Ignatius Press has now rolled out on Amazon: A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: Old Testament.

There are good Catholic introductory texts on the OT out there (those by Boadt and Jensen come to mind), but there has been a need for some time for a more recent and thorough treatment of the Old Testament which takes advantage, from the ground up, of recent developments in Old Testament interpretation from the 1990's on, especially the growth in literary studies like narrative and canonical criticism, the impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and new archeological discoveries.

Will Many Be Saved? 21st Sunday in OT


If Jesus was walking through your town and you had ten seconds as he passed to ask any question you wished, what would it be?  “Why is there evil in the world?” “How can I be saved?” “What is heaven like?”

In this Sunday’s Gospel, an anonymous bystander gets his chance to ask Jesus one of the “big questions”: “Will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus’ answer is complex, indirect, and very well worth examining!  The Readings leading up to the Gospel help prepare us to understand Jesus’ response.