Archive for the ‘Sunday Reflections’ Category


Cup of Salvation: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-11

Psalm 33:4-5,18-20,22

Hebrews 4:14-16

Mark 10:35-45

The sons of Zebedee hardly know what they’re asking in today’s Gospel. They are thinking in terms of how the Gentiles rule, of royal privileges and honors.

But the road to Christ’s kingdom is by way of His Cross. To share in His glory, we must be willing to drink the cup that He drinks.

The cup is an Old Testament image for God’s judgment. The wicked would be made to drink this cup in punishment for their sins (see Psalm 75:9Jeremiah 25:1528Isaiah 51:17). But Jesus has come to drink this cup on behalf of all humanity. He has come to be baptized—which means plunged or immersed—into the sufferings we all deserve for our sins (compare Luke 12:50).

In this He will fulfill the task of Isaiah’s suffering servant, whom we read about in today’s First Reading.

Like Isaiah’s servant, the Son of Man will give His life as an offering for sin, as once Israel’s priests offered sacrifices for the sins of the people (see Leviticus 5:17–19).

Jesus is the heavenly high priest of all humanity, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Israel’s high priests offered the blood of goats and calves in the temple sanctuary. But Jesus entered the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood (see Hebrews 9:12).

And by bearing our guilt and offering His life to do the will of God, Jesus ransomed “the many”—paying the price to redeem humanity from spiritual slavery to sin and death.

He has delivered us from death, as we rejoice in today’s Psalm.

We need to hold fast to our confession of faith, as today’s Epistle exhorts us. We must look upon our trials and sufferings as our portion of the cup He promised to those who believe in Him (see Colossians 1:24). We must remember that we have been baptized into His passion and death (see Romans 6:3).

In confidence, let us approach the altar today, the throne of grace, at which we drink the cup of His saving blood (see Mark 14:23–24).


Wisdom and Riches: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Psalm 90:12–17

Hebrews 4:12–13

Wisdom 7:7–11

Mark 10:17–30

The rich young man in today’s Gospel wants to know what we all want to know—how to live in this life so that we might live forever in the world to come. He seeks what today’s Psalm calls “wisdom of heart.”

He learns that the wisdom he seeks is not a program of works to be performed or behaviors to be avoided. As Jesus tells him, observing the commandments is essential to walking the path of salvation—but it can only get us so far.

The Wisdom of God is not precepts, but a person—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Wisdom whose Spirit was granted to Solomon in today’s First Reading. Jesus is the Word of God spoken of in today’s Epistle. And Jesus, as He reveals Himself to the rich man today, is God.

In Jesus we encounter Wisdom, the living and effective Word of God. As He does with the rich man today, He looks upon each of us with love. That look of love, that loving gaze, is a personal invitation—to give up everything to follow Him.

Nothing is concealed from His gaze, as we hear in the Epistle. In His fiery eyes, the thoughts of our hearts are exposed, and each of us must render an account of our lives (see Revelation 1:14).

We must have the attitude of Solomon, preferring Wisdom to all else, loving Him more than even life itself. This preference, this love, requires a leap of faith. We will be persecuted for this faith, Jesus tells His disciples today. But we must trust in His promise—that all good things will come to us in His company.

What, then, are the “many possessions” that keep us from giving ourselves totally to God? What are we clinging to—material things, comfort zones, relationships? What will it take for us to live fully for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel?

Let us pray for the wisdom to enter into the kingdom of God. With the Psalmist, let us ask Him, “Teach us.”


What God Has Joined: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Genesis 2:18–24

Psalm 128:1–6

Hebrews 2:9–11

Mark 10:2–16

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a trick question.

The “lawfulness” of divorce in Israel was never an issue. Moses had long ago allowed it (see Deuteronomy 24:1–4). But Jesus points His enemies back before Moses, to “the beginning,” interpreting the text we hear in today’s First Reading.

Divorce violates the order of creation, He says. Moses permitted it only as a concession to the people’s “hardness of heart”—their inability to live by God’s covenant Law. But Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, to reveal its true meaning and purpose, and to give people the grace to keep God’s commands.

Marriage, He reveals, is a sacrament, a divine, life-giving sign. Through the union of husband and wife, God intended to bestow His blessings on the human family—making it fruitful, multiplying it until it filled the earth (see Genesis 1:28).

That’s why today’s Gospel moves so easily from a debate about marriage to Jesus’ blessing of children. Children are blessings the Father bestows on couples who walk in His ways, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

Marriage also is a sign of God’s new covenant. As today’s Epistle hints, Jesus is the new Adam—made a little lower than the angels, born of a human family (see Romans 5:14; Psalm 8:5–7). The Church is the new Eve, the “woman” born of Christ’s pierced side as He hung in the sleep of death on the Cross (see John 19:34; Revelation 12:1–17).

Through the union of Christ and the Church as “one flesh,” God’s plan for the world is fulfilled (see Ephesians 5:21–32). Eve was “mother of all the living” (see Genesis 3:20). And in Baptism, we are made sons and daughters of the Church, children of the Father, heirs of the eternal glory He intended for the human family in the beginning.

The challenge for us is to live as children of the kingdom, growing up ever more faithful in our love and devotion to the ways of Christ and the teachings of His Church.

Twenty-sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

Posted: September 25, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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To Belong to Christ: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-sixth Sunday Ordinary Time

Readings:

Numbers 11:25–29

Psalm 19:8,10,12–14

James 5:1–6

Mark 9:38–48

Today’s Gospel begins with a scene that recalls a similar moment in the history of Israel, the episode recalled in today’s First Reading. The seventy elders who receive God’s Spirit through Moses prefigure the ministry of the Apostles.

Like Joshua in the First Reading, John makes the mistake of presuming that only a select few are inspired and entrusted to carry out God’s plans. The Spirit blows where it wills (see John 3:8), and God desires to bestow His Spirit on all the people of God in every nation under heaven (see Acts 2:5, 38).

God can and will work mighty deeds through the most unexpected and unlikely people. All of us are called to perform even our most humble tasks, such as giving a cup of water, for the sake of His name and the cause of His kingdom.

John believes he is protecting the purity of the Lord’s name. But, really, he’s only guarding his own privilege and status. It’s telling that the Apostles want to shut down the ministry of an exorcist. Authority to drive out demons and unclean spirits was one of the specific powers entrusted to the Twelve (see Mark 3:14–15; 6:7, 13).

Cleanse me from my unknown faults, we pray in today’s Psalm. Often, like Joshua and John, perhaps without noticing it, we cloak our failings and fears under the guise of our desire to defend Christ or the Church.

But as Jesus says today, instead of worrying about who is a real Christian and who is not, we should make sure that we ourselves are leading lives worthy of our calling as disciples (see Ephesians 1:4).

Does the advice we give, or the example of our actions, give scandal—causing others to doubt or lose faith? Do we do what we do with mixed motives instead of seeking only the Father’s will? Are we living, as this Sunday’s Epistle warns, for our own luxury and pleasure while neglecting our neighbors?

We need to keep meditating on His Law, as we sing in today’s Psalm. We need to pray for the grace to detect our failings and to overcome them.

Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: September 18, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Servant of All: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Wisdom 2:12,17-20

Psalm 54:3-8

James 3:16-4:3

Mark 9:30-37

In today’s First Reading, it’s like we have our ears pressed to the wall and can hear the murderous grumblings of the elders, chief priests, and scribes—who last week Jesus predicted would torture and kill Him (see Mark 8:31; 10:33–34).

The liturgy invites us to see this passage from the Book of Wisdom as a prophecy of the Lord’s Passion. We hear His enemies complain that “the Just One” has challenged their authority, reproached them for breaking the law of Moses, for betraying their training as leaders and teachers.

And we hear chilling words that foreshadow how they will mock Him as He hangs on the Cross: “For if the Just One be the Son of God, He will . . . deliver Him . . . ” (compare Matthew 27:41–43).

Today’s Gospel and Psalm give us the flip side of the First Reading. In both, we hear of Jesus’ sufferings from His point of view. Though His enemies surround Him, He offers Himself freely in sacrifice, trusting that God will sustain Him.

But the Apostles today don’t understand this second announcement of Christ’s Passion. They begin arguing over issues of succession—over who among them is greatest, who will be chosen to lead after Christ is killed.

Again they are thinking not as God but as human beings (see Mark 8:33). And again Jesus teaches the Twelve—the chosen leaders of His Church—that they must lead by imitating His example of love and self-sacrifice. They must be “servants of all,” especially the weak and the helpless —symbolized by the child He embraces and places in their midst.

This is a lesson for us, too. We must have the mind of Christ, who humbled Himself to come among us (see Philippians 2:5–11). We must freely offer ourselves, making everything we do a sacrifice in praise of His name.

As James says in today’s Epistle, we must seek wisdom from above, desiring humility, not glory, and in all things be gentle and full of mercy.25

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 11, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Following the Messiah: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Isaiah 50:4-9

Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9

James 2:14-18

Mark 8:27-35

In today’s Gospel, we reach a pivotal moment in our walk with the Lord. After weeks of listening to His words and witnessing His deeds, along with the disciples we’re asked to decide who Jesus truly is.

Peter answers for them, and for us, too, when he declares: “You are the Messiah.” Many expected the Messiah to be a miracle worker who would vanquish Israel’s enemies and restore the kingdom of David (see John 6:15).

Jesus today reveals a different portrait. He calls Himself the Son of Man, evoking the royal figure Daniel saw in his heavenly visions (see Daniel 7:13–14). But Jesus’ kingship is not to be of this world (see John 18:36). And the path to His throne, as He reveals, is by way of suffering and death.

Jesus identifies the Messiah with the suffering servant that Isaiah foretells in today’s First Reading. The words of Isaiah’s servant are Jesus’ words—as He gives Himself to be shamed and beaten, trusting that God will be His help. We hear our Lord’s voice again in today’s Psalm, as He gives thanks that God has freed Him from the cords of death.

As Jesus tells us today, to believe that He is the Messiah is to follow His way of self-denial—losing our lives to save them in order to rise with Him to new life. Our faith, we hear again in today’s Epistle, must express itself in works of love (see Galatians 5:6).

Notice that Jesus questions the Apostles today “along the way.” They are on the way to Jerusalem, where the Lord will lay down His life. We, too, are on a journey with the Lord.

We must take up our cross, giving to others and enduring all our trials for His sake and the sake of the Gospel.

Our lives must be an offering of thanksgiving for the new life He has given us until that day when we reach our destination and walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 4, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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All Things Well: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Isaiah 35:4–7

Psalm 146:7–10

James 2:1–5

Mark 7:31–37

The incident in today’s Gospel is recorded only by Mark. The key line is what the crowd says at the end: “He has done all things well.” In the Greek, this echoes the creation story, recalling that God saw all the things He had done and declared them good (see Genesis 1:31).

Mark also deliberately evokes Isaiah’s promise, which we hear in today’s First Reading, that God will make the deaf hear and the mute speak. He even uses a Greek word to describe the man’s condition (mogilalon = “speech impediment”) that’s only found in one other place in the Bible—in the Greek translation of today’s Isaiah passage, where the prophet describes the “dumb” singing.

The crowd recognizes that Jesus is doing what the prophet had foretold. But Mark wants us to see something far greater—that, to use the words from today’s First Reading: “Here is your God.”

Notice how personal and physical the drama is in the Gospel. Our focus is drawn to a hand, a finger, ears, a tongue, spitting. In Jesus, Mark shows us, God has truly come in the flesh.

What He has done is to make all things new, a new creation (see Revelation 21:1–5). As Isaiah promised, He has made the living waters of Baptism flow in the desert of the world. He has set captives free from their sins, as we sing in today’s Psalm. He has come that rich and poor might dine together in the Eucharistic feast, as James tells us in today’s Epistle.

He has done for each of us what He did for that deaf mute. He has opened our ears to hear the Word of God and loosed our tongues that we might sing praises to Him.

Let us then give thanks to our glorious Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Let us say with Isaiah, “Here is our God, He comes to save us.” Let us be rich in faith, that we might inherit the kingdom promised to those who love Him.

22nd Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: August 28, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Pure Religion: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:1–2,6–8

Psalm 15:2–5

James 1:17–18, 21–22, 27

Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23

Today’s Gospel casts Jesus in a prophetic light as one having authority to interpret God’s law.

Jesus’ quotation from Isaiah today is ironic (see Isaiah 29:13). In observing the law, the Pharisees honor God by ensuring that nothing unclean passes their lips. In this, however, they’ve turned the law inside out, making it a matter of simply performing certain external actions.

The gift of the law, which we hear God giving to Israel in today’s First Reading, is fulfilled in Jesus’ Gospel, which shows us the law’s true meaning and purpose (see Matthew 5:17).

The law, fulfilled in the Gospel, is meant to form our hearts, to make us pure, able to live in the Lord’s presence. The law was given that we might live and enter into the inheritance promised to us—the kingdom of God, eternal life.

Israel, by its observance of the law, was meant to be an example to surrounding nations. As James tells us in today’s Epistle, the Gospel was given to us that we might have new birth by the Word of truth. By living the Word we’ve received, we’re to be examples of God’s wisdom to those around us, the “first fruits” of a new humanity.

This means we must be “doers” of the Word, not merely hearers of it. As we sing in today’s Psalm and hear again in today’s Epistle, we must work for justice, taking care of our brothers and sisters and living by the truth God has placed in our hearts.

The Word given to us is a perfect gift. We should not add to it through vain and needless devotions. Nor should we subtract from it by picking and choosing which of His laws to honor.

“Hear me,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel. Today, we’re called to examine our relationship to God’s law.

Is the practice of our religion a pure listening to Jesus, a humble welcoming of the Word planted in us and able to save our souls? Or are we only paying lip service?

21st Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: August 21, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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A Choice to Make: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 34:2-3, 16-23

Ephesians 5:21-32

John 6:60-69

This Sunday’s Mass readings conclude a four-week meditation on the Eucharist.

The Twelve Apostles in today’s Gospel are asked to make a choice—either to believe and accept the New Covenant He offers in His Body and Blood or return to their former ways of life.

Their choice is prefigured by the decision Joshua asks the Twelve Tribes to make in today’s First Reading.

Joshua gathers them at Shechem—where God first appeared to their father Abraham promising to make his descendants a great nation in a new land (see Genesis 12:1–9). And he issues a blunt challenge: either renew their covenant with God or serve the alien gods of the surrounding nations.

We too are being asked today to decide whom we will serve. For four weeks we have been presented in the liturgy with the mystery of the Eucharist—a daily miracle far greater than those performed by God in bringing the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.

He has promised us a new homeland and eternal life, offering us bread from heaven to strengthen us on our journey. He has told us that unless we eat His Flesh and drink His Blood we will have no life in us.

It is a hard saying, as many murmur in today’s Gospel. Yet He has given us the words of eternal life.

We must believe, as Peter says today, that He is the Holy One of God, who handed Himself over for us, who gave His flesh for the life of the world.

As we hear in today’s Epistle, Jesus did this that we might be sanctified, made holy, through the water and word of Baptism by which we enter into His new covenant. Through the Eucharist, He nourishes and cherishes us, making us His own flesh and blood, as husband and wife become one flesh.

Let us renew our covenant today, approaching the altar with confidence that, as we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord will redeem the lives of His servants.


Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Readings:

Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6, 10

Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16

1 Corinthians 15:20-27

Luke 1:39-56

On this feast, we praise God who has taken the sinless Virgin Mary, body and soul, into His glory.

In our first reading, from Revelation, we find God’s temple in heaven opened and the Ark of the Covenant revealed. The most sacred item in Israel’s history, the Ark had been missing since the Temple’s destruction in 586 B.C. Thus, John reports some startling news. Even more startling is his revelation that the sacred vessel is now a woman, who is mother of the royal Son of David, the Messiah.

Of this woman, then, we sing to God as the ancient Israelites sang: “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” In the court of King Solomon, we glimpse Israel’s traditional arrangement: Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, takes her place at the king’s right hand (see 1 Kings 2:19).

At Mary’s Assumption, as we see in Revelation, the queen once again takes her place at the right hand of the Son of David.

Our second reading shows us why this is fitting: “in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order.” What is implicit in St. Paul’s statement is revealed in Revelation. The consummation of Christ’s work has begun, as is proper, with the Assumption of the queen mother.

John’s Apocalypse shows also the fulfillment of our Gospel. There, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, retraces the steps of David as he brought the Ark to Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 6). Mary “arose and went” into the hill country, just as David “arose and went” to that region. Upon Mary’s arrival, Elizabeth is awestruck, just as David was before the Ark. The encounter causes the baby John to leap with excitement, as David leapt before the Ark. And Mary stayed in the “house of Zechariah” for “three months,” as the Ark remained in the “house of Obed-edom” for the same period.

Mary is the vessel of God’s presence, and she is queen mother. She reigns now in splendor with Jesus in the heavenly Jerusalem.


Take and Eat: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:2-9
Ephesians 4:30-5:2
John 6:41-51

Sometimes we feel like Elijah in today’s First Reading. We want to lie down and die, keenly aware of our failures—that we seem to be getting no better at doing what God wants of us.

We can be tempted to despair, as the prophet was on his forty-day journey in the desert. We can be tempted to “murmur” against God, as the Israelites did during their forty years in the desert (see Exodus 16:2, 7, 8; 1 Corinthians 10:10).

The Gospel today uses the same word, “murmur,” to describe the crowds, who reenact Israel’s hardheartedness in the desert.
Jesus tells them that prophecies are being fulfilled in Him, that they are being taught by God. But they can’t believe it. They can only see His flesh, that He is the “son” of Joseph and Mary.
Yet if we believe, if we seek Him in our distress, He will deliver us from our fears, as we sing in today’s Psalm.
At the altar in every Eucharist, the angel of the Lord, the Lord himself (see Exodus 3:1–2), touches us. He commands us to take and eat His Flesh given for the life of the world (see Matthew 26:26).

This taste of the heavenly gift (see Hebrews 6:4–5) comes to us with a renewed command—to get up and continue on the journey we began in Baptism to the mountain of God, the kingdom of heaven. He will give us the bread of life, the strength and grace we need—as He fed our spiritual ancestors in the wilderness and Elijah in the desert.

So let us stop grieving the Spirit of God, as Paul says in today’s Epistle, in another reference to Israel in the desert (see Isaiah 63:10).

Let us say to God as Elijah did, “Take my life.” Not in the sense of wanting to die but in giving ourselves as a sacrificial offering—loving Him as He has loved us, on the Cross and in the Eucharist.

18th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: July 31, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Endurance Test: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Readings:

Exodus 16:2–4, 12–15

Psalm 78:3–4, 23–25, 54

Ephesians 4:17, 20–24

John 6:24–35

The journey of discipleship is a lifelong exodus from the slavery of sin and death to the holiness of truth on Mount Zion, the promised land of eternal life.

The road can get rough. And when it does, we can be tempted to complain like the Israelites in this week’s First Reading.

We have to see these times of hardship as a test of what is in our hearts, a call to trust God more and to purify the motives for our faith (Deuteronomy 8:2–3).

As Paul reminds us in this week’s Epistle, we must leave behind our old self-deceptions and desires and live according to the likeness of God in which we are made.

Jesus tells the crowd in this week’s Gospel that they are following Him for the wrong reasons. They seek Him because He filled their bellies. The Israelites, too, were content to follow God so long as there was plenty of food.

Food is the most obvious of signs—because it is the most basic of our human needs. We need our daily bread to live. But we cannot live by this bread alone. We need the bread of eternal life that preserves those who believe in Him (Wisdom 16:20, 26).

The manna in the wilderness, like the bread Jesus multiplied for the crowd, was a sign of God’s Providence—that we should trust that He will provide.

These signs pointed to their fulfillment in the Eucharist, the abundant bread of angels we sing about in this week’s Psalm.

This is the food that God longs to give us. This is the bread we should be seeking. But too often we don’t ask for this bread. Instead we seek the perishable stuff of our everyday wants and anxieties. In our weakness we think these things are what we really need.

We have to trust God more. If we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be ours as well (Matthew 6:33).

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: July 17, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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One Flock: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:


Jeremiah 23:1–16
Psalms 23:1–6
Ephesians 2:13–18
Mark 6:30–34


As the Twelve return from their first missionary journey in today’s Gospel, our readings continue to reflect on the authority and mission of the Church.


Jeremiah says in the First Reading that Israel’s leaders, through godlessness and fanciful teachings, had misled and scattered God’s people. He promises God will send a shepherd, a king and son of David, to gather the lost sheep and appoint for them new shepherds (see Ezekiel 34:23).


The crowd gathering on the green grass (see Mark 6:39) in today’s Gospel is the start of the remnant that Jeremiah promised would be brought back to the meadow of Israel. The people seem to sense that Jesus is the Lord, the good shepherd (see John 10:11), the king they’ve been waiting for (see Hosea 3:1–5).


Jesus is moved to pity, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. This phrase was used by Moses to describe Israel’s need for a shepherd to succeed him (see Numbers 27:17). And as Moses appointed Joshua, Jesus appointed the Twelve to continue shepherding His people on earth.


Jesus had said there were other sheep who did not belong to Israel’s fold but would hear His voice and be joined to the one flock of the one shepherd (see John 10:16).


In God’s plan, the Church is to seek out first the lost sheep of the house of Israel and then to bring all nations into the fold (see Acts 13:36; Romans 1:16).


Paul, too, in today’s Epistle, sees the Church as a new creation, in which those nations who were once far off from God are joined as “one new person” with the children of Israel.

15th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: July 10, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The Church’s Mission: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Amos 7:12–15

Psalms 85:9–14

Ephesians 1:3–14

Mark 6:7–13

In commissioning the Apostles in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives them, and us, a preview of His Church’s mission after the Resurrection.

His instructions to the Twelve echo those of God to the twelve tribes of Israel on the eve of their exodus from Egypt. The Israelites likewise were sent out with no bread and only one set of clothes, wearing sandals and carrying a staff (see Exodus 12:11; Deuteronomy 8:2–4). Like the Israelites, the Apostles are to rely solely on the providence of God and His grace.

Perhaps, also, Mark wants us to see the Apostles’ mission, the mission of the Church, as that of leading a new exodus—delivering people from their exile from God and bringing them to the promised land, the kingdom of heaven.

Like Amos in today’s First Reading, the Apostles are not “professionals” who earn their bread by prophesying. Like Amos, they are simply men (see Acts 14:15) summoned from their ordinary jobs and sent by God to be shepherds of their brothers and sisters.

Again this week, we hear the theme of rejection: Amos experiences it, and Jesus warns the Apostles that some will not welcome or listen to them. The Church is called not necessarily to be successful but only to be faithful to God’s command.

With authority and power given to her by Jesus, the Church proclaims God’s peace and salvation to those who believe in Him, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

This word of truth, this Gospel of salvation, is addressed to each of us, personally, as Paul proclaims in today’s Epistle. In the mystery of God’s will, we have been chosen from before the foundation of the world—to be His sons and daughters, to live for the praise of His glory.

Let us, then, give thanks for the Church today, and for the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon us. Let us resolve to further the Church’s mission—to help others hear the call to repentance and welcome Christ into their lives.

14Th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: July 3, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Son of Mary: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Ezekiel 2:2–5

Psalm 123:1–4

2 Corinthians 12:7–10

Mark 6:1-6

As we’ve walked with the Apostles in the Gospels in recent weeks, we’ve witnessed Jesus command the wind and sea, and order a little girl to arise from the dead.

But He seems to meet His match in His hometown of Nazareth. Today’s Gospel is blunt: “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”

Why not? Because of the people’s lack of faith. They acknowledged the wisdom of His words, the power of His works. But they refused to recognize Him as a prophet come among them, a messenger sent by God.

All they could see was how much “this man” was like them—a carpenter, the son of their neighbor, Mary, with brothers and sisters.

Of course, Mary was ever-virgin and had no other children. The Gospel refers to Jesus’ brothers as Paul refers to all Israelites as his brothers, the children of Abraham (see Romans 9:3, 7).

That’s the point in today’s Gospel, too. Like the prophet Ezekiel in today’s First Reading, Jesus was sent by God to the rebellious house of Israel, where He found His own brothers and sisters obstinate of heart and in revolt against God.

The servant is not above the Master (see Matthew 10:24). As His disciples, we too face the mockery and contempt we hear of in today’s Psalm. And isn’t it often hardest to live our faith among those in our own families, those who think they really know us, who define us by the people we used to be—before we chose to walk with Jesus?

As Paul confides in today’s Epistle, insults and hardships are God’s way of teaching us to rely solely on His grace.

Jesus will work no mighty deeds in our lives unless we abandon ourselves to Him in faith. Blessed then are those who take no offense in Him (see Luke 7:23). Instead, we must look upon Him with the eyes of servants—knowing that the son of Mary is also the Lord enthroned in the heavens.

13th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: June 26, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Arise!: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24

Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13

2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15

Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

God, who formed us in His imperishable image, did not intend for us to die, we hear in today’s First Reading. Death entered the world through the devil’s envy and Adam and Eve’s sin; as a result, we are all bound to die.

But in the moving story in today’s Gospel, we see Jesus liberate a little girl from the possession of death.

On one level, Mark is recounting an event that led the disciples to understand Jesus’ authority and power over even the final enemy, death (see 1 Corinthians 15:26). On another level, however, this episode is written to strengthen our hope that we too will be raised from the dead, along with all our loved ones who sleep in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:18).

Jesus commands the girl to “Arise!”—using the same Greek word used to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 16:6). And the consoling message of today’s Gospel is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. If we believe in Him, even though we die, we will live (see John 15:25–26).

We are called to have the same faith as the parents in the Gospel today—praying for our loved ones, trusting in Jesus’ promise that even death cannot keep us apart. Notice the parents follow Him even though those in their own house tell them there is no hope, and even though others ridicule Jesus’ claim that the dead have only fallen asleep (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

Already in Baptism, we’ve been raised to new life in Christ. And the Eucharist, like the food given to the little girl today, is the pledge that He will raise us on the last day.

We should rejoice, as we sing in today’s Psalm, that He has brought us up from the netherworld, the pit of death. And, as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle, we should offer our lives in thanksgiving for this gracious act, imitating Christ in our love and generosity for others.

12th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: June 19, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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In the Storm: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Job 38:1, 8-11

Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Mark 4:35-41

“Do you not yet have faith?” Our Lord’s question in today’s Gospel frames the Sunday liturgies for the remainder of the year, which the Church calls “Ordinary Time.”

In the weeks ahead, the Church’s liturgy will have us journeying with Jesus and His disciples, reliving their experience of His words and deeds, coming to know and believe in Him as they did.

Notice that today’s Psalm almost provides an outline for the Gospel. We sing of sailors caught in a storm; in their desperation, they call to the Lord and He rescues them.

Mark’s Gospel today also intends us to hear a strong echo of the story of the prophet Jonah. He, too, was found asleep on a boat when a life-threatening storm broke out that caused his fellow travelers to pray for deliverance, and then to marvel when the storm abated (see Jonah 1:3–16).

But Jesus is something greater than Jonah (see Matthew 12:41). And Mark wants us to come to see what the Apostles saw—that God alone has the power to rebuke the wind and the sea (see Isaiah 50:2;

Psalm 18:16). This is the point of today’s First Reading.

If even the wind and sea obey Him, shouldn’t we trust Him in the chaos and storms of our own lives?

As with the Apostles, the Lord has asked each of us to cross to the other side, to leave behind our old ways to travel with Him in the little ship of the Church.

In their fear today, they call Him, “Teacher.” And it is only faith in His teaching that can save us from perishing. We should trust in Christ, and trust like Christ—who was able to sleep through the storm, confident that God was with Him (see Psalm 116:6; Romans 8:31).

We should live in thanksgiving for our salvation, as today’s Epistle tells us—as new creations, no longer for ourselves but for Him who died for our sake.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: June 12, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Tree of Righteousness: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Readings:

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Mark 4:26-34

In the cryptic message of the prophet Ezekiel, long centuries before the Lord’s coming, God gave His people reason to hope. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would “put forth branches and bear fruit.” Who could have predicted that the tree would be a cross on the hill of Calvary, and that the fruit would be salvation?

Ezekiel foresees salvation coming to “birds of every kind”—thus, not just to the people of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, who will “take wing” through their new life in Christ. God indeed will “lift high the lowly tree,” as He solemnly promises.

Such salvation surpasses humanity’s most ambitious dreams. And so we express our gratitude in the Psalm: “Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It is indeed good, and better still to give thanks with praise. The Psalmist speaks of those who are just upon the earth, but looks to God as the source and measure of justice, of righteousness. Like Ezekiel, he evokes the image of a flourishing tree to describe the lives of the just. The image, again, suggests the Cross as the measure of righteousness.

The Cross is a sign of contradiction to those who would rather “flourish” in worldly terms. As St. Paul emphasizes to the Corinthians, we need courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proved in our deeds. He reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifests itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”

God Himself will empower the works He expects from us, though we freely choose to correspond to His grace. In the prophetic oracles, He scattered the seed that sprang up and became the mustard tree, large enough to accommodate all the birds of the sky, just as Ezekiel had seen. He gave this doctrine to His disciples in terms they were able to understand, and He provided a full explanation. In the sacraments He provides still more: the grace of faith and the courage we need to live in the world as children of God.

Corpus Christi

Posted: June 5, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Blood of the Covenant: Scott Hahn Reflects on Corpus Christi

Readings:

Exodus 24:3-8

Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18

Hebrews 9:11-15

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

All of today’s readings are set in the context of the Passover. The First Reading recalls the old covenant celebrated at Sinai following the first Passover and the Exodus.

In sprinkling the blood of the covenant on the Israelites, Moses was symbolizing God’s desire in this covenant to make them His family, His “blood” relations.

Quoting Moses’ words in today’s Gospel, Jesus elevates and transforms this covenant symbol to an extraordinary reality. In the new covenant made in the blood of Christ, we truly become one with His body and blood.

The first covenant made with Moses and Israel at Sinai was but a shadow of this new and greater covenant made by Christ with all humankind in that upper room (see Hebrews 10:1).

The Passover that Jesus celebrates with His Twelve Apostles “actualizes,” makes real what could only be symbolized by Moses’ sacrifice at the altar with twelve pillars. What Jesus does today is establish His Church as the new Israel and His Eucharist as the new worship of the living God.

In offering Himself to God through the Spirit, Jesus delivered Israel from the transgressions of the first covenant. And, as we hear in today’s Epistle, by His blood He purified us and made us capable of true worship.

God does not want dead works or animal sacrifices. He wants our own flesh and blood, our own lives, consecrated to Him, offered as a living sacrifice. This is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that we sing of in today’s Psalm. This is the Eucharist.

What we do in memory of Him is to pledge our lives to Him, to renew our promise to live by the words of His covenant and to be His servants.

There is no other return we can offer to Him for the eternal inheritance He has won for us. So let us approach the altar, calling upon His name in thanksgiving, taking up the cup of salvation.

Holy Trinity Sunday

Posted: May 29, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Family of Love: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity

Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32–34, 39–40

Psalm 33:4–6, 9, 18–20, 22

Romans 8:14–17

Matthew 28:16–20

Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God’s new covenant and made a new creation.

In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in His divine nature through His Body and Blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season— Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.

These feasts should be intimate reminders of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, to be His children (see Ephesians 1:4–5).

Today’s readings illuminate how all God’s words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God’s blessing in Jesus Christ—the blessing we inherited in Baptism, and renew in each Eucharist.

By God’s word the heavens and earth were filled with His kindness, we sing in today’s Psalm. Out of love, God called Abraham and chose his descendants to be His own people, Moses says in today’s First Reading (see Deuteronomy 4:20,37). Through the Israelites, He revealed to the nations that He alone is Lord and there is no other.

In Jesus, God’s word took flesh as a son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And Jesus reveals in the Gospel today that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and that He desires to make all people His own.

As He led Israel out of Egypt, God freed us from slavery, Paul says in today’s Epistle. As He adopted Israel (see Romans 9:4), He gives us the Spirit by which we can know Him as “Our Father.”

As God’s heirs, we receive the commissions of Moses and Jesus today. We are to fix our hearts on Him, and to observe all that He has commanded. The Eucharist is His pledge—that He will be with us until the end, that He will deliver us from death to live forever in the promised land of His kingdom.

Pentecost Sunday

Posted: May 22, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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A New Wind: Scott Hahn Reflects on Pentecost Sunday

Readings:

Acts 2:1–11

Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34

1 Corinthians 12:3–7, 12–13

John 20:19–23

The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of the Father in salvation history.

The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God’s chosen people in the covenant Law given to Moses at Sinai (see Leviticus 23:15–21; Deuteronomy 16:9–11).

In today’s First Reading, the mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles (see Acts 1:14).

The Spirit seals the new law and new covenant brought by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets promised (see Jeremiah 31:31–34; 2 Corinthians 3:2–8; Romans 8:2).

The Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which He made all things, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

In the beginning, the Spirit came as a “mighty wind” sweeping over the face of the earth (see Genesis 1:2). And in the new creation of Pentecost, the Spirit again comes as “a strong, driving wind” to renew the face of the earth.

As God fashioned the first man out of dust and filled him with His Spirit (see Genesis 2:7), in today’s Gospel we see the New Adam become a life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47).

Like a river of living water, for all ages He will pour out His Spirit on His body, the Church, as we hear in today’s Epistle (see also John 7:37–39).

We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a “new creation” in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity—fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.

7Th Sunday Of Easter

Posted: May 15, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The Kingdom Remains: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Readings:

Acts 1:15–17, 20–26

Psalm 103:1–2, 11–12, 19–20

1 John 4:11–16

John 17:11–19

(In dioceses where Ascension is celebrated on Sunday, see the reflection for The Ascension of the Lord.)

Today’s First Reading begins by giving us a time frame—the events take place during the days between Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost. We’re at the same point in our liturgical year. On Thursday we celebrated His being taken up in glory, and next Sunday we will celebrate His sending of the Spirit upon the Church.

Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel today also captures the mood of departure and the anticipation. He is telling us today how it will be when He is no longer in the world.

By His Ascension, the Lord has established His throne in heaven, as we sing in today’s Psalm. His kingdom is His Church, which continues His mission on earth.

Jesus fashioned His kingdom as a new Jerusalem and a new house of David (see Psalm 122:4–5; Revelation 21:9–14). He entrusted this kingdom to His Twelve Apostles, who were to preside at the

Eucharistic table, and to rule with Him over the restored twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:29–30).

The Twelve Apostles symbolize the twelve tribes and hence the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel (see Galatians 6:16). That’s why it is crucial to replace Judas—so that the Church in its fullness receives the Spirit at Pentecost.

Peter’s leadership of the Apostles is another key element of the Church as it is depicted today. Notice that Peter is unquestionably in control, interpreting the Scriptures, deciding a course of action, even defining the nature of the apostolic ministry.

No one has ever seen God, as we hear in today’s Epistle. Yet, through the Church founded on His Apostles, the witnesses to the resurrection, the world will come to know and believe in God’s love, that He sent His Son to be our savior.

Through the Church, Jesus’ pledge still comes to us—that if we love, God will remain with us in our trials and protects us from the evil one. By His word of truth He will help us grow in holiness, the perfection of love.

Ascension of the Lord

Posted: May 13, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The Good News: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Ascension of the Lord

Readings:

Acts 1:1–11

Psalm 47:2–3, 6–7, 8–9

Ephesians 1:17–23 or Ephesians 1:1-13 or Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13

Mark 16:15-20

In today’s first reading, St. Luke gives the surprising news that there is more of the story to be told. The story did not end with the empty tomb, or with Jesus’ appearances to the Apostles over the course of forty days. Jesus’ saving work will have a liturgical consummation. He is the great high priest, and he has still to ascend to the heavenly Jerusalem, there to celebrate the feast in the true Holy of Holies.

The truth of this feast shines forth from the Letter to the Hebrews, where we read of the great high priest’s passing through the heavens, the sinless intercessor’s sacrifice on our behalf (see Hebrews 4:14–15).

Indeed, his intercession will lead to the Holy Spirit’s descent in fire upon the Church. Luke spells out that promise in the first reading for the feast of the Ascension: “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). Ascension is the preliminary feast that directs the Church’s attention forward to Pentecost. On that day, salvation will be complete; for salvation is not simply expiation for sins (that would be wonder enough), but it is something even greater than that. Expiation is itself a necessary precondition of our adoption as God’s children. To live that divine life we must receive the Holy Spirit. To receive the Holy Spirit we must be purified through baptism.

The Responsorial Psalm presents the Ascension in terms familiar from the worship of the Jerusalem Temple in the days of King Solomon: “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord” (Psalm 47). The priest-king takes his place at the head of the people, ruling over the nations, establishing peace.

The Epistle strikes a distinctively Paschal note. In the early Church, as today, Easter was the normal time for the baptism of adult converts. The sacrament was often called “illumination” or “enlightenment” (see, for example, Hebrews 10:32) because of the light that came with God’s saving grace. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, speaks in terms of glory that leads to greater glories still, as Ascension leads to Pentecost: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,” he writes, as he looks to the divinization of the believers. Their “hope” is “his inheritance among the holy ones,” the saints who have been adopted into God’s family and now rule with him at the Father’s right hand.

This is the “good news” the Apostles are commissioned to spread—to the whole world, to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem—at the first Ascension. It’s the good news we must spread today.

Fifth Sunday Of Easter

Posted: May 1, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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On the Vine: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Readings:

Acts 9:26–31

Psalm 22:26–28, 30–32

1 John 3:18–24

John 15:1–8

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is the true vine that God intended Israel to be—the source of divine life and wisdom for the nations (see Sirach 24:17–24).

In Baptism, each of us was joined to Him by the Holy Spirit. As a branch grows from a tree, our souls are to draw life from Him, nourished by His word and the Eucharist.

Paul in today’s First Reading seeks to be grafted onto the visible expression of Christ the true vine—His Church. Once the chief persecutor of the Church, Paul encounters initial resistance and suspicion. But he is known by his fruits, by his powerful witness to the Lord working in his life (see Matthew 7:16–20).

We too are commanded today to bear good fruits as His disciples so that our lives give glory to God. Like Paul’s life, our lives must bear witness to His goodness.

Jesus cautions us, however, that if we’re bearing fruit, we can expect that God will “prune” us—as a gardener trims and cuts back a plant so that it will grow stronger and bear even more fruit. He is teaching us today how to look at our sufferings and trials with the eyes of faith. We need to see our struggles as pruning, by which we are being disciplined and trained so that we can grow in holiness and bear fruits of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:4–11).

We need to always remain rooted in Him, as today’s Epistle tells us. We remain in Him by keeping His commandment of love, by pondering His words, letting them dwell richly in us (see Colossians 3:16), and by always seeking to do what pleases Him. In everything we must be guided by humility, remembering that apart from Him we can do nothing.

As we sing in today’s Psalm, we must fulfill our vows, turning to the Lord in worship, proclaiming his praises, until all families come to know His justice in their lives.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Posted: April 24, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

The Shepherd’s Voice: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday of Easter


Readings:

Acts 4:8–12

Psalm 118:1, 8–9, 21–23, 26, 29

1 John 3:1–2

John 10:11–18
 

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, says that He is the good shepherd the prophets had promised to Israel.
He is the shepherd-prince, the new David—who frees people from bondage to sin and gathers them into one flock, the Church, under a new covenant, made in His blood (see Ezekiel 34:10–13, 23–31).


His flock includes other sheep, He says, far more than the dispersed children of Israel (see Isaiah 56:8; John 11:52). And He gave His Church the mission of shepherding all peoples to the Father.


In today’s First Reading, we see the beginnings of that mission in the testimony of Peter, whom the Lord appointed shepherd of His Church (see John 21:15–17).


Peter tells Israel’s leaders that the Psalm we sing today is a prophecy of their rejection and crucifixion of Christ. He tells the “builders” of Israel’s temple that God has made the stone they rejected the cornerstone of a new spiritual temple, the Church (see Mark 12:10–13; 1 Peter 2:4–7).


Through the ministry of the Church, the shepherd still speaks (see Luke 10:16), and forgives sins (see John 20:23), and makes His body and blood present, that all may know Him in the breaking of the bread (see Luke 24:35). It is a mission that will continue until all the world is one flock under the one shepherd.


In laying down His life and taking it up again, Jesus made it possible for us to know God as He did—as sons and daughters of the Father who loves us. As we hear in today’s Epistle, He calls us His children, as He called Israel His son when He led them out of Egypt and made His covenant with them (see Exodus 4:22–23; Revelation 21:7).


Today, let us listen for His voice as He speaks to us in the Scriptures, and vow again to be more faithful followers. And let us give thanks for the blessings He bestows from His altar.

Third Sunday of Easter

Posted: April 17, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Understanding the Scriptures: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Third Sunday of Easter

Readings:
Acts 3:13–1517–19
Psalm 4:247–9
1 John 2:1–5
Luke 24:35–48
 
Jesus in today’s Gospel teaches His apostles how to interpret the Scriptures.

He tells them that all the Scriptures of what we now call the Old Testament refer to Him. He says that all the promises found in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in His Passion, death, and Resurrection. And He tells them that these Scriptures foretell the mission of the Church—to preach forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
In today’s First Reading and Epistle, we see the beginnings of that mission. And we see the apostles interpreting the Scriptures as Jesus taught them to.

God has brought to fulfillment what He announced beforehand in all the prophets, Peter preaches. His sermon is shot through with Old Testament images. He evokes Moses and the Exodus, in which

God revealed himself as the ancestral God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Exodus 3:615). He identifies Jesus as Isaiah’s suffering servant who has been glorified (see Isaiah 52:13).

John, too, describes Jesus in Old Testament terms. Alluding to how Israel’s priests offered blood sacrifices to atone for the people’s sins (see Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9–10), he says that Jesus intercedes for us before God (see Romans 8:34), and that His blood is a sacrificial expiation for the sins of the world (see 1 John 1:7).

Notice that in all three readings, the Scriptures are interpreted to serve and advance the Church’s mission—to reveal the truth about Jesus, to bring people to repentance, the wiping away of sins, and the perfection of their love for God.

This is how we, too, should hear the Scriptures. Not to know more “about” Jesus, but to truly know Him personally, and to know His plan for our lives.

In the Scriptures, the light of His face shines upon us, as we sing in today’s Psalm. We know the wonders He has done throughout history. And we have the confidence to call to Him, and to know that He hears and answers.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Posted: April 10, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The Day the Lord Made: Scott Hahn Reflects on Divine Mercy Sunday

Readings:

Acts 4:32–35

Psalms 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24

1 John 5:1–6

John 20:19–31

Three times in today’s Psalm we cry out a victory shout: “His mercy endures forever.”

Truly we’ve known the everlasting love of God, who has come to us as our Savior. By the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ pierced side (see John 19:34), we’ve been made God’s children, as we hear in today’s Epistle.

Yet we never met Jesus, never heard Him teach, never saw Him raised from the dead. His saving Word came to us in the Church—through the ministry of the apostles, who in today’s Gospel are sent as He was sent.

He was made a life-giving Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 15:45) and He filled His apostles with that Spirit. As we hear in today’s First Reading, they bore witness to His resurrection with great power. And through their witness, handed down in the Church through the centuries, their teaching and traditions have reached us (see Acts 2:42).

We encounter Him as the apostles did—in the breaking of the bread on the Lord’s day (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).

There is something liturgical about the way today’s Gospel scenes unfold. It’s as if John is trying to show us how the risen Lord comes to us in the liturgy and sacraments.

In both scenes it is Sunday night. The doors are bolted tight, yet Jesus mysteriously comes. He greets them with an expression, “Peace be with you,” used elsewhere by divine messengers (see Daniel 10:19; Judges 6:23). He shows them signs of His real bodily presence. And on both nights the disciples respond by joyfully receiving Jesus as their “Lord.”

Isn’t this what happens in the Mass—where our Lord speaks to us in His Word, and gives himself to us in the sacrament of His body and blood?

Let us approach the altar with joy, knowing that every Eucharist is the day the Lord has made—when the victory of Easter is again made wonderful in our eyes.

Easter Sunday

Posted: April 3, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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New Morning: Scott Hahn Reflects on Easter Sunday

Readings:

Acts 10:3437–43

Psalm 118:1–216–1722–23

Colossians 3:1–4

John 20:1–9

The tomb was empty. In the early morning darkness of that first Easter, there was only confusion for Mary Magdalene and the other disciples. But as the daylight spread, they saw the dawning of a new creation.

At first they didn’t understand the Scripture, today’s Gospel tells us. We don’t know which precise Scripture texts they were supposed to understand. Perhaps it was the sign of Jonah, who rose from the belly of the great fish after three days (see Jonah 1:17). Or maybe Hosea’s prophecy of Israel’s restoration from exile (see Hosea 6:2). Perhaps it was the psalmist who rejoiced that God had not abandoned him to the netherworld (see Psalm 16:9–10).

Whichever Scripture it was, as the disciples bent down into the tomb, they saw and they believed. What did they see? Burial shrouds in an empty tomb. The stone removed from the tomb. Seven times

in nine verses we hear that word—“tomb.”

What did they believe? That God had done what Jesus said He would do—raised Him up on the third day (see Mark 9:3110:34).

What they saw and believed they bore witness to, as today’s First Reading tells us. Peter’s speech is a summary of the gospels—from Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan t His hanging on a tree (see Deuteronomy 21:22–23), to His rising from the dead.

We are children of the apostles, born into the new world of their witness. Our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God,” as today’s Epistle says. Like them, we gather in the morning on the first day of the week —to celebrate the Eucharist, the feast of the empty tomb.

We rejoice that the stones have been rolled away from our tombs, too. Each of us can shout, as we do in today’s Psalm: “I shall not die, but live.” They saw and believed. And we await the day they promised would come—when we, too, “will appear with Him in glory.”

Passion Sunday

Posted: March 27, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Darkness at Noon: Scott Hahn Reflects on Passion Sunday

Readings:

Isaiah 50:4–7

Psalm 22:8–9, 17–20, 23–24

Philippians 2:6–11

Mark 14:1–15:47

Crowned with thorns, our Lord is lifted up on the Cross, where He dies as “King of the Jews.” Notice how many times He is called “king” in today’s Gospel—mostly in scorn and mockery.

As we hear the long accounts of His Passion, at every turn we must remind ourselves—He suffered this cruel and unusual violence for us.

He is the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah in today’s First Reading. He reenacts the agony described in today’s Psalm, and even dies with the first words of that Psalm on His lips (see Psalm 22:1).

Listen carefully for the echoes of this Psalm throughout today’s Gospel—as Jesus is beaten, His hands and feet are pierced; as His enemies gamble for His clothes, wagging their heads, mocking His faith in God’s love, His faith that God will deliver Him.

Are we that much different from our Lord’s tormenters? Often, don’t we deny that He is King, refusing to obey His only commands that we love Him and one another? Don’t we render Him mock tribute, pay Him lip service with our half-hearted devotions?

In the dark noon of Calvary, the veil in Jerusalem’s temple was torn. It was a sign that by His death Jesus destroyed forever the barrier separating us from the presence of God.

He was God and yet humbled Himself to come among us, we’re reminded in today’s Epistle. And despite our repeated failures, our frailty, Jesus still humbles Himself to come to us, offering us His body and blood in the Eucharist.

His enemies never understood: His kingship isn’t of this world (see John 18:36). He wants to write His law, His rule of life on our hearts and minds.

As we enter Holy Week, let us once more resolve to give Him dominion in our lives. Let us take up the cross He gives to us—and confess with all our hearts, minds, and strength that truly this is the Son of God.

4th Sunday Of Lent

Posted: March 13, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Living in the Light: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Readings:

2 Chronicles 36:14–16, 19–23

Psalms 137:1–6

Ephesians 2:4–10

John 3:14–21

The Sunday readings in Lent have been showing us the high points of salvation history—God’s covenant with creation in the time of Noah; His promises to Abraham; the law He gave to Israel at Sinai.

In today’s First Reading, we hear of the destruction of the kingdom established by God’s final Old Testament covenant—the covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89:3).

His chosen people abandoned the law He gave them. For their sins, the temple was destroyed, and they were exiled in Babylon. We hear their sorrow and repentance in the exile lament we sing as today’s Psalm.

But we also hear how God, in His mercy, gathered them back, even anointing a pagan king to shepherd them and rebuild the temple (see Isaiah 44:28–45:1, 4).

God is rich in mercy, as today’s Epistle teaches. He promised that David’s kingdom would last forever, that David’s son would be His Son and rule all nations (see 2 Samuel 7:14–15; Psalm 2:7–9). In Jesus, God keeps that promise (see Revelation 22:16).

Moses lifted up the serpent as a sign of salvation (see Wisdom 16:6–7; Numbers 21:9). Now Jesus is lifted up on the Cross, to draw all people to Himself (see John 12:32).

Those who refuse to believe in this sign of the Father’s love condemn themselves—as the Israelites in their infidelity brought judgment upon themselves.

But God did not leave Israel in exile, and He does not want to leave any of us dead in our transgressions. We are God’s handiwork, saved to live as His people in the light of His truth.

Midway through this season of repentance, let us again behold the Pierced One (see John 19:37) and rededicate ourselves to living the “good works” that God has prepared us for.

Third Sunday Of Lent

Posted: March 6, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Spiritual Sacrifice: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Third Sunday of Lent

Readings:

Exodus 20:1–17

Psalm 19:8–11

1 Corinthians 1:22–25

John 2:13–25

Jesus does not come to destroy the temple, but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17)—to reveal its true purpose in God’s saving plan.

He is the Lord the prophets said would come—to purify the temple, banish the merchants, and make it a house of prayer for all peoples (see Zechariah 14:21; Malachi 3:1–5; Isaiah 56:7).

The God who made the heavens and the earth, who brought Israel out of slavery, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands (see Acts 7:48; 2 Samuel 7:5).

Nor does He need offerings of oxen, sheep, or doves (see Psalm 50:7–13).

Notice in today’s First Reading that God did not originally command animal sacrifices—only that Israel heed His commandments (see Jeremiah 7:21–23; Amos 5:25).

His law was a gift of divine wisdom, as we sing in today’s Psalm. It was a law of love (see Matthew 22:36–40), perfectly expressed in Christ’s self-offering on the Cross (see John 15:13).

This is the “sign” Jesus offers in the Gospel today—the sign that caused Jewish leaders to stumble, as Paul tells us in the Epistle.

Jesus’ body—destroyed on the Cross and raised up three days later—is the new and true sanctuary. From the temple of His body, rivers of living water flow, the Spirit of grace that makes each of us a temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16) and together builds us into a dwelling place of God (see Ephesians 2:22).

In the Eucharist we participate in His offering of His body and blood. This is the worship in Spirit and in truth that the Father desires (see John 4:23–24).

We are to offer praise as our sacrifice (see Psalm 50:14, 23). This means imitating Christ—offering our bodies—all our intentions and actions in every circumstance, for the love of God and the love of others (see Hebrews 10:5–7; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5).

Second Sunday of Lent

Posted: February 27, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Bonds Loosed: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Second Sunday of Lent

Readings:
Genesis 22:1–2, 9–13, 15–18
Psalm 116:10, 15–19
Romans 8:31–34
Mark 9:2–10

The Lenten season continues with another story of testing. Last Sunday, we heard the trial of Jesus in the desert. In this week’s First Reading, we hear of how Abraham was put to the test.
The Church has always read this story as a sign of God’s love for the world in giving His only-begotten son.
In today’s Epistle, Paul uses exact words drawn from this story to describe how God, like Abraham, did not withhold His only Son, but handed Him over for us on the Cross (see Romans 8:32; Genesis 22:12,16).

In the Gospel today, too, we hear another echo. Jesus is called God’s “beloved Son”—as Isaac is described as Abraham’s beloved son.

These readings are given to us in Lent to reveal Christ’s identity and to strengthen us in the face of our afflictions.

Jesus is shown to be the true son that Abraham rejoiced to see (see Matthew 1:1; John 8:56). In His transfiguration, He is revealed to be the “prophet like Moses” foretold by God—raised from among their own kinsmen, speaking with God’s own authority (see Deuteronomy 18:15, 19).

Like Moses, He climbs the mountain with three named friends and beholds God’s glory in a cloud (see Exodus 24:1, 9, 15). He is the one prophesied to come after Elijah’s return (see Sirach 48:9–10; Malachi 3:1, 23–24).
And, as He discloses to the Apostles, He is the Son of Man sent to suffer and die for our sins (see Isaiah 53:3).
As we sing in today’s Psalm, Jesus believed in the face of His afflictions, and God loosed Him from the bonds of death (see Psalm 116:3).

His rising should give us the courage to face our trials, to offer ourselves totally to the Father—as He did, as Abraham and Isaac did.

Freed from death by His death, we come to this Mass to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and to renew our vows—as His servants and faithful ones.

First Sunday of Lent

Posted: February 20, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The New Creation: Scott Hahn Reflects on the First Sunday of Lent

Readings:
Genesis 9:8–15
Psalm 25:4–9
1 Peter 3:18–22
Mark 1:12–15

Lent bids us to return to the innocence our baptism. As Noah and his family were saved through the waters of the deluge, we were saved through the waters of Baptism, Peter reminds us in today’s Epistle.

And God’s covenant with Noah in today’s First Reading marked the start of a new world. But it also prefigured a new and greater covenant between God and His creation (see Hosea 2:20; Isaiah 11:1–9).

We see that new covenant and that new creation begin in today’s Gospel.

Jesus is portrayed as the new Adam—the beloved son of God (see Mark 1:11; Luke 3:38), living in harmony with the wild beasts (see Genesis 2:19–20), being served by angels (see Ezekiel 28:12–14).

Like Adam, He too is tempted by the devil. But while Adam fell, giving reign to sin and death (see Romans 5:12–14, 17–20), Jesus is victorious.

This is the good news, the “gospel of God” that He proclaims. Through His death, resurrection, and enthronement at the right hand of the Father, the world is once again made God’s kingdom.

In the waters of Baptism, each of us entered the kingdom of His beloved Son (see Colossians 1:13–14). We were made children of God, new creations (see 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 4:3–7).

But like Jesus, and Israel before Him, we have passed through the baptismal waters only to be driven into the wilderness—a world filled with afflictions and tests of our faithfulness (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, 9,13; Deuteronomy 8:2, 16).

We are led on this journey by Jesus. He is the Savior—the way and the truth we sing of in today’s Psalm (see John 14:6). He feeds us with the bread of angels (see Psalm 78:25; Wisdom 16:20), and cleanses our consciences in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

As we begin this holy season, let us renew our baptismal vows—to repent and believe the gospel

Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: February 13, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Made Clean: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Leviticus 13:1–2, 44–46

Psalm 32:1–2, 5, 11

1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1

Mark 1:40–45

In the Old Testament, leprosy is depicted as punishment for disobedience of God’s commands (see Numbers 12:12–15; 2 Kings 5:27; 15:5).

Considered “unclean”—unfit to worship or live with the Israelites, lepers are considered “stillborn,” the living dead (see Numbers 12:12). Indeed, the requirements imposed on lepers in today’s First Reading—rent garments, shaven head, covered beard—are signs of death, penance, and mourning (see Leviticus 10:6; Ezekiel 24:17).

So there’s more to the story in today’s Gospel than a miraculous healing.

When Elisha, invoking God’s name, healed the leper, Naaman, it proved there was a prophet in Israel (see 2 Kings 5:8). Today’s healing reveals Jesus as far more than a great prophet—He is God visiting His people (see Luke 7:16).

Only God can cure leprosy and cleanse from sin (see 2 Kings 5:7), and only God has the power to bring about what He wills (see Isaiah 55:11; Wisdom 12:18).

The Gospel scene has an almost sacramental quality about it.

Jesus stretches out His hand—as God, by His outstretched arm, performed mighty deeds to save the Israelites (see Exodus 14:6; Acts 4:30). His ritual sign is accompanied by a divine word (“Be made clean”). And, like God’s word in creation (“Let there be”), Jesus’ word “does” what He commands (see Psalm 33:9).

The same thing happens when we show ourselves to the priest in the sacrament of penance. On our knees like the leper, we confess our sins to the Lord, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And through the outstretched arm and divine word spoken by His priest, the Lord takes away the guilt of our sin.

Like the leper we should rejoice in the Lord and spread the good news of His mercy. We should testify to our healing by living changed lives. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we should do even the littlest things for the glory of God and that others may be saved.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: February 6, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Raised to Serve: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Job 7:1–4, 6–7
Psalm 147:1–6
1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22–23
Mark 1:29–39

In today’s First Reading, Job describes the futility of life before Christ.

His lament reminds us of the curse of toil and death placed upon Adam following his original sin (see Genesis 3:17–19). Men and women are like slaves seeking shade, unable to find rest. Their lives are like the wind that comes and goes.

But, as we sing in today’s Psalm, He who created the stars promised to heal the brokenhearted and gather those lost in exile from Him (see Isaiah 11:12; 61:1). We see this promise fulfilled in today’s Gospel.

Simon’s mother-in-law is like Job’s toiling, hopeless humanity. She is laid low by affliction but too weak to save herself.

But as God promised to take His chosen people by the hand (see Isaiah 42:6), Jesus grasps her by the hand and helps her up. The word translated “help” is actually Greek for “raising up.” The same verb is used when Jesus commands a dead girl to arise (see Mark 5:41–42). It’s used again to describe His own resurrection (see Mark 14:28; 16:7).

What Jesus has done for Simon’s mother-in-law, He has done for all humanity—raised all of us who lay dead through our sins (see Ephesians 2:5).

Notice all the words of totality and completeness in the Gospel. The whole town gathers; all the sick are brought to Him. He drives out demons in the whole of Galilee. Everyone is looking for Christ.

We too have found Him. By our baptism, He healed and raised us to live in His presence (see Hosea 6:1–2).

Like Simon’s mother-in-law, there is only one way we can thank Him for the new life He has given us. We must rise to serve Him and His gospel.

Our lives must be our thanksgiving, as Paul describes in today’s Epistle. We must tell everyone the good news, the purpose for which Jesus has come—that others, too, may have a share in this salvation.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: January 30, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The King’s Authority: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Deuteronomy 18:15–20
Psalm 95:1–26–9
1 Corinthians 7:32–35
Mark 1:21–28
 

Last week, Jesus announced the kingdom of God is at hand. This week, in mighty words and deeds, He exercises His dominion—asserting royal authority over the ruler of this world, Satan (see John 12:31).

Notice that today’s events take place on the sabbath. The sabbath was to be an everlasting sign—both of God’s covenant love for His creation (see Exodus 20:8–1131:12–17), and His deliverance of His covenant people, Israel, from slavery (see Deuteronomy 6:12–15).

On this sabbath, Jesus signals a new creation—that the Holy One has come to purify His people and deliver the world from evil.

“With an unclean spirit” is biblical language for a man possessed by a demon, Satan being the prince of demons (see Mark 3:22).

The demons’ question: “What have you to do with us?” is often used in Old Testament scenes of combat and judgment (see Judges 11:121 Kings 17:18).

And as God by His Word “rebuked” the forces of chaos in creating the world (see Psalms 104:7Job 26:10–12), and again rebuked the Red Sea so the Israelites could make their exodus (see Psalm 106:9), Mark uses the same word to describe Jesus rebuking the demons (see Mark 4:39Zechariah 3:2).

Jesus is the prophet foretold by Moses in today’s First Reading (see Acts 3:22). Though He has authority over heaven and earth (see Daniel 7:1427Revelation 12:10), He becomes one of our own kinsmen.

He comes to rebuke the forces of evil and chaos—not only in the world, but in our lives. He wants to make us holy in body and spirit, as Paul says in today’s Epistle (see Exodus 31:12).

In this liturgy, we hear His voice and “see” His works, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And as Moses tells us today, we should listen to Him.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: January 23, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Following Him: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Calling of Sts. Peter and Andrew

Readings:
Jonah 3:1–5,10
Psalm 25:4–9
1 Corinthians 7:29–31
Mark 1:14–20

The calling of the brothers in today’s Gospel evokes Elisha’s commissioning by the prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 19:19–21).

As Elijah comes upon Elisha working on his family’s farm, so Jesus sees the brothers working by the seaside. And as Elisha left his mother and father to follow Elijah, so the brothers leave their father to come after Jesus.
Jesus’ promise—to make them “fishers of men”—evokes Israel’s deepest hopes. The prophet Jeremiah announced a new exodus in which God would send “many fishermen” to restore the Israelites from exile, as once He brought them out of slavery in Egypt (see Jeremiah 16:14–16).

By Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection, this new exodus has begun (see Luke 9:31). And the apostles are the first of a new people of God, the Church—a new family, based not on blood ties, but on belief in Jesus and a desire to do the Father’s will (see John 1:12–13; Matthew 12:46–50).

From now on, even our most important worldly concerns—family relations, occupations, and possessions—must be judged in light of the Gospel, Paul says in today’s Epistle.

The first word of Jesus’ Gospel—repent—means we must totally change our way of thinking and living, turning from evil, doing all for the love of God.

And we should be consoled by Nineveh’s repentance in today’s First Reading. Even the wicked Nineveh could repent at Jonah’s preaching. And in Jesus we have “something greater than Jonah” (Matthew 12:41). We have God come as our savior, to show sinners the way, as we sing in today’s Psalm. This should give us hope—that loved ones who remain far from God will find compassion if they turn to Him.

But we, too, must continue along the path of repentance—striving daily to pattern our lives after His.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: January 16, 2021 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Hearing the Call: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
1 Samuel 3:3–1019
Psalm 40:247–10
1 Corinthians 6:13–1517–20
John 1:35–42
 

In the call of Samuel and of the first Apostles, today’s readings shed light on our own calling to be followers of Christ.
Notice in the Gospel today that John’s disciples are prepared to hear God’s call. They are already looking for the Messiah, so they trust in John’s word and follow when he points out the Lamb of God walking by.
Samuel is also waiting on the Lord—sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant where God’s glory dwells, taking instruction from Eli, the high priest.

Samuel listened to God’s word and the Lord was with him. And Samuel, through his word, turned all Israel to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 3:217:2–3). The disciples too heard and followed—words we hear repeatedly in today’s Gospel. They stayed with the Lord and by their testimony brought others to the Lord.

These scenes from salvation history should give us strength to embrace God’s will and to follow His call in our lives.

God is constantly calling to each of us—personally, by name (see Isaiah 43:1John 10:3). He wants us to seek Him in love, to long for His word (see Wisdom 6:11–12). We must desire always, as the Apostles did, to stay where the Lord stays, to constantly seek His face (see Psalm 42:2).

For we are not our own, but belong to the Lord, as Paul says in today’s Epistle.
We must have ears open to obedience, and write His word within our hearts. We must trust in the Lord’s promise—that if we come to Him in faith, He will abide with us (see John 15:1414:21–23), and raise us by His power. And we must reflect in our lives the love He has shown us, so that others too may find the Messiah.

As we renew our vows of discipleship in this Eucharist, let us approach the altar singing the new song of today’s Psalm: “Behold I come . . . to do your will O God.”

Feast of the Holy Family

Posted: December 26, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

Our True Home: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of the Holy Family

Readings:
Sirach 3:2–612–14
Psalm 128:1–234–5
Colossians 3:12–21
Luke 2:22–40

Why did Jesus choose to become a baby born of a mother and father and to spend all but His last years living in an ordinary human family? In part, to reveal God’s plan to make all people live as one “holy family” in His Church (see 2 Corinthians 6:16–18).

In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, God reveals our true home. We’re to live as His children, “chosen ones, holy and beloved,” as the First Reading puts it. The family advice we hear in today’s readings—for mothers, fathers, and children—is all solid and practical. Happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord, we sing in today’s Psalm. But the Liturgy is inviting us to see more, to see how, through our family obligations and relationships, our families become heralds of the family of God that He wants to create on earth.

Jesus shows us this in today’s Gospel. His obedience to His earthly parents flows directly from His obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. Joseph and Mary aren’t identified by name, but three times are called “his parents” and are referred to separately as his “mother” and “father.” The emphasis is all on their their familial ties to Jesus. But these ties are emphasized only so that Jesus, in the first words He speaks in Luke’s Gospel, can point us beyond that earthly relationship to the Fatherhood of God.

In what Jesus calls “My Father’s house,” every family finds its true meaning and purpose (see Ephesians 3:15). The Temple we read about in the Gospel today is God’s house, His dwelling (see Luke 19:46). But it’s also an image of the family of God, the Church (see Ephesians 2:19–22Hebrews 3:3–610:21).

In our families we’re to build up this household, this family, this living temple of God. Until He reveals His new dwelling among us and says of every person: “I shall be his God and he will be My son” (see Revelation 21:37).

Third Sunday of Advent

Posted: December 12, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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One Who is Coming: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Third Sunday of Advent

Readings:
Isaiah 61:1–210–11
Luke 1:46–5053–54
1 Thessalonians 5:16–24
John 1:6–819–28
 

The mysterious figure of John the Baptist, introduced in last week’s readings, comes into sharper focus today. Who he is, we see in today’s Gospel, is best understood by who he isn’t.

He is not Elijah returned from the heavens (see 2 Kings 2:11), although like him he dresses in the prophet’s attire (see Mark 1:62 Kings 1:8) and preaches repentance and judgment (see 1 Kings
18:21; 2 Chronicles 21:12–15).

Not Elijah in the flesh, John is nonetheless sent in the spirit and power of Elijah to fulfill his mission (see Luke 1:17Malachi 3:23–24).
Neither is John the prophet Moses foretold, although he is a kinsman and speaks God’s word (see Deuteronomy 18:15–19John 6:14). Nor is John the Messiah, though he has been anointed by the Spirit since he was in the womb (see Luke 1:1544).

John prepares the way for the Lord (see Isaiah 40:3). The baptism he performs is symbolic, not sacramental. It is a sign given to stir our hearts to repentance.
John shows us the One upon whom the Spirit remains (see John 1:32), the One who fulfills the promise we hear in today’s First Reading (see Luke 4:16–21). Jesus’ bath of rebirth and the Spirit opens a fountain that purifies Israel and gives to all a new heart and a new Spirit (see Zechariah 13:1–3Ezekiel 36:24–27Mark 1:8Titus 3:5).

John comes to us in the Advent readings to show us the light, that we might believe in the One who comes at Christmas. As we sing in today’s Responsorial, the Mighty One has come to lift each of us up, to fill our hunger with bread from heaven (see John 6:3349–51).

And as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle, we should rejoice, give thanks, and pray without ceasing that God will make us perfectly holy in spirit, soul, and body—that we may be blameless when our Lord comes.

First Sunday of Advent

Posted: November 28, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Watch for Him: Scott Hahn Reflects on the First Sunday of Advent

Readings:
Isaiah 63:16–17, 19
Psalm 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19
1 Corinthians 1:3–9
Mark 13:33–37

The new Church year begins with a plea for God’s visitation. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,” the prophet Isaiah cries in today’s First Reading.

In today’s Psalm, too, we hear the anguished voice of Israel, imploring God to look down from His heavenly throne—to save and shepherd His people.

Today’s readings are relatively brief. Their language and “message” are deceptively simple. But we should take note of the serious mood and penitential aspect of the Liturgy today—as the people of Israel recognize their sinfulness, their failures to keep God’s covenant, their inability to save themselves.

And in this Advent season, we should see our own lives in the experience of Israel. As we examine our consciences, can’t we, too, find that we often harden our hearts, refuse His rule, wander from His ways, withhold our love from Him?

God is faithful, Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle. He is our Father. He has hearkened to the cry of His children, coming down from heaven for Israel’s sake and for ours to redeem us from our exile from God, to restore us to His love.

In Jesus, we have seen the Father (see John 14:8–9). The Father has let His face shine upon us. He is the good shepherd (see John 10:11–15) come to guide us to the heavenly kingdom. No matter how far we have strayed, He will give us new life if we turn to Him, if we call upon His holy name, if we pledge anew never again to withdraw from Him.

As Paul says today, He has given us every spiritual gift—especially the Eucharist and penance—to strengthen us as we await Christ’s final coming. He will keep us firm to the end—if we let Him.

So, in this season of repentance, we should heed the warning—repeated three times by our Lord in today’s Gospel—to be watchful, for we know not the hour when the Lord of the house will return.

Solemnity of Christ the King

Posted: November 21, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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When the End Comes: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of Christ the King

Readings:
Ezekiel 34:11–1215–17
Psalm 23:1–35–6
1 Corinthians 15:20–2628
Matthew 25:31–46

The Church year ends today with a vision of the end of time. The scene in the Gospel is stark and resounds with Old Testament echoes.

The Son of Man is enthroned over all nations and peoples of every language (see Daniel 7:13–14). The nations have been gathered to see His glory and receive His judgment (see Isaiah 66:18Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in today’s First Reading, judging as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.
Each of us will be judged upon our performance of the simple works of mercy we hear in the Gospel today.

These works, as Jesus explains today, are reflections or measures of our love for Him, our faithfulness to His commandment that we love God with all our might and our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:36–40).

Our faith is dead, lifeless, unless it be expressed in works of love (see James 2:20Galatians 5:6). And we cannot say we truly love God, whom we cannot see, if we don’t love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20).

The Lord is our shepherd, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11Ephesians 5:1).

He healed our sickness (see Luke 6:19), freed us from the prison of sin and death (see Romans 8:221), welcomed us who were once strangers to His covenant (see Ephesians 2:1219). He clothed us in baptism (see Revelation 3:52 Corinthians 5:3–4), and feeds us with the food and drink of His own body and blood.

At “the end,” He will come again to hand over His kingdom to His Father, as Paul says in today’s Epistle.

Let us strive to be following Him in right paths, that this kingdom might be our inheritance, that we might enter into the eternal rest promised for the people of God (see Hebrews 4:19–11).

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 14, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Settling Accounts: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Proverbs 31:10–1319–2030–31
Psalm 128:1–5
1 Thessalonians 5:1–6
Matthew 25:14–30
 
The day of the Lord is coming, Paul warns in today’s Epistle. What matters isn’t the time or the season, but what the Lord finds us doing with the new life, the graces He has given to us.

This is at the heart of Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel. Jesus is the Master. Having died, risen, and ascended into heaven, He appears to have gone away for a long time.
By our Baptism, He has entrusted to each of us a portion of His “possessions,” a share in His divine life (see 2 Peter 1:4). He has given us talents and responsibilities, according to the measure of our faith (see Romans 12:38).

We are to be like the worthy wife in today’s First Reading and the faithful man we sing of in today’s Psalm. Like them, we should walk in the “fear of the Lord”—in reverence, awe, and thanksgiving for His marvelous gifts. This is the beginning of wisdom (see Acts 9:31Proverbs 1:7).

This is not the “fear” of the useless servant in today’s parable. His is the fear of a slave cowering before a cruel master, the fear of one who refuses the relationship that God calls us to.

God has called us to be trusted servants, fellow workers (see 1 Corinthians 3:9), using our talents to serve one another and His kingdom as good stewards of His grace (see 1 Peter 4:10).
In this, we each have a different part to play.

Though the good servants in today’s parable were given different numbers of talents, each “doubled” what he was given. And each earned the same reward for his faithfulness—greater responsibilities and a share of the master’s joy.

So let us resolve again in this Eucharist to make much of what we’ve been given, to do all for the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10:31). That we, too, may approach our Master with confidence and love when He comes to settle accounts.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 7, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

Members of the Wedding: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Wisdom 6:12–16
Psalm 63:2–8
1 Thessalonians 4:13–17
Matthew 25:1–13

According to marriage customs of Jesus’ day, a bride was first “betrothed” to her husband but continued for a time to live with her family. Then, at the appointed hour, some months later, the groom would come to claim her, leading her family and bridal party to the wedding feast that would celebrate and inaugurate their new life together.

This is the background to the parable of the last judgment we hear in today’s Gospel.
In the parable’s symbolism, Jesus is the Bridegroom (see Mark 2:19). In this, He fulfills God’s ancient promise to join himself forever to His chosen people as a husband cleaves to his bride (see Hosea 2:16–20). The virgins of the bridal party represent us, the members of the Church.
We were “betrothed” to Jesus in Baptism (see 2 Corinthians 11:2Ephesians 5:25–27) and are called to lives of holiness and devotion until He comes again to lead us to the heavenly wedding feast at the end of time (see Revelation 19:7–921:1–4).

As St. Paul warns in today’s Epistle, Jesus is coming again, though we know not the day nor the hour.
We need to keep vigil throughout the dark night of this time in which our Bridegroom seems long delayed. We need to keep our souls’ lamps filled with the oil of perseverance and desire for God–virtues that are extolled in today’s First Reading and Psalm.

We are to seek Him in love, meditating upon His kindness, calling upon His name, striving to be ever more worthy of Him, to be found without spot or blemish when He comes.
If we do this, we will be counted as wise and the oil for our lamps will not run dry (see 1 Kings 17:16). We will perceive the Bridegroom, the Wisdom of God (see Proverbs 8:22–31359:1–5), hastening toward us, beckoning us to the table He has prepared, the rich banquet which will satisfy our souls.


Love Commanded: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Exodus 22:20–26
Psalm 18:2–44751
1 Thessalonians 1:5–10
Matthew 22:34–40
 
Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament law but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17). And in today’s Gospel, He reveals that love—of God and of neighbor—is the fulfillment of the whole of the law (see Romans 13:8–10).

Devout Israelites were to keep all 613 commands found in the Bible’s first five books. Jesus says today that all these, and all the teachings of the prophets, can be summarized by two verses of this law (see Deuteronomy 6:5Leviticus 19:18).

He seems to summarize the two stone tablets on which God was said to have engraved the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 32:15–16). The first tablet set out three laws concerning the love of God, such as the command not to take His name in vain; the second contained seven commands regarding love of neighbor, such as those against stealing and adultery.
Love is the hinge that binds the two tablets of the law. For we can’t love God, whom we can’t see, if we don’t love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20–22).

But this love we are called to is far more than simple affection or warm sentiment. We must give ourselves totally to God—loving with our whole beings, with all our heart, soul, and mind. Our love for our neighbor must express itself in concrete actions, such as those set out in today’s First Reading.
We love because He first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). As we sing in today’s Psalm, He has been our deliverer, our strength when we could not possibly defend ourselves against the enemies of sin and death.
We love in thanksgiving for our salvation. And in this become imitators of Jesus, as Paul tells us in today’s Epistle—laying down our lives daily in ways large and small, seen and unseen; our lives offered as a continual sacrifice of praise (see John 15:12–13Hebrews 13:15).

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: October 17, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections

Caesar and the King: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Isaiah 45:1,4–6
Psalm 96:1,3–57–10
1 Thessalonians 1:1–5
Matthew 22:15–21
 
The Lord is king over all the earth, as we sing in today’s Psalm. Governments rise and fall by His permission, with no authority but that given from above (see John 19:11Romans 13:1).

In effect, God says to every ruler what He tells King Cyrus in today’s First Reading: “I have called you . . . though you knew me not.”

The Lord raised up Cyrus to restore the Israelites from exile, and to rebuild Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1–4). Throughout salvation history, God has used foreign rulers for the sake of His chosen people. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened to reveal God’s power (see Romans 9:17). Invading armies were used to punish Israel’s sins (see 2 Maccabees 6:7–16).

The Roman occupation during Jesus’ time was, in a similar way, a judgment on Israel’s unfaithfulness. Jesus’ famous words in today’s Gospel: “Repay to Caesar” are a pointed reminder of this. And they call us, too, to keep our allegiances straight.
The Lord alone is our king. His kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36) but it begins here in His Church, which tells of His glory among all peoples. Citizens of heaven (see Philippians 3:20), we are called to be a light to the world (see Matthew 5:14)—working in faith, laboring in love, and enduring in hope, as today’s Epistle counsels.

We owe the government a concern for the common good and obedience to laws—unless they conflict with God’s commandments as interpreted by the Church (see Acts 5:29).
But we owe God everything. The coin bears Caesar’s image. But we bear God’s own image (see Genesis 1:27). We owe Him our very lives—all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, offered as a living sacrifice of love (see Romans 12:1–2).

We should pray for our leaders, that like Cyrus they do God’s will (see 1 Timothy 2:1–2)—until from the rising of the sun to its setting, all humanity knows that Jesus is Lord.

Twenty Eight Sunday In Ordinary Time

Posted: October 10, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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Dressing for the Feast: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Isaiah 25:6–10
Psalm 23:1–6
Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20
Matthew 22:1–14
 
Our Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel is again a fairly straightforward outline of salvation history.

God is the king (see Matthew 5:35), Jesus the bridegroom (see Matthew 9:15), the feast is the salvation and eternal life that Isaiah prophesies in today’s First Reading. The Israelites are those first invited to the feast by God’s servants, the prophets (see Isaiah 7:25). For refusing repeated invitations and even killing His prophets, Israel has been punished, its city conquered by foreign armies.

Now, Jesus makes clear, God is sending new servants, His apostles, to call not only Israelites, but all people—good and bad alike—to the feast of His kingdom. This an image of the Church, which Jesus elsewhere compares to a field sown with both wheat and weeds, and a fishing net that catches good fish and bad (see Matthew 13:24–43, 47–50).

We have all been called to this great feast of love in the Church, where, as Isaiah foretold, the veil that once separated the nations from the covenants of Israel has been destroyed, where the dividing wall of enmity has been torn down by the blood of Christ (see Ephesians 2:11–14).

As we sing in today’s Psalm, the Lord has led us to this feast, refreshing our souls in the waters of Baptism, spreading the table before us in the Eucharist. As Paul tells us in today’s Epistle, in the glorious riches of Christ, we will find supplied whatever we need.

And in the rich food of His body, and the choice wine of His blood, we have a foretaste of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem, when God will destroy death forever (see Hebrews 12:22–24).

But are we dressed for the feast, clothed in the garment of righteousness (see Revelation 19:8)? Not all who have been called will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus warns. Let us be sure that we’re living in a manner worthy of the invitation we’ve received (see Ephesians 4:1).


Living on the Vine: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Isaiah 5:1–7
Psalm 80:912–1619–20
Philippians 4:6–9
Matthew 21:33–43
 

In today’s Gospel Jesus returns to the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach about Israel, the Church, and the kingdom of God.

And the symbolism of today’s First Reading and Psalm is readily understood.
God is the owner and the house of Israel is the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted in a fertile land specially spaded and prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem, watched over by the towering Temple. But the vineyard produced no good grapes for the wine, a symbol for the holy lives God wanted for His people. So God allowed His vineyard to be overrun by foreign invaders, as Isaiah foresees in the First Reading.
Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah’s words to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel’s religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel’s past. Instead of producing good fruits, they’ve killed the owner’s servants, the prophets sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls.

In a dark foreshadowing of His own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants’ final outrage will be to seize the owner’s son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls.

For this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, will be taken away and given to new tenants—the leaders of the Church, who will produce its fruit.

We are each a vine in the Lord’s vineyard, grafted onto the true vine of Christ (see John 15:1–8), called to bear fruits of the righteousness in Him (see Philippians 1:11) and to be the “first fruits” of a new creation (see James 1:18).

We need to take care that we don’t let ourselves be overgrown with the thorns and briers of worldly anxiety. As today’s Epistle advises, we need to fill our hearts and minds with noble intentions and virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: September 26, 2020 by CatholicJules in Sunday Reflections
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The Humble Path: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:

Ezekiel 18:25–28
Psalm 25:4–9
Philippians 2:1–11
Matthew 21:28–32

Echoing the complaint heard in last week’s readings, today’s First Reading again presents protests that God isn’t fair. Why does He punish with death one who begins in virtue but falls into iniquity, while granting life to the wicked one who turns from sin?
This is the question that Jesus takes up in the parable in today’s Gospel.

The first son represents the most heinous sinners of Jesus’ day—tax collectors and prostitutes—who by their sin at first refused to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, the kingdom. At the preaching of John the Baptist, they repented and did what was right and just.

The second son represents Israel’s leaders—who said they would serve God in the vineyard, but refused to believe John when he told them they must produce good fruits as evidence of their repentance (see Matthew 3:8).

Once again, this week’s readings invite us to ponder the unfathomable ways of God’s justice and mercy. He teaches His ways only to the humble, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And in the Epistle today, Paul presents Jesus as the model of that humility by which we come to know life’s true path.

Paul sings a beautiful hymn to the Incarnation. Unlike Adam, the first man, who in his pride grasped at being God, the New Adam, Jesus, humbled himself to become a slave, obedient even unto death on the cross (see Romans 5:14). In this He has shown sinners—each one of us—the way back to the Father. We can only come to God to serve in His vineyard, the Church, by having that same attitude as Christ.

This is what Israel’s leaders lacked. In their vainglory, they presumed their superiority—that they had no further need to hear God’s Word or listen to God’s servants.

But this is the way to death, as God tells Ezekiel today. We are always to be emptying ourselves, seeking forgiveness for our sins and frailties, confessing on bended knee that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father.


First and Last: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:
Isaiah 55:6–9
Psalm 145:2–3, 8–9, 17–18
Philippians 1:20–24, 27
Matthew 20:1–16

 

The house of Israel is the vine of God, who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7; 27:2–5).

Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel’s kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9–20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5–10).

This is the biblical backdrop to Jesus’ parable of salvation history in today’s Gospel. The landowner is God. The vineyard is the kingdom. The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant. Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11–13). In the Lord’s great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations.

This provokes grumbling in today’s parable. Doesn’t the complaint of those first laborers sound like that of the older brother in Jesus’ prodigal son parable (see Luke 15:29–30)? God’s ways, however, are far from our ways, as we hear in today’s First Reading. And today’s readings should caution us against the temptation to resent God’s lavish mercy.

Like the Gentiles, many will be allowed to enter the kingdom late—after having spent most of their days idling in sin.

But even these can call upon Him and find Him near, as we sing in today’s Psalm. We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we have loved ones who remain far from the vineyard.

Our task is to continue laboring in His vineyard. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, let us conduct ourselves worthily, struggling to bring all men and women to the praise of His name.