Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Matthew 2:1-12 Epiphany of our Lord: The Visitation of the Magi

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod, 
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled, 
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, 
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, 
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly 
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word, 
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, 
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, 
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures 
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, 
they departed for their country by another way.

In this passage we are reminded of Jesus' divine kingship. Here Matthew has crafted the birth narrative to high light Jesus' Davidic heritage  Instead of poor shepherd, he is venerated by wise men from the East and given gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Little is known about these wise men. Tradition names them Balthazar, Melchoir, and Caspar. Above the Church of the Nativity, is a mosaic depicting the three wise men. According to tradition, the reason the Church of the Nativity was spared from destruction by the Persians is because they recognized the wise men as being their ancestors.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Matthew 1:18-25 For unto us a child is born!

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.

Rejoice the Lord is King! In this passage, Matthew depicts the birth of Jesus in a radically different way than Luke. Here, Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem and Jesus is born in a house. This is significant because in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem and Jesus is born in a manger. It is clear that the theological significance of Jesus' origins in Bethlehem is his relationship with the house of David. Bethlehem was the town of David and his family. The birth in Bethlehem links Jesus with the house of David and fulfills Micah 5:2

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.” 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Luke 1:39-45 The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."

In this passage we see the encounter between Mary, the mother of Christ, with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Both miracles reveal the glory of God in that Mary is the Theotokos, and Elizabeth, who was old and barren, was able to give birth. This passage shows the divine relationship between Christ and St. John the Baptist.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Luke 3:10-18: I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
"What should we do?"
He said to them in reply,
"Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise."
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
"Teacher, what should we do?"
He answered them,
"Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."
Soldiers also asked him,
"And what is it that we should do?"
He told them,
"Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages."

 Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
"I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

Today's passage reminds us of the importance of getting ready for the coming of the Messiah. Here, John the Baptist is preparing the way for Christ by baptizing. He baptizes us with water but it is Christ who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. So how are you preparing for the coming of Christ? John the Baptist reminds us that we must share what we have and care for the poor. Faith alone is not enough because a faith divorced from Justice is dead.

Luke 3:1-6: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

This passage connects Jesus' messiahship with the tradition of John the Baptist. Elizabeth was Mary's cousin who gave birth to John the Baptist. His birth was a miracle because Elizabeth was unable to have children.  It is because his role is to prepare the way for Jesus, he is called the forerunner of Christ.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36: Stay Awake! The Kingdom of God is at hand

 Jesus said to his disciples:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man."

This passage is often read in the first week of Advent. Its placement in the Advent readings is appropriate because Advent and Lent mirror each other. The former celebrates the incarnation of the Messiah and the latter celebrates the resurrection, and full realization, of the Messiah.  In this passage, the reader is reminded to stay awake and not fall into the trap of complacency. So often in our spiritual lives we forget and get lazy. This passage is a stark reminder to always be ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is a reminder that the Kingdom of God is here but we also wait for its full fruition.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

John 6:41-51 Jesus is the Bread of Life

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,

"I am the bread that came down from heaven,"
and they said,
"Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
'I have come down from heaven?'"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

In this passage, Jesus establishes the sacrament of the Eucharist by saying: "I am the bread of life."  This text has been used to explain the sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus is the very bead we consume in the mass because Jesus is the primordial sacrament. He is the bread, God's grace made visible in his very person. When we eat the bread, we are participating in the sacrament, remember Jesus' death on the cross, and the incarnation of God to save us from our sins. Jesus is the bread of life. He nourishes us, sustains us, and brings us in communion with God.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mark 9:2-10 Transfiguration of the Lord

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John,
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
"Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice,
"This is my beloved Son. Listen to him."
Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.

In this passage we get a glimpse of Christ' true nature. He is both fully human and fully divine. He is both a servant of God and a member of the Trinity. Jesus is a prophet, a teacher, a sage, a preacher, and the Son of God. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Matthew 13:54-58 Jesus' Brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son'
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas'
Are not his sisters all with us'
Where did this man get all this?"
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house."
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.

In this passage, we see that Jesus is identified as being the carpenter's son (referring to Joseph),  son of Mary,  and brother of James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. So the question is are these people his biological brothers or are they extended family like cousins? For some scholars the answer is simple, they are his biological brothers. Their position is that Mary was a virgin prior to Jesus' birth and then after his birth she gave birth to his brothers and sisters. Other scholars believe that Mary was always a virgin and the term brother refers to cousin.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Matthew 13:47-53 The Kingdom of God is like a Net

Jesus said to the disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
"Do you understand all these things?"
They answered, "Yes."
And he replied,
"Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old."
When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.

In this passage Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom of God will sort those who are good from those who are bad. What this means is the Kingdom of God is the true actualization of Justice, the virtue where one receives their due. This is why we must live righteous lives. We must live for the Kingdom and proclaim the good news of Jesus to all the nations. We are called to love. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Matthew 13:44-46 The Kingdom of God is worth selling everything!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."

In this passage we are reminded that the Kingdom of God is priceless. It is so priceless that when we realize what it is and its true worth, we are willing to disregard our old lives and do everything we can to work for it. The Kingdom of God is so priceless that selling everything to get it represents ending our way of life so we can live a new life in God. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

John 6:1-15 Gospel of John and the Role of Signs

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
"Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
"Two hundred days?' wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.'"
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted."
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

In this passage we see the role of signs in the Gospel of John.  Signs, unlike in the synoptic gospels, are used to bring people to faith. They are signs that point to Jesus' relationship to God and illustrate the new relationship with the Kingdom of God. The symbolism of 5 fish and 2 loaves is that they add up to 7 which represents perfection. 7 represents perfection because it recalls the days of creation. The left over baskets which numbered 12 recall the 12 tribes of Israel. The symbolism here is that in the Kingdom of God, you will be nourished.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Matthew 20:20-28 Sons of Zebedee and the Christian Paradox

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
"What do you wish?"
She answered him,
"Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom."
Jesus said in reply,
"You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?"
They said to him, "We can."
He replied,
"My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father."
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

In this passage we are reminded that prominence in the Kingdom of God is not about glory and power, it is about being humble and serving God's will. Jesus reminds us that it is when were are able to totally surrender themselves to the will of God that they will be great in the kingdom of God. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus' yoke is easy

Jesus said:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

In this passage Jesus reminds us that following him means following the laws of the commandment. In other words when one follows God's divine law, it actually makes life easier. Why is this? When we follow God's call we receive grace. We are given grace to perform these works and it is grace that makes the load easy. It is when we choose to work for ourselves and not God that things become difficult. Therefore, Jesus' yoke is easy. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Matthew 11:25-27 The Mystery of Faith

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

In this passage we see Jesus explaining his relationship with God the Father. He is basically saying that only those who are childlike can encounter God. This is because those who are childlike are free from bias. Those who are childlike are ready to depend on others. So often it is ourselves, specifically our pride that prevents us from knowing God. We believe in ourselves and place no trust in God. It is only in trusting in God that we are able to know God. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Matthew 10:16-23 Insight into the Persecution of the Early Church

Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes."

In this passage we see Jesus foreshadowing the fate of the early Christian community. What likely is happening here is Matthew explaining the suffering of the early Christian community with theological terms. It is likely the early Christians were expelled from the synagogues and conflicts among Christians and their Jewish neighbours were increasing. Family members were turning on family members and Matthew is trying to interpret its meaning theologically. Matthew highlights the Father and Spirit's role in our suffering and explains that grace is given to those who are working for the Kingdom of God. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Matthew 9:18-26 Miracles need faith to work

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,
knelt down before him, and said,
"My daughter has just died.
But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him
and touched the tassel on his cloak.
She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,
"Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you."
And from that hour the woman was cured.
When Jesus arrived at the official's house
and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion,
he said, "Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping."
And they ridiculed him.
When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand,
and the little girl arose.
And news of this spread throughout all that land.

In this passage we see Jesus healing both the hemorrhaging woman and the official daughters. In the first case, the hemorrhaging woman is cured by her faith. She tries her very best to touch his cloak and Jesus recognizes this effort and cures her. It is really important to note it is her faith that saves her. Without faith the miracle would not work. In the second case it is the faith of the official that allows the cure to take place. These stories both show the importance of faith in the working of Jesus' miracles in the synoptic gospels. They also show the historical Jesus was known for healing and that people would regularly approach him for healing.