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July 1, 2020
Our first reading for this weekend is derived from the ninth chapter of the book of the prophet Zechariah, one of the twelve so-called minor prophets of the Old Testament. The background for the prophecy contained here is that Israel saw itself as the specially chosen people of God, whose mission was to bring the light of the Lord to all the nations of the world. At the time of David, this ambition seemed more realistic, but things fell rather quickly apart. And yet, oddly, they continued to hope. God would cause Israel to fulfill its destiny, precisely by raising up a king like David.
June 24, 2020
Our first reading for this weekend is taken from the marvelous second book of Kings, and it deals with the prophet Elisha, who was the chosen successor of the prophet Elijah. The narrative is, on one level, very simple and charming, but it also presents a kind of icon of the relationship between priests and their people.
June 17, 2020
Today I have the special pleasure of preaching on a passage from the prophet Jeremiah, someone that we hear from relatively rarely throughout the liturgical year. Along with Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, Jeremiah is one of the so-called major prophets of Israel. This means not only that he was a great and influential figure but also that he wrote (or at least inspired) a book of some weight and importance. What was the theme of Jeremiah’s preaching and prophesying? It was terrible—which is one reason why he was known as “terror on every side.”
June 10, 2020
This is the first celebration of Corpus Christi—the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ—after the Pew Forum study showing that 70% of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Vatican II said that the Eucharist is the source and the summit of the Christian life—so it is clear that something has gone seriously wrong. Therefore, it is with renewed interest and focus that we should look to the readings for today’s feast.
June 3, 2020
Today we come to the wonderful Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Trinity: the strangest and most distinctive of all of the doctrines of Christianity; the preacher’s nightmare; the ultimate Rubik’s cube of theology. The Trinity has been characterized in a number of ways—some good, some bad—and we invoke it every single time we make the sign of the cross. Yet most of us live our practical spiritual lives as if the Trinity didn’t matter at all. So what are we to make of it? The Church sets this up by giving us some interesting readings for today.
May 27, 2020
On this great feast of Pentecost, I would like to say “happy birthday” to every Catholic listening to me, for we hold, in our traditional theology, that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. It would behoove us on this our birthday to reflect on the nature of the Church. In the Creed, which we recite every Sunday, we find the familiar phrase, “We believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.” All four of these marks can be seen from the beginning, at that first Pentecost, because all four are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
May 20, 2020
We come today to the great Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, which sheds so much light on who we are as Christians and what we are supposed to be about as a Church. I want to focus on the Ascension from two perspectives: the “political” and the liturgical. Both are very important to understand what it means to speak of the Ascension of Jesus.
May 13, 2020
For this sixth Sunday of Easter, I would like to continue with the first letter of St. Peter, which is our second reading for this weekend. Peter says, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” In many ways, this is the master text for theologians and apologists up and down the centuries to the present day. Something that is distinctive to biblical Christianity is that, from the beginning, it has been very interested in doctrine and expressing doctrine clearly and articulately.
May 6, 2020
For this fifth Sunday of the Easter season, I should like to return to our consideration of the Acts of the Apostles. Our passage for today is taken from the beginning of the sixth chapter of Acts, and it concerns the Church—its growth, its unity, and its structure—in a way that is compelling for our time.
April 29, 2020
For this fourth Sunday of Easter, I would like to concentrate on our second reading, which is from the first letter of Peter, a beautiful text that we consult only rarely in the course of the liturgical calendar. It seems eminently clear from the totality of this letter that it was written to a suffering, probably persecuted, Church. Therefore, how to deal with adversity, negativity, even the threat of death was an existential concern of this community. Peter gives his readers an extraordinary and deeply Christian principle: “Beloved, if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.”
April 21, 2020
It is my privilege this third Sunday of Easter to preach on one of the most magnificent texts in the New Testament, a masterpiece within the masterpiece: the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I would like to offer a somewhat novel interpretation, one that takes its inspiration from the style of the Church Fathers and draws a correlation between this narrative with the third chapter of Genesis.
April 15, 2020
All throughout the Easter season, we will read at Mass from the wonderful Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke’s description of the adventures, challenges, and achievements of the early Christian community. His purpose is to show what “Apostles,” people sent by the risen Jesus, were doing. This is why it is so important that we, their distant spiritual descendants, should pay close attention. Our passage for today is from the second chapter of Luke’s work. We hear this pithy account: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” I have written before of Joseph Ratzinger’s characterization of the three basic tasks of the Church, and they are on evidence here.
April 8, 2020
Easter Sunday represents God’s great yes to humanity. Throughout history, humanity has turned its back on God, but the Lord has constantly sent rescue operations to bring us back into community with him. The Resurrection of Christ is the definitive rescue operation and is our great hope for salvation.
April 1, 2020
On Palm Sunday, we are privileged to listen to one of the great Passion narratives. In Matthew’s account, we see Jesus as a still-point in the maelstrom, as God’s fidelity amidst a cacophony of sin. In the course of the Passion, Jesus confronts betrayal, laziness, violence, untruth, abuse of power, self-destruction, and wanton cruelty—the whole panoply of human dysfunction. And he takes away this sin precisely by his obedience and his mercy.
March 25, 2020
The great Lenten readings for Cycle A move in a kind of crescendo from thirst, to blindness, to death—all metaphors for spiritual dysfunction. This Sunday’s Gospel deals with death through the story of Lazarus who, after four days in his tomb, represents someone who is totally sunk in sin, totally dead spiritually. The voice of Jesus calls Lazarus, and all of us, back to life—no matter what we've done, and no matter how dead we are.
March 18, 2020
Our first reading for this weekend gives us a glimpse of one of the most powerful texts in the Bible—indeed, one of the truly great literary works that has come down to us from the ancient world. I’m talking about the story that we refer to as first and second Samuel. At the heart of this narrative—rich in theology, psychology, history, politics, human relationships—is the figure of David, who along with Abraham and Moses is one of the most important characters in the Old Testament. And as we look at this passage and meditate upon his story, a number of very important Lenten spiritual themes emerge.
March 11, 2020
Our first reading for today is the famous quarreling of Israel by the waters of Meribah in the book of Exodus. We find the chosen people in the midst of the desert—which is to say, in the process of conversion, on the way from the slavery of sin to the freedom of God. But all conversion takes time; those on the way always tend to look back. And so we hear: “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?” Here in the very middle of Lent—our own season of conversion—are we finding it hard, annoying, frustrating? Would we rather go back? Probably. But this is the decisive moment: Do we head back to Egypt, to slavery? Or do we trust that the Lord is guiding us?
March 4, 2020
Last week, we looked at the familiar material from the third chapter of Genesis. God’s human creatures fell, precisely in the measure that they stopped listening to the voice of God and listened to the voices of the tempter and their own desires. This week, in chapter twelve, we see the beginning of God’s great rescue operation. And just as the trouble began when God’s human creatures refused to listen to the divine command, the solution began when one human being—a kind of new Adam—listened.
February 26, 2020
We enter once more into the very holy season of Lent: a time of preparation; a desert time; a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; a time to return to the basics. And so how wonderful that the Church gives us, for this first Sunday of Lent, a passage from the very beginning of the Bible, a story of universal and enduring significance. We hear of the creation and fall of mankind. But we will not properly understand this epic tale until we see that it has to do with us.
February 19, 2020
As we continue our focus on the Old Testament texts, we turn this week to the nineteenth chapter of the book of Leviticus. As the name suggests, the book has a good deal to do with the Levites, who were the priests of ancient Israel. Accordingly, there is much talk of ritual, sacrifice, taboo, the clean and the unclean, etc. In a word, the book of Leviticus was laying out the practices by which Israel set itself apart from the other nations. But the holiness of Israel was only a function of the supreme holiness of the God of Israel. Israel was meant to be different, because God is different.
February 12, 2020
Our first reading for this weekend is taken from a book that we don’t consult that frequently in the course of the liturgical year—namely, the book of Sirach. It is presented as a series of sayings of Jeshua ben Sira, a wise Jewish elder. Our reading is taken from the fifteenth chapter of Sirach, and it has to do with the awful fact of our freedom.
February 5, 2020
I would like to concentrate on the marvelous passage from the chapter 58 of the prophet Isaiah, which is our first reading for this weekend. This final section of Isaiah was written, the scholars tell us, after the return of the captives from Babylon, when Israel was trying once again to find its way. And so we find some very practical spiritual advice about engaging in concrete acts of love.
January 29, 2020
There is a tendency, I’m afraid, to flatten out and sentimentalize the meaning of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. We see it as just a charming tale of a little child being entrusted to the protection of God at the beginning of his life. But there is more going on here—a lot more. To understand it, the Church gives us the somewhat enigmatic reading from the book of the prophet Malachi.
January 22, 2020
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah and our Gospel are tightly linked, for St. Matthew, in articulating the meaning of Jesus, cites (as is his wont) an Old Testament text—namely, our reading from the eighth and ninth chapters of Isaiah. The prophet speaks of conflict in the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, and then of a great light that shines in that area, signaling the victory of God.
January 15, 2020
The entirety of this Sunday’s second reading might be seen as so much boilerplate, throwaway lines that a writer used at the commencement of his letter, something like a formal salutation. But in point of fact, almost the whole of Christianity is contained in these lines, if we have but the eyes to see. So take out your Bibles today and revisit the beginning of 1 Corinthians. It will tell you pretty much everything essential that you need to know about yourself and your mission.
January 8, 2020
The first sacrament one can receive in the Church, Baptism, defines our relationship with Christ. In it, we are reborn as part of his Mystical Body and gifted with the grace of God’s love. Baptism lays the foundation for every other sacrament we are to receive and inextricably links us with the Trinity.
January 3, 2020
Today’s readings for Epiphany speak of a light that shines on Israel, the chosen people, but that is meant for the whole world, a light that is a beacon summoning all the nations. And that Light is Jesus Christ himself. As the prophets predicted, this Light is the illumination of all the world, the Light to whom all seekers are destined to come.
December 25, 2019
The point of our Gospel for Homily Family Sunday is to make us see a contrast between Herod, the perfect type of the anti-family man, and Joseph, the selfless protector of Mary of Jesus. Herod’s whole existence was conditioned by and predicated upon what was good for Herod; Joseph’s whole existence and behavior are conditioned by obedience to the Word of God. Herod is out for Herod; Joseph has transcended his own ego. And this makes all the difference!
December 18, 2019
The Bible turns upside-down the way we think about the God-human relationship. In almost every other religion or philosophy, God or the gods are the powerful forces who have to be supplicated, begged, and prayed to in order for human beings to get what they want. But the Bible presents an entirely different picture. As I have often said, the Bible is not the story of our quest for God; it is the story of God’s quest for us. Both the first reading and the Gospel for this fourth Sunday of Advent make this subversion evident.
December 11, 2019
On this third Sunday of Advent, we hear for the first time this season of the great figure of John the Baptist. It’s not really possible to understand Jesus apart from his precursor. All four Gospels compel us to come to grips with John. His job is always the same: he points to Jesus. If we’re staring at John, we’re missing the point. Well, in our Gospel for today, John indicates the Lord in a most distinctive manner.
December 4, 2019
Last week, I spoke of preparing for the coming of the Lord using the great image from the second chapter of Isaiah: the Lord’s holy mountain. How do we make this mountain the highest mountain? On this second Sunday of Advent, I want to follow the Church as she invites us to look at another chapter of Isaiah—namely, the magnificent eleventh chapter, which describes the world that emerges at the coming of the Messiah.
November 27, 2019
We come once again to Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year and the great season of waiting. Christian life has a permanent Advent quality, for we are always expecting the coming of the Lord. Now, Jesus came, he will definitively come, and he is coming even now—for the risen Lord wants to take up residence in us today. So Advent is, perhaps most immediately, a preparation for that coming; we are getting ourselves ready to receive the Christ who wants, even now, to be born in us. Well, how do we do this? Our readings for this first Sunday of Advent give us some wonderful instruction.
November 20, 2019
It is extraordinarily significant that the liturgical year ends with the feast of Christ the King. For this great fact—that Jesus Christ is the king of the world—is indeed the culmination of the biblical revelation. It is, in a very real sense, the point of the whole story the Bible is telling.
November 13, 2019
I’m pretty sure that in thirty years of priesthood, I’ve never preached on this Sunday’s short second reading from Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians. And what a little gem it is! Isn’t it fascinating that St. Paul, precisely in the context of a letter to his church on spiritual matters, endeavors to speak of work? When we do authentic work—of whatever kind—we participate in God’s ongoing creation and providence. Don’t follow the instinct to secularize work; rather, see your daily labor, however humble, as part of God’s plan to bring you to joy.
November 6, 2019
The story conveyed in our first reading from the second book of Maccabees is one that resonates up and down the ages, that still stirs our hearts today. It’s the story of a martyr’s death. We can talk about heaven, we can speculate about it, we can write learned treatises about it, and we can hope for it. But up and down the centuries, it is the martyrs—from the ancient Maccabees to the Christians slain by ISIS—that most vividly witness to the promise of heaven. They literally bet their lives on it.
October 30, 2019
In Luke’s Gospel we read the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus, as chief tax collector, was considered a very bad man in first-century Israel, but Christ greets him with love. It is the love of God that causes everything to be, and comes before everything we do. God does not love us because we do good; we do good because God loves us.
October 23, 2019
Our gorgeous and deeply moving second reading this week is taken from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. I wonder whether I might invite especially the elders among us to attend carefully to this letter. It is the letter of an old man at the end of his life’s work, passing advice and authority on to his younger colleague. As he often does, Paul makes a comparison to sporting events. There is something at stake in the Christian life, something worth striving for. It is like a great race, in which we strive to win. We are meant to make it to the goal line—and perhaps the last miles will be the hardest.
October 16, 2019
The Bible and the great Tradition are massively interested in prayer, especially the prayer of petition. There are many types of prayer—meditation, contemplation, adoration, etc.—but the most basic and most practiced form of prayer is the prayer of petition, of asking God for something. Studies have shown that everyone prays, that even professed nonbelievers pray. It seems to be born of a profound instinct in the human heart. We ask God for things; we beg; we implore; we desire; we long. But what precisely is petitionary prayer, and how does it work? Our first reading and Gospel for this weekend shed a good deal of light on this issue.
October 9, 2019
I have always loved the story of Naaman the Syrian, which is found in the second book of Kings, as part of the Elisha cycle of readings. It is, on the surface at least, a very simple narrative, but it packs a punch spiritually speaking.
October 2, 2019
Last week, I plunged for the second time into the world of the Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). I can’t tell you how many participants in the AMA posed some version of this question: How could an all-loving God possibly countenance so much violence, suffering, and pain? Most questioners turned up the heat by putting special emphasis on the suffering of children and of the innocent. Every single major theologian has wrestled with the issue, as well as many of our most important artists. And our first reading clearly indicates that people in biblical times wrestled with the very same issue.
September 25, 2019
When the conclave of 2013 was finishing up, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope, Cardinal Hummes of Brazil came up to him and whispered into his ear: “Don't forget the poor.” In emphasizing “a poor Church for the poor,” Pope Francis is continuing an ancient and powerful tradition that stretches right back to the Bible, including our first reading and Gospel for today.
September 18, 2019
Our first and second readings for this weekend beautifully sum up the Church’s classical attitude toward those in power. I’ve long argued that the most influential philosopher of the nineteenth century was Friedrich Nietzsche. For this very influential and quirky German thinker, power is the fundamental reality—a perspective that has found its way into our cultural consciousness. But the Bible is not in sympathy with either the demonization of, or the exclusive holding up of, power.
September 11, 2019
Our Gospel for today gives us three classic parables, each one exploring the notion that is at the very heart of the spiritual life—namely, that God is the one who searches for us. Why would God fret over one little soul? Why would he bother? Well, it’s his nature. It’s what he does. More to it, as we see in the coin, the sheep, and the son, recovering a lost soul is what he rejoices in doing.
September 4, 2019
Our Gospel for today is breathtaking, first for what it says about Jesus and second for what it says about us. Jesus compels a choice the way no other figure does. Either he is who he says he is, or he is a bad man. The bland middle way that he is a great teacher simply won’t do. In the presence of the one who makes such an extraordinary claim, we have to make a decision.
August 28, 2019
It was a particular joy for me to visit the sites associated with St. Ignatius of Loyola on a recent film trip. But the most moving locale was a little church in Manresa built around the cave where the young Ignatius spent about nine months preparing himself spiritually for his life’s work. What he learned at Manresa is that our attachments to various created goods—money, power, pleasure, and honor—stand in the way of our responding to God’s will for us.
August 21, 2019
The topic of the Gospel for today—the question of how many will be saved—stirs up such passionate feelings in people, and there is such enormous disagreement about it. Luke tells us that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and someone asks, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” And the answer comes back, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” But before we extrapolate from this exchange and consider the issue very generally, I would like to examine the historical setting of the conversation, which sheds a lot of light on what is really at stake.
August 14, 2019
Our readings for today develop a theme that is uncomfortable. Authentically religious people, authentically spiritual people, will almost always be opposed. The logic behind this is simple and unanswerable: we live in a world gone wrong, a world turned upside down; therefore, when someone comes speaking the truth to us, we will think that they are crazy and dangerous. Jesus’ word is meant to burn things up, to reduce things to cinders, to clear things out. A get-along attitude is never what Jesus is calling for. I know that we are uneasy with this idea, but the Bible isn’t. To love is to will the good of the other. Therefore, to love necessarily involves passionate opposition to what works evil in the other. Love destroys the false forms of order and community in order for the true community to emerge.
August 14, 2019
Our readings for today develop a theme that is uncomfortable. Authentically religious people, authentically spiritual people, will almost always be opposed. The logic behind this is simple and unanswerable: we live in a world gone wrong, a world turned upside down; therefore, when someone comes speaking the truth to us, we will think that they are crazy and dangerous. Jesus’ word is meant to burn things up, to reduce things to cinders, to clear things out. A get-along attitude is never what Jesus is calling for. I know that we are uneasy with this idea, but the Bible isn’t. To love is to will the good of the other. Therefore, to love necessarily involves passionate opposition to what works evil in the other. Love destroys the false forms of order and community in order for the true community to emerge.
August 7, 2019
The Jungian psychologist Jordan Peterson is, in many ways, an early twenty-first century version of Joseph Campbell, and perhaps the central archetype that they both explored is that of the hero’s journey. As both Campbell and Peterson have recognized, the Bible is a treasure trove of hero’s journey stories. But what makes the biblical accounts so distinctive is that God is the one who is drawing and prompting the journey; in fact, the Bible tells the story of God’s own hero’s journey!
July 31, 2019
The readings for this weekend have a tremendous cohesiveness. They all speak to a truth about our world that is hard to take in, that has to be repeated to each generation afresh, a truth that many older people have an easier time understanding than young people: nothing in this world lasts.
July 24, 2019
The Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, is a request for Christ. As we examine this most famous prayer line by line, we see it's all about Jesus. That He might come and have communion with us is precisely what we hope for when we cry out to "our Abba who art in heaven."
July 17, 2019
Although the little story of Martha and Mary has been interpreted throughout the centuries as a parable dealing with the “active” and “contemplative” approach to the spiritual life, it can be read as Christ's invitation to all people to partake in his inner circle of discipleship. Christ overturned the social conventions of his time by summoning all people to discipleship. Thus, we must remove all barriers to discipleship for all people.
July 10, 2019
During the twentieth century, moral relativism was in vogue in elite cultural circles, but now it is the dominant moral outlook of the broader culture. Against this, C.S. Lewis argued for “the universality and inescapability of the moral law.” Although there are subtle moral differences between cultures, if we look close enough, we can discern fundamental moral agreements. The Catholic tradition says that this moral bedrock is a reflection of the Eternal Law in the mind of God. It is the voice of God within us. Listen to that voice.
July 3, 2019
St. Paul tells us in our second reading that he boasts in the cross of Jesus. To any of his hearers in the first century this would have sounded like madness. Paul can boast in this shameful thing precisely because God has raised Jesus from death and thereby placed the world-the realm of hatred, violence, and division-under judgment. Now we must have the courage to leave the world and enter into the new creation which is the body of Christ.
June 26, 2019
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus clarifies that all worldly goods find their value in relation to Him. If we believe Jesus is the only Son of God, we must place our grudges, personal desires, and even our most sacred worldly obligations aside in order to walk truly and completely with Him.
June 19, 2019
The Church comes from the Eucharist for it is the sacrifice that makes saints. The Eucharist is essentially the fullest act of gratitude prefigured in Melchizedek finding its fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ. Every Mass is a participation in and celebration of this sacrifice, but the feast of Corpus Christi is a time to be especially aware of the gift of the Eucharist.
June 14, 2019
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The Nicene Creed articulates the mystery of the Trinity with the wonderful phrase "begotten not made," meaning that the Son is not a creature but rather shares in the selfsame nature as the Father. The Holy Spirit is then the life-giving love breathed out between the Father and the Son.
June 14, 2019
Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, one of the truly great moments in the life of the Church. The Holy Spirit comes to give many spiritual gifts, which prepare us to enter into relationship with Christ and embark on mission.
June 14, 2019
Too often we read the Ascension as the moment when Jesus “went away,” when he left us on our own and went off to heaven, where we hope some day to join him. But the Ascension is not Jesus going away; it is Jesus assuming his position as leader of the Church’s life.
May 29, 2019
On this seventh and final Sunday of the Easter season, I want to bring to a close my meditation on the extraordinary book of Revelation. With the disclosure of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Biblical narrative effectively comes to a close—and that’s true. But what we find today, in the very last words of the entire Scriptural corpus, is a kind of liturgical coda, a final prayer, a call and response between the Lord and his Church.
May 22, 2019
On this sixth Sunday of Easter, we are coming to the end of the book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible. We are approaching, in a word, the climax of the Biblical revelation, the point toward which the entire story had been tending. And we hear of the heavenly Jerusalem, a city with no temple—for the city itself, in its entirety, has become a temple, a place of right praise.
May 15, 2019
We are coming now toward the end of the book of Revelation, which means toward the end of the entire Biblical story. Writers will often draw the beginning and end of their work together; somehow the end is anticipated in the beginning, and the beginning is recapitulated at the end. There is something like that going on in the Bible. God has no intention of giving up on his creation or simply destroying it. The divorce that happened in the garden of Eden is overcome; and now the bride is ready for the Bridegroom.
May 8, 2019
The book of Revelation is an unveiling of a new state of affairs, the new things that are on offer in light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Though it looks like worldly power holds sway, real power belongs to the army of those who have chosen to follow the crucified and risen Savior. The martyrs have come from all corners of the world, and they have spoken many languages. And this is the army that, up and down the centuries, has undermined the foundations of the fallen world. This is the great fighting force that Jesus has unleashed and continues to unleash.
May 1, 2019
In today’s reading from Revelation, John is in the heavenly court and he sees angels, elders, and living creatures, countless in number, all standing around the throne and crying out in loud praise. This is a supreme liturgical act, an act of right praise. And whom are they worshiping? Not a mighty prince, not a great warrior, not a cosmic force, but a lamb, one of the meekest and tiniest of animals, who has been slain—Jesus Christ. The Church saw this evening sacrifice as the perfect act of praise—and now the cosmic Church is gathered around it and associating itself with it.
April 24, 2019
The Church has placed the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible, as the culmination of the entire Biblical narrative—precisely because it has relevance for all Christians of anytime, very much including ourselves. Something of central importance is revealed in this book. Something that was hidden to us and is now unveiled. And it has everything to do with Jesus and his resurrection from the dead—which is why we are reading from this book during the Easter season.
April 19, 2019
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation of the entire Christian faith. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we should all go home and forget about it. As St. Paul himself puts it: “If Jesus is not raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and we are the most pitiable of men.” But Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead. And his resurrection shows that Christ can gather back to the Father everyone whom he has embraced through his suffering love.
April 11, 2019
In our Gospel reading for the Palm Sunday procession, Jesus sends his disciples into Jerusalem to prepare for his triumphal entry. They are told to untether a donkey, and if there is any protest from the owner, they are to say simply, “The Master has need of it.” Strictly speaking, God has need of nothing, since he is the unconditioned act of existence. God doesn’t need our praise or our good works or anything. But this phrase signals the wonderful truth that God allows us to cooperate with his grace so that we can participate in the work that he wants to do. He gives us what Aquinas called “the dignity of causality.” We are privileged to be instruments in his hands.
April 3, 2019
In this week's Gospel, we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery, a tale that has beguiled Christians and non-Christians for two millennia. The story displays our constant temptation to use knowledge of God’s law to hurt others, not to liberate them. We gossip, we scapegoat, we blame—and we convince ourselves that we’re just following the divine law in pointing out other people’s problems. But then enters Jesus, who affirms that the law's primary purpose is to make us humble, to draw us to higher attainment. Without denigrating the law in the least, Jesus reaches out in mercy in order to brings sinners back to life.
March 27, 2019
One the greatest Protestant theologians of the twentieth century, Paul Tillich, made a distinction between heteronomy (law from another), autonomy (law from oneself), and what he called “theonomy” (law of God). This week, we have the privilege to consider what is arguably the most magnificent and spiritually rich of Jesus’ parables—the story of the Prodigal Son—and in this familiar story, you’ll see the dynamics of these three approaches on clear display.
March 13, 2019
The readings for this second Sunday of Lent awaken a sense of wonder, of a world beyond ours, a mystical consciousness. In the first reading with Abraham and in the Gospel account of the Transfiguration, we encounter mountains, darkness, voices, and dazzling light, all of which signal the breakthrough of a higher world.
March 6, 2019
Lent is a time of paring down—a time spent in the desert, if you will—as exemplified by Jesus’ forty days of fasting in these arid, barren lands. He was tempted three times by Satan, and rejected each attempt, giving glory to God at every turn. This is the lesson for us: that we make God the center of our lives and not test him. We are here to do his will, which is clarified through our own Lenten sacrifices.
February 27, 2019
Our Gospel for this weekend comes from the end of the Sermon on the Plain, which is St. Luke’s version, more or less, of the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s account. Jesus has been operating as the definitive spiritual teacher here, and at the end of his address, he has some strong things to say about false spiritual teachers. Every spiritual teacher and guru is eager to tell you what’s wrong with you. But unless they’ve surrendered to Christ and found salvation in him themselves, they are absolutely in no position to help you.
February 20, 2019
The philosopher Jacques Derrida reflected on what he called the aporia or dilemma of the gift. The upshot seems to be that it is virtually impossible truly to give a gift, for gift-giving always locks us into an economy of exchange and obligation. But there is one great exception to the Derridean dilemma, and that is the Lord God. Jesus’ recommendations in the magnificent Gospel for today are not for the natural person, but the supernatural person, who loves with the very love of God.
February 13, 2019
I would like to focus on the brief but extremely powerful passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, which is our first reading for this weekend. It is taken from the seventeenth chapter of the prophet’s book, and the context is a fierce upbraiding that Jeremiah is giving for the idolatry of the people. What we have here is the pithy formula, the simple program, that ought to govern our spiritual lives at the most fundamental level.
February 6, 2019
There is a wonderful parallel between our first reading and the Gospel this week. The first reading is taken from the sixth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, and it has to do with the call of Isaiah; and the Gospel is from the fifth chapter of Luke, and it deals with the call of the first disciples of Jesus. Both stories, in remarkably similar ways, lay out the essential dynamics of the spiritual life.
January 30, 2019
This week we hear from St. Paul’s brilliant meditation on love. Everything in religion and theology revolves around love. It is at the heart of everything. Nothing matters without love, because God is love. Putting love at the center is the best way to organize and prioritize our entire lives.
January 24, 2019
The dramatic scene presented in the Book of Nehemiah presents a people who had forgotten their identity and learned, as if for the first time, who they really are. It is the mission of all those who remain invested in the faith of the Church to give testimony to their brothers and sisters in Christ, reminding all that in Christ, we have received a unique and wonderful identity—and it is only when we know who we are that will be able to find our purpose and accomplish the mission that Christ has given to us.
January 16, 2019
The communion of humanity and divinity in Christ’s divine person can be likened to a marriage. Sin effects a kind of divorce between God and humanity, a break up of the marriage of God and his people. How wonderful, therefore, when the Messiah offers the first sign of his identity and mission at a wedding. This is an indication that the relationship of God and humanity will be transformed, reconciled, and renewed in Jesus Christ.
January 9, 2019
The first sacrament one can receive in the Church, Baptism, defines our relationship with Christ. In it, we are reborn as part of his Mystical Body and gifted with the grace of God’s love. Baptism lays the foundation for every other sacrament we are to receive and inextricably links us with the Trinity.
January 2, 2019
Our modern culture suggests a tension between spirituality and religion. But the Magi in today’s Gospel demonstrate that when spirituality is lifted up by revelation—when the Magi are told by the religious leaders where the Messiah is to be born—we find the object of our spiritual longing.
December 26, 2018
Lots of people today will tell you what makes a family well-adjusted, functional, and peaceful. But in this week’s readings for the Feast of the Holy Family, which center on two exemplary women, Hannah and Mary, the Church wants to tell us what makes a family holy.
December 19, 2018
The New Testament authors consistently reached to the Old Testament for their categories of understanding. Hence, Jesus is the Torah in person; the new and definitive Temple; the prophet par excellence; the fulfillment of the covenant; etc. But one of the most important of these Old Testament points of reference is the Mashiach, the anointed one, the Messiah—which is to say, the new David.
December 12, 2018
Like most of the prophets, Zephaniah trades in a fair amount of doom and gloom—but he also dreams of the great day of victory and vindication. The Apostle Paul—the former rabbi Shaul, who had studied the prophets and their works under the great teacher Gamaliel—came to see that in the Paschal Mystery, in the dying and rising of Jesus, the totality of Zephaniah’s message was realized. The destruction that Zephaniah and the others foresaw came massively true in the destruction of Christ’s body on the cross. However, having gone all the way down, God in Christ brought the human race all the way up. Therefore, rejoice!
December 5, 2018
In our Gospel for today, Luke invokes the most significant cultural and political players of that time and place; but then, just as he did in the Christmas story, he pulls the rug out from under us. The word of God, the definitive guide to life, came not to one of the major players in their palaces, but to this isolated oddball, this mad prophet wearing animal skins and eating locusts. And this oddball prophet, who speaks the word of God, is ushering in a whole new way of ordering one’s life.
November 28, 2018
This Sunday is New Year’s Day, in the liturgical sense of the term. With the first Sunday of Advent, we commence the liturgical year of 2019. And New Year’s day is always a good time for resolutions, taking stock, starting over again. I want to interpret our Gospel for this Sunday, which portrays Jesus is full apocalyptic mode, in that spirit.
November 21, 2018
The liturgical year ends with the feast of Christ the King. This day reminds us what the Christian thing is all about: that Jesus really is the king, the Lord of our lives; that we belong utterly to him; and that we can say, with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”
November 15, 2018
Our first reading for this weekend is from the utterly fascinating book of Daniel. Daniel is an example of apocalyptic literature, and apocalyptic books reveal something of decisive significance. We see that significance when Jesus comes preaching the kingdom of God, by which he was taken to be announcing the fulfillment of the Daniel prophecy. This is the apocalypse, the great unveiling: a new kingdom has come, a dominion that will last forever.
November 7, 2018
Today’s Scriptures highlight two widows and two very important biblical principles: God reveals himself precisely at that moment of our greatest vulnerability and need, and the grace in your life will increase in the measure that you give it away.
October 31, 2018
Our first reading for Mass this week contains the defining prayer of the Jewish tradition: the “Sh’ma.” In the Gospel, when asked which commandment is the greatest, Jesus, a pious Jew, recites this prayer from the book of Deuteronomy. We Christians too claim—or better, are claimed by—this great prayer. But what does it mean?
October 24, 2018
Our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah treats of a theme that is basic throughout the Bible: the motif of the return from exile. Like two great hinges on which the Old Testament turns are the stories of Exodus and Exile. Israel finds itself enslaved in Egypt, but God liberates the people; later, the northern tribes are carried off by the Assyrians; and later still, the southern tribes are carried off by the Babylonians. But exile was also a kind of spiritual metaphor, a trope for having wandered far from the Lord.
October 17, 2018
Friends, all three readings for this weekend center around a theme that was very familiar to the ancient audiences who first took them in but that is rather alien to us. I’m talking about the theme of substitutionary sacrifice. A very basic problem that we have when we seek to understand this idea is that we are marked, through and through, by a strong individualism: everyone acts and speaks for himself and takes responsibility for his own actions. But ancient people lived within a far more collective or corporate consciousness.
October 10, 2018
The first reading for this weekend and the Gospel, which are meant to be read in tandem, are very good examples of what I’ve called principles of spiritual physics. They lay out some ideas and relationships that are fundamental to the spiritual order—laws, if you will. And both readings have a good deal to say about riches.
October 3, 2018
Our first reading for this weekend is of pivotal significance in the Bible, for it lays out some of the fundamentals of human anthropology and the Christian vision of marriage. It behooves us to take a careful and attentive walk through this brief but highly significant passage from the second chapter of the book of Genesis.
September 26, 2018
Our first reading from the Book of Numbers and the Gospel reading from Mark both highlight a very interesting spiritual predicament, one that is presented numerous times throughout the Bible. It might be summed up as the inclination for members of the Church to subvert the mission of the Church because of their own ego-driven desires and preoccupations.
September 26, 2018
One of the most important doctrines of the Church is the doctrine of original sin, which asserts that something it off with us. We see the effects of it everywhere, and we also see many attempts to solve the problem of sin on our own. The only way to be healed, however, is to give ourselves over to Jesus, like the little child in today’s Gospel reading.
September 12, 2018
Today's second reading from the letter of James discusses the relationship between faith and love. We need a strong faith, but faith without love is lifeless so we must respond to grace and faith with acts of love.
September 5, 2018
In this week's Gospel, Jesus heals a man who is deaf and dumb. When we read this account at the spiritual level, we see that he cures those who are deaf to the Word of God and hence unable to speak it clearly. How relevant this message is to our own time!
August 29, 2018
All of today's readings pertain to law. We Americans are a fairly litigious society. Lawyers are thick on the ground and many of our Founding Fathers were students of law. We have a kind of love-hate relationship with the law, like most people in history. Today's readings offer a key lesson: whenever we reverence something, we surround it with laws. Laws protect the integrity of good things. And for the saints, the law of God is planted within their hearts.
August 15, 2018
Today's first reading personifies Wisdom as a woman who invites people to a feast, lavishly offering food and wine. In today's Psalm, we echo that invitation: "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord." But to join the banquet of the Lord, we need to turn away from other food. We spend our whole lives eating from troughs that never satisfy our hunger - wealth, power, pleasure, honor. But in John 6, which is today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to feed on himself, Wisdom incarnate, the only food that will ultimately fulfill our hunger.  Mass Readings  Reading 1 - Proverbs 9:1-6 Psalm - Psalm 34:2-7 Reading 2 - Ephesians 5:15-20 Gospel - John 6:51-58
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