Monday, November 18, 2019

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (The Mass Readings Explained)

The last week's video is now out for this liturgical year.  Check that out below.

Also, there's less than 7 days before the 1st video of the expanded edition of The Mass Readings Explained is released, where we will be going through the 2nd readings at Mass, with a particular focus on Paul and the Moral and Spiritual Life.

Learn more and join us by clicking here.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

The End is Near! 33rd Sunday of 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:

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Destruction of the Temple and the Tribulation (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.

Check out the clip below, and be sure to check out this series, as we're going to begin the "expanded" edition in just a few weeks.

Thanks!


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Revolutionary Belief in Resurrection: 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.  

The resurrection of the dead is controversial.  It is a traditional belief in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, but Eastern religions have no necessary commitment to it.  Indeed, bodily resurrection makes no sense in Buddhism.  Likewise, ancient Greek philosophy had little use for the body in general, and it was often regarded as a prison for the soul.  Western secularism espouses materialism; therefore, there is nothing to a human person except his material body.  Resurrection is impossible, unless it be through some technology.  

Christian faith, following Jesus Christ, proclaims the goodness of the body, and affirms that God will one day restore and transform our bodies, similar to the transformation we witness in the accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection physical appearances.

1. Our First Reading is 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-1:

Monday, November 04, 2019

Will There Be Marriage in the Resurrection (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video for The Mass Readings Explained is now out.

Check out a free clip below, and you can subscribe to get your 14 day free trial before the new liturgical year begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent (Dec. 1), when we will start covering the 2nd reading from the Sunday Masses, primarily focused on the letters of Paul.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Making Things Right: The Biblical Basis of Reparation (31st Sun. OT)


We are in November, the month that 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 finale 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:

Monday, October 28, 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Mass Readings Explained...Expanded

I am pleased to announce that I will be producing another set of videos with Catholic Productions, going through the 3-year cycle of the 2nd reading at Mass (typically, though not exclusively, from the Letters of St. Paul).

If you've ever wanted to get a grasp of St. Paul as the Church presents his Letters to us through the Liturgy, then be sure to check out the expanded version of this series, which starts with the 1st week of Advent (December 1).

Thanks and God bless.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Pride and Poverty: The 30th Sunday of OT


Several years ago, 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.

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.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part VI: Repentance

(comment on Sunday Readings are several posts down)

Let's do another little counter-factual thought experiment to illustrate the need for repentance to enter into heaven.

Imagine you are in heaven, and everything is wonderful—as it ought to be in heaven—when suddenly you spot Cecil, the bully from fifth grade who used to give you "swirlies" for giving too many correct answers in Mrs. Othmar's math class.  You are glad to see that Cecil has made it to the perfect communion of love, so you approach him and say, "Cecil, so glad to see you!  I want you to know I forgive you for all the swirlies you gave me when we were in fifth grade."
"What you mean, 'forgive me'? Cecil responds with a smirk. "I just gave you what you deserve!"
"Are you kidding?" you say, flabbergasted.  "I deserved to have my face stuffed in the toilet for giving correct math answers?"
"Yeah, that's what know-it-all nerds deserve," Cecil shoots back, "I just needed to take you down a couple notches."

Of course such a scenario could never happen in the actual heaven.  (continued below)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part V: Forgiveness

(For commentary on the Readings for this Sunday, scroll down to a lower post)

Let's engage in another counter-factual thought experiment about heaven.

You are in heaven, and everything is going wonderfully—as it should in heaven—but on the third day there, you run into your Aunt Alice, whom you thoughtlessly insulted when you were a teenager, and who never forgave you for that insult.  When Aunt Alice sees you in heaven, she turns her face and won't look at you.  You approach her and say, "Aunt Alice, as I've told you many times, I'm so sorry I insulted you when I was sixteen.  I didn't understand what I was saying."  "Well, I'm sorry that I just can't forgive you," Aunt Alice replies, "What you said was so hurtful, and all your apologies just can't make up for it."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part IV: The Moral Order

(For commentary on the Readings for this Sunday, scroll down to a lower post)
In our last post, we engaged in a thought experiment of Hitler appearing at heaven and being appalled by what he finds.  In order to enter heaven, Hitler would have to come to grips with the fact that virtually every thought and deed of his from early adulthood on was at best misguided and at worst consciously wicked.  He would have to renounce and repent the vast majority of the fabric of his life; he would have to reject the person that he was in this life, and virtually become a different person.  There would be very little continuity between what Hitler was in this life and what he would have to be like in order to enter heaven.  It would be like a death and rebirth.  And the question is, even if a radical conversion like that were possible after earthly death—and the Scriptures and Tradition give us no reason to expect that there is some massive "second chance" at the particular judgment—could or would Hitler have even desired it?  I suspect not.  (continued below the break)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part III

(For commentary on the Readings for this Sunday, scroll down to a lower post)
It is appropriate to blog on the topic of universal salvation on the Feast Day of St. Bernard (Aug. 20), who made a comment that is very relevant to the discussion: "What we love, we shall grow to resemble."  I affirm this principle articulated by St. Bernard, and would further propose that the live of Christian discipleship is a training in love, such that we learn to love what is true, good, and beautiful, and in this way become suited for the experience of heaven.  On the contrary, a lifestyle that turns its back on Jesus Christ and his teaching tends invariably toward love of self, and becomes a mis-formation in
love such that we end up loving that which is false, evil, and ugly, and thus become unsuitable not only for heaven but even to desire heaven.

To explicate these ideas, I propose to engage in some thought-experiments.  I warn the reader in advance that the thought experiments are not pleasant, but then, what we are dealing with is extremely serious.

We are trying to grasp how anyone could not desire heaven. (continued below break)

Will Many Be Saved? Readings for the 21st Sunday of OT


A Narrow Gate
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?”  This is the very question I've been trying to deal with in a series of posts on this blog. Jesus’ answer is complex, indirect, and very well worth examining!  The Readings leading up to the Gospel help prepare us to understand Jesus’ response.

1.  The First Reading is Is 66:18-21:

Monday, August 19, 2019

Will Only a Few Be Saved? (The Mass Readings Explained)

In Luke 13, Jesus is posed with the question, "Will those who are saved be few?"  What did he say?  Check out this week's video below for The Mass Readings Explained where the focal point is this famous question presented to Jesus.

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
So notice the two elements there. When a person doesn’t follow the will of the Lord and doesn’t obey the teachings of Jesus, it breaks communion with him. And so what he says is, “I never knew you.” 

That’s the real criterion for getting into the banquet of the kingdom of God, to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, for him to know you. That’s why he uses the image of a householder. You’re not just going to welcome anybody into your banquet in the middle of the night, but if you know that person you’re going to say “come on inside.” 

And so what Jesus is saying here is you thought you knew me because you heard me preach, and we might have even shared a table together, but because you were a worker of iniquity, I don’t know where you come from. I don’t really know you and therefore you can’t enter into the glory of the kingdom.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven? Part II

Studio 54 c. 1978
I think part of our contemporary struggle with the doctrines of heaven and hell is that we have an inadequate idea of what each place is like.

Most Americans probably think of heaven as like a Disney World in the sky, guarded by gates and either St. Peter, or Jesus, or some angels as gate-keepers. You can get into the eternal amusement park if you've done more "good" than "bad" in your life.

Hell, on the other hand, is like a Nazi concentration camp run by demons as camp guards, and you go there if you've been "really bad."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Jesus and "Family Values": 20th Sunday in OT


In recent decades, the term “family values” has almost become a code word for “Christian culture” in American society.  Influential Christian organizations have adopted names like “Focus on the Family,” “American Family Association,” the “Family Research Council”; and on the Catholic side of things we have “Catholic Family Land,” “Tradition, Family and Property,” or “The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute,” better known as “C-FAM.”  The natural family unit—based on a husband and wife who have made an exclusive, permanent, public commitment to share a common life and raise children together—has been under such political and social pressure that at times we almost identify Christianity as a social movement to promote family life.

In this context, this Sunday’s Mass Readings can be unsettling.  Jesus says he has “not come to bring peace but division.”  Come again?  Lord, with due respect, isn’t one of your messianic titles “Prince of Peace?”  Then again, the Lord speaks of causing division and struggle within families—strife in the family unit caused by Jesus!  How can this be?  Doesn’t Jesus believe in “family values”?

Will Everyone Go to Heaven?


The idea that maybe everyone will end up in heaven has always floated around in Christianity, since the earliest times.  It seems as though St. Paul and the other apostles had to write to combat this view in the churches they had founded.  In Corinth, for example, the idea seemed to be circulating either that everyone would inherit the kingdom of God, or at least all Christians would, regardless of their behavior.  So St. Paul writes to warn:

Monday, August 12, 2019

Jesus Came to Cast Fire on the Earth (The Mass Readings Explained)

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

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
I’ve talked about this before in other videos, but remember the hope for the ingathering of the exiles and the lost ten tribes of Israel?

How the Jews were waiting for the ten lost tribes that had been scattered among the nations to come back together, to be reunited and to come back to the Promised Land in a new exodus that would be inaugurated by the Messiah? Remember that? We’ve talked about it elsewhere. You can see it in Isaiah 11, or Jeremiah 23, or Ezekiel 36 and 37. It’s all over the prophets.

What Micah’s describing here is that he’s saying that before the new exodus takes place, before the ingathering of the twelve tribes of Israel and the coming of the kingdom, before that happens, there’s going to be a time of division. There’s going to be a time of tribulation. There’s going to be a time of strife and a time of judgment. And a prophet is called to endure through that time of tribulation and make it to the day of salvation.


Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Semper Paratus: Readings for the 17th Sunday in OT

My father once served as the chaplain for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.  (U.S. Navy chaplains also serve the Marines and the Coast Guard).  I have fond memories of that beautiful seaside city.  In any event, perhaps the only bit of Coast Guard culture that I absorbed during my dad’s tour of duty was the motto: Semper Paratus, “Always Prepared,” which seems an appropriate summation of the theme of this Sunday’s Readings, which stress vigilance in the Christian life.  In fact, these Readings feel like something we might get in November, closer to the Solemnity of Christ the King, but here they are coming to us in the middle of Ordinary Time.  Yet perhaps that’s appropriate, because it is not just at the end of our lives (or the liturgical year) that we need to be vigilant, but at all times—even and especially when its literally or metaphorically “summertime, and the livin’ is easy …”

1.  Our First Reading is Wisdom 18:6-9:

Monday, August 05, 2019

Almsgiving and the Return of the Master (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.  Check it out below -- If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do so today and get a 14 day free trial to watch the entire video.


Catholic Productions Notable Quote:
Now if you press pause right there, one more time, these are clearly images of entering into the kingdom of God or being cast out of the kingdom into the punishment of Gehenna, right? We’ll see this elsewhere in the gospels, right? “Enter into the glory of the kingdom,” that’s what Jesus is describing here. If you are being set over all his possessions, he’s entering into the master’s household, the master’s kingdom.

But if this is a parable, and it’s an allegory for the kingdom of God, then the good servant is rewarded by being elevated in the kingdom. “He who humbles himself in will be exalted” and then the wicked servant goes to Gehenna, or goes to Hell, experiences punishment and put with the unfaithful. Think here about other places where Jesus says “they’ll be cast into the outer darkness where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here the servant is cast among the unfaithful.

Now if this parable were written by a later Christian in the Protestant tradition, who only believed those were the two fates possible, it should’ve stopped there, but there are two other outcomes that Jesus gives us in this parable and it’s really fascinating. There’s a third servant, it’s the servant who knew his master’s will but didn’t prepare or act according to his will. Ok, so in other words, this servant isn’t ready for his master to come, but unlike the wicked servant he doesn’t start abusing other people. He’s not getting drunk, he’s not beating his fellow manservants and maidservants. He’s just not as ready as he should be. He’s not ready for the master’s return. So what’s his punishment? It doesn’t say that he’s cut in two or put with the unfaithful. It says that he receives a severe beating.

And then the fourth servant is a different one. This is the one who didn’t know his master’s will, but did what deserved the beating. That person shall receive a light beating. So this servant is what later moral theologians would call “invincibly ignorant.” In other words, they didn’t know what the master’s commands were for whatever reason, and they did not prepare, they did what deserved the beating like the third servant, but they were less culpable because they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. They received a light beating.




Saturday, August 03, 2019

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land June 2020

Hello readers of The Sacred Page!

We may even ride camels on the Mount of Olives
I'm leading another pilgrimage to the Holy Land in June 2020 (June 15-25, 2020).  Many pilgrimages are lead to the Holy Land, but very few are lead by a Catholic Bible scholar with an earned doctorate, and a guide who is part of the ancient Arab Latin-rite Catholic community of Nazareth (you read that right: there is an ancient, native, ethnically Arab, Latin-rite Catholic community in that city).  This pilgrimage will fantastically inspiring but also based on sound scholarship, more than the equivalent of a college course in Scripture and Theology!

Fr. Mark Bentz, a Steubenville alumnus and pastor in the Diocese of Portland, will be providing sacraments and pastoral care for the pilgrimage.  The main departure city will be San Francisco.  

To register, you will need a passport.  The registration website is as follows:

www.JohnBergsma.com/pilgrimage

--Dr. John Bergsma

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Church of the Poor: Readings for the 18th Sunday in OT


Texts from the Old and New Testaments remind us that human happiness is not to be found in the accumulation of material goods.  Riches are fleeting and empty.  We are called instead to “store up treasure in heaven, where neither rust nor moth destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal.”

1.  Our First Reading is Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23:

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Rich Fool (The Mass Readings Explained)

This week's video is now out for The Mass Readings Explained.  You can still register today for a 14 free trial to see if it makes sense for you.

Thanks!

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
So with that background in mind, you can look at the verses again. It basically describes the fact that when a person has worked to acquire wisdom and knowledge and skill, he’s going to leave everything that he acquires on the basis of that skill to someone who didn’t work for it. It says “this also is hebel and a great evil.” 

So he’s talking about the fact that a person can spend their whole life, in our times as in antiquity, accruing wealth and then the second they die, it’s going to go to someone else who didn’t do a thing to earn it. Whether it is that person’s children, or the state, or the government (through taxation or whatever it might be), all of it is left behind. “You can’t take it with you” is the famous proverb there. Now what it’s getting at then is, what’s the point? 


That’s what Ecclesiastes is doing. What’s the point then. If everything that I’ve worked for and all that I possess is going to be left to someone who didn’t do a thing to earn it; then isn’t it just in vain? “What has a man for all the toil and strain that would put you towards beneath the sun? All his days are for the pain and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his mind does not rest.” So if you read the fuller context of Ecclesiastes 2, you’ll see that, in particular, what the book is highlighting is the anxiety that comes with wealth.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Deal on Bible Basics for Catholics

If you use Bible Basics for ministry, now is the time to by copies in bulk.  Ave Maria has a sweet deal on orders of 100 or more.



Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Haggling With God: The 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time




Who has the guts to bargain with the Divinity?  Abraham, the father of the Israelites, does.  In the Readings for this Sunday, we find united several themes: persistence in prayer, the justice and mercy of God, the generosity of God.

1.  Our First Reading is Gn 18:20-32 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Jesus' Teaching on Prayer (The Mass Readings Explained)

The video for The Mass Readings Explained is now out for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Check out an introductory video below and you can subscribe here for access to the entire series.

Thanks!

Catholic Productions' Notable Quote:
The Greek word peirasmos is the same word for trial and temptation. In other words, there is just one Greek word for both those things. And what the Catechism is highlighting here is that the prayer does not mean that God is enticing us to sin, because as the Bible says in James 1: “God tempts no one”. In other words, God doesn’t entice us to sin. 

However, God does permit us to go through trials, not so that we can fall into sin, but that so we can grow in strength. It’s just like professors. A professor gives a student a test — you can translate the word peirasmos as testing — not for them to fail but for them to succeed. However, it is frequently the case that in the midst of a test, temptations can arise. If you’ve ever cheated on tests you know what I’m talking about. 

So the Greek word is ambiguous, but that ambiguity actually reveals a certain truth. It is precisely in the midst of trials that we are often tempted to fall away or to commit a sin. So what the prayer is effectively saying (as the Catechism says here) is we are asking, Lord, do not let us yield to temptation, don’t let us fall into temptation; don’t let us succumb to the temptation that often accompanies time of trial.