Archive for the ‘Sunday Reflections’ Category

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: February 15, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

Affair of the Heart: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Sirach 15:15–20
Psalm 119:1–2, 4–5, 17–18, 33–34
1 Corinthians 2:6–10
Matthew 5:17–37

Jesus tells us in the Gospel this week that He has come not to abolish but to “fulfill” the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.

His Gospel reveals the deeper meaning and purpose of the Ten Commandments and the moral Law of the Old Testament. But His Gospel also transcends the Law. He demands a morality far greater than that accomplished by the most pious of Jews, the scribes and Pharisees.
Outward observance of the Law is not enough. It is not enough that we do not murder, commit adultery, divorce, or lie.

The law of the new covenant is a law that God writes on the heart (see Jeremiah 31:31–34). The heart is the seat of our motivations, the place from which our words and actions proceed (see Matthew 6:21; 15:18–20).

Jesus this week calls us to train our hearts, to master our passions and emotions. And Jesus demands the full obedience of our hearts (see Romans 6:17). He calls us to love God with all our hearts, and to do His will from the heart (see Matthew 22:37; Ephesians 6:6).

God never asks more of us than we are capable of. That is the message of this week’s First Reading. It is up to us to choose life over death, to choose the waters of eternal life over the fires of ungodliness and sin.
By His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has shown us that it is possible to keep His commandments. In Baptism, He has given us His Spirit that His law might be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4).

The wisdom of the Gospel surpasses all the wisdom of this age that is passing away, St. Paul tells us in the Epistle. The revelation of this wisdom fulfills God’s plan from before all ages.

Let us trust in this wisdom, and live by His kingdom law.
As we do in this week’s Psalm, let us pray that we grow in being better able to live His Gospel, and to seek the Father with all our heart.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: February 8, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

Light Breaking Forth: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings

Isaiah 58:7–10
Psalm 112:4–9
1 Corinthians 2:1–5
Matthew 5:13–16

Jesus came among us as light to scatter the darkness of a fallen world.
As His disciples, we too are called to be “the light of the world,” He tells us in the Gospel this Sunday (see John 1:4–4, 9; 8:12; 9:5).

All three images that Jesus uses to describe the Church are associated with the identity and vocation of Israel.
God forever aligned His kingdom with the kingdom of David and his sons by a “covenant of salt,” salt being a sign of permanence and purity (see 2 Chronicles 13:5, 8; Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24).

Jerusalem was to be a city set on a hill, high above all others, drawing all nations towards the glorious light streaming from her Temple (see Isaiah 2:2; 60:1–3).
And Israel was given the mission of being a light to the nations, that God’s salvation would reach to the ends of the earth (see Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).

The liturgy shows us this week that the Church, and every Christian, is called to fulfill Israel’s mission.
By our faith and good works we are to make the light of God’s life break forth in the darkness, as we sing in this week’s Psalm.

This week’s readings remind us that our faith can never be a private affair, something we can hide as if under a basket.
We are to pour ourselves out for the afflicted, as Isaiah tells us in the First Reading. Our light must shine as a ray of God’s mercy for all who are poor, hungry, naked, and enslaved.

There must be a transparent quality to our lives. Our friends and family, our neighbors and fellow citizens, should see reflected in us the light of Christ and through us be attracted to the saving truths of the Gospel.
So let us pray that we, like St. Paul in the Epistle, might proclaim with our whole lives, “Christ and him crucified.”


Presenting the Present: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of the Presentation

Readings:

Malachi 3:1–4
Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10
Hebrews 2:14–18
Luke 2:22–40

Today’s feast marks the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple, forty days after he was born. As the firstborn, he belonged to God. According to the Law, Mary and Joseph were required to take him to the Temple and “redeem” him by paying five shekels. At the same time, the Law required the child’s mother to offer sacrifice in order to overcome the ritual impurity brought about by childbirth.

So the feast we celebrate shows a curious turn of events. The Redeemer seems to be redeemed. She who is all-pure presents herself to be purified. Such is the humility of our God. Such is the humility of the Blessed Virgin. They submit to the law even though they are not bound by it.

However, the Gospel story nowhere mentions Jesus’ “redemption,” but seems to describe instead a religious consecration—such as a priest might undergo. Saint Luke tells us that Jesus is “presented” in the Temple, using the same verb that Saint Paul uses to describe the offering of a sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). Another parallel is the Old Testament dedication of Samuel (1 Sam 1:24-27) to the Temple as a priest.

The drama surrounding Jesus’ conception and birth began in the Temple—when the Archangel visited Mary’s kinsman, Zechariah the priest. And now the story of Jesus’ infancy comes to a fitting conclusion, again in the Temple.

All the readings today concern Jerusalem, the Temple, and the sacrificial rites. The first reading comes from the Prophet Malachi, who called the priests to return to faithful service—and foretold a day when a Messiah would arrive with definitive purification of the priesthood.

Likewise, the Psalm announces to Jerusalem that Jerusalem is about to receive a great visitor. The Psalmist identifies him as “The LORD of hosts . . . the king of glory.”
Christ now arrives as the long-awaited priest and redeemer. He is also the sacrifice. Indeed, as his life will show, He is the Temple itself (see John 2:19-21).

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: January 25, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

History Redeemed: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Isaiah 8:23–9:3
Psalm 27:1, 4, 13–14
1 Corinthians 1:10–13, 17
Matthew 4:12–23

Today’s liturgy gives us a lesson in ancient Israelite geography and history.
Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s First Reading is quoted by Matthew in today’s Gospel. Both intend to recall the apparent fall of the everlasting kingdom promised to David (see 2 Samuel 7:12–13; Psalm 89; 132:11–12).

Eight centuries before Christ, that part of the kingdom where the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali lived was attacked by the Assyrians, and the tribes were hauled off into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

It marked the beginning of the kingdom’s end. It finally crumbled in the sixth century BC, when Jerusalem was seized by Babylon and the remaining tribes were driven into exile (see 2 Kings 24:14).

Isaiah prophesied that Zebulun and Naphtali, the lands first to be degraded, would be the first to see the light of God’s salvation. Jesus today fulfills that prophecy—announcing the restoration of David’s kingdom at precisely the spot where the kingdom began to fall.

His Gospel of the Kingdom includes not only the twelve tribes of Israel but all the nations—symbolized by the “Galilee of the Nations.” Calling His first disciples, two fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, He appoints them to be “fishers of men”—gathering people from the ends of the earth.

They are to preach the Gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle, to unite all peoples in the same mind and in the same purpose—in a worldwide kingdom of God.

By their preaching, Isaiah’s promise has been delivered. A world in darkness has seen the light. The yoke of slavery and sin, borne by humanity since time began, has been smashed.
And we are able now, as we sing in today’s Psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord, to worship Him in the land of the living.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: January 18, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Perfect Offering: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Isaiah 49:3, 5–6
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7–10
1 Corinthians 1:1–3
John 1:29–34

Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading.

He tells us of the mission given to Him by the Father from the womb: “‘You are My servant,’ He said to Me.” Servant and Son, our Lord was sent to lead a new exodus—to raise up the exiled tribes of Israel, to gather and restore them to God. More than that, He was to be a light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (see Acts 13:46–47).

Before the first exodus, a lamb was offered in sacrifice and its blood painted on the Israelites’ door posts. The blood of the lamb identified their homes and the Lord “passed over” these in executing judgment on the Egyptians (see Exodus 12:1–23, 27).

In the new exodus, Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” as John beholds Him in the Gospel today (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18–19). Our Lord sings of this in today’s Psalm. He has come, He says, to offer His body to do the will of God (see Hebrews 10:3–13).
The sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, and sin offerings given after the first exodus had no power to take away sins (see Hebrews 10:4). They were meant not to save but to teach (see Galatians 3:24). In offering these sacrifices, the people were to learn self-sacrifice—that they were made for worship, to offer themselves freely to God and to delight in His will.

Only Jesus could make that perfect offering of Himself. And through His sacrifice, He has given us ears open to obedience, He has made it possible for us to hear the Father’s call to holiness, as Paul says in today’s Epistle.
He has made us children of God, baptized in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14). And we are to join our sacrifice to His, to offer our bodies—our lives—as living sacrifices in the spiritual worship of the Mass (see Romans 12:1).

Baptism of the Lord

Posted: January 11, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Anointed Ones: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Baptism of the Lord

Readings:

Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7
Psalm 29:1–4, 9–10
Acts 10:34–38
Matthew 3:13–17

Jesus presents himself for baptism in today’s Gospel not because He is a sinner, but to fulfill the word of God proclaimed by His prophets. He must be baptized to reveal that He is the Christ (“anointed one”)—the Spirit-endowed Servant promised by Isaiah in today’s First Reading.

His baptism marks the start of a new world, a new creation. As Isaiah prophesied, the Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove—as the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep in the beginning (see Genesis 1:2).
As it was in the beginning, at the Jordan also the majestic voice of the Lord thunders above the waters. The Father opens the heavens and declares Jesus to be His “beloved son.”

God had long prepared the Israelites for His coming, as Peter preaches in today’s Second Reading. Jesus was anticipated in the “beloved son” given to Abraham (see Genesis 22:2, 12, 26), and in the calling of Israel as His “first-born son” (see Exodus 4:22–23). Jesus is the divine son begotten by God, the everlasting heir promised to King David (see Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14).

He is “a covenant of the people [Israel]” and “a light to the nations,” Isaiah says. By the new covenant made in His blood (see 1 Corinthians 11:25), God has gathered the lost sheep of Israel together with whoever fears Him in every nation.

Christ has become the source from which God pours out His Spirit on Israelites and Gentiles alike (see Acts 10:45). In Baptism, all are anointed with that same Spirit, made beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, we are Christians—literally “anointed ones.”

We are the “sons of God” in today’s Psalm—called to give glory to His name in His temple. Let us pray that we remain faithful to our calling as His children, that our Father might call us what he calls His Son, “my beloved . . . in whom I am well pleased.”

Feast of the Epiphany

Posted: January 4, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

A King to Behold: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of the Epiphany

Readings:

Isaiah 60:1–6
Psalm 72:1–2, 7–8, 10–13
Ephesians 3:2–3, 5–6
Matthew 2:1–12

An “epiphany” is an appearance. In today’s readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights, and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.

Herod, in today’s Gospel, asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. The answer Matthew puts on their lips says much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise—one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Micah 5:1–3).

Those promises of Israel’s king ruling the nations resound also in today’s Psalm. The psalm celebrates David’s son, Solomon. His kingdom, we sing, will stretch “to the ends of the earth,” and the world’s kings will pay Him homage. That’s the scene too in today’s First Reading, as nations stream from the East, bearing “gold and frankincense” for Israel’s king.

The Magi’s pilgrimage in today’s Gospel marks the fulfillment of God’s promises. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, are following the star that Balaam predicted would rise along with the ruler’s staff over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17).
Laden with gold and spices, their journey evokes those made to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba and the “kings of the earth” (see 1 Kings 10:2, 25; 2 Chronicles 9:24). Interestingly, the only other places where frankincense and myrrh are mentioned together are in songs about Solomon (see Song of Songs 3:6, 4:6, 14).
One greater than Solomon is here (see Luke 11:31). He has come to reveal that all peoples are “co-heirs” of the royal family of Israel, as today’s Epistle teaches.

His manifestation forces us to choose: Will we follow the signs that lead to Him as the wise Magi did? Or will we be like those priests and the scribes who let God’s words of promise become dead letters on an ancient page?