Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Luke 14-16.

As you read today, notice the centrality of meals: Jesus is present at meals, speaking about great feasts, and criticized for whom he eats with. It's all leading up, of course, to the great meal toward the end of the Gospel, the meal that will be repeated by his followers every "first day of the week" (Acts 20:7). There is a whole book by Scripture scholar Father Eugene LaVerdiere on the meals in the Gospel of Luke alone! (It is called Dining in the Kingdom of God, and it is very readable.) 

Because we are deep into the parables of Luke, I am recommending a whole book about them. I found it very rich and helpful in grasping aspects of the parables that, as an American, I would totally miss. Even though the level of detail in terms of analysis of linguistic structure was beyond me, even those sections showed me how amazingly structured the Gospel is simply from the literary perspective. Truly, the Holy Spirit takes what we put in his hands, and elevates it beyond all imagining!

Start reading here.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Luke 11-13, on the Feast of St Luke the Evangelist!

Today's chapters are filled with teachings, but just one miracle (for a woman; this is Luke we're reading). Notice how the small-minded worship leader, intent on maintaining the status quo, tried to prevent people from seeking healing on the Sabbath day. Jesus calls out the inconsistency of prioritizing the needs of one's animals over the good of a human being, a "daughter of Abraham." Is it their blindness to God's priorities part of what leads him to cry out over the impending fate of the Holy City? 

Some of today's material is familiar from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew), but much of it, including  the powerful parable of the rich fool, is found only in Luke. That is also the case with the episode related to the brutal murder of innocent worshipers under the orders of Pontius Pilate. Jesus calls everyone to penance and conversion, not just the public sinners, but even types like those whom Flannery O'Connor called "Good Country People." As Paul will later say, "All fall short of the glory of God" (see Romans 3:23).

Start reading here.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Luke 8-10 and (because it is Sunday) Psalms 132 and 133.

The focus as we begin reading today is on discipleship and the Word. We join the group on the road and notice that this unusual rabbi Jesus includes women among his students. At least two of these women will be present at his tomb on Easter morning. 

In the last chapter, we read about the raising back to life of a dead man who was an only son; in Chapter 8, a chapter with a strong feminine presence, Jesus raises to life a dead girl, an only child. 

With the Transfiguration, Luke's Gospel makes a strong shift. There on the Mountain, in glory, Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus "about his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem." From then on, Luke says, Jesus (literally) "set his face toward Jerusalem" (9:51; the NABRE translation is much more prosaic). We see the same predictions of his suffering, death, and resurrection that we read in Matthew and Mark. The incomprehension, or perhaps denial, on the part of the apostles, invites us to reflect on our own willingness to accept the parts of the Gospel that do not match our expectations. 

With the story of Martha and Mary (Chapter 10) Luke's Gospel offers us one of two examples of people telling Jesus what to do (the other one is a man with a complaint about his brother!). In both episodes, people were trying to use Jesus to get their way with another person; to force Jesus into pressuring someone else so things would work out "right." Jesus doesn't scold Martha or tell her to stop serving. He just remarks that if she's anxious and upset about what she's doing, that's a signal that her real aim is something other than service. (How real is that?!) Luke follows this story of "serving" (literally, "ministry") with the Lord's Prayer: a lesson for anyone who wants to serve the Lord and their neighbor!

In a way, Psalm 132 (one of the "Songs of Ascent") matches the Gospel reading as the Lord begins his definitive journey to Jerusalem. The Psalm memorializes, at least in song, the procession of the Ark of the Covenant into the Holy City. The first half of the Psalm commemorates David's determination that the Ark of God's presence should be worthily ensconced in the City; the second half is a profession of joyful faith in God's fidelity to his own promises to David.

Flowing right from the previous Psalm, and linked to it interiorly, Psalm 133 is a single sentence (in Hebrew!) celebrating the lavish blessings that God pours upon his people who are united in worship (or as a family). The "unity" which is the source of the abundant blessings that Psalm 133 celebrates is only really clear in the Hebrew: Between Psalms 132 and 133, the Divine Name that was revealed to Moses is written seven times, the number itself bespeaking completion, totality, perfection.

Start reading Luke here and the Psalms here.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Luke 5-7.

Early on in Luke's Gospel, we see Simeon's prediction that Jesus would be a "sign of contradiction" realized. Not only at Nazareth, but repeatedly in his public ministry, Jesus' words and wonders created consternation, even among those who should have been the most receptive to him. Jesus' remark about the flavor of aged wine hints at part of the problem: judging things by our taste, and not by the truth.

The "Barque of Peter"
in the famous dream
of St John Bosco.
A little detail in the beginning of our reading today: Jesus is teaching the crowd from Simon's boat. This is the origin of the expression "the barque of Peter" as an image of the Church, led by the successor of Simon Peter, the Pope. St John Bosco's famous "dream" of a ship safely captained by the Pope over perilous seas is as clear a picture of this "barque" as you'll find anywhere. (The original painting is in the great Basilica of Our Lady, Help of Christians in Turin, Italy.)

In Chapter 6 we have not a Sermon on the Mount, but a Sermon on the Plain. Luke's Gospel has been called the Gospel of the poor. His version of the Beatitudes clearly speaks to the disenfranchised: the poor, hungry, weeping, hated, denounced. These, Jesus says, are blessed now. Unlike Matthew's Beatitudes, Luke's shorter set is matched with a set of woes: for the rich, powerful, and comfortable. (Yikes!)

Luke's Gospel has been called the Gospel of women. Notice how in Chapter 7, he alternates stories involving men and stories where strong women interact with Jesus. We will also see how many women are named and have "speaking parts" in this Gospel, and how often the parables of Jesus come in matched sets: a parable with a male protagonist or in a "man's world," and then one with a predominantly feminine setting. 

Start reading here.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Luke 2-4.

There is a lot going on in Chapter 2, starting with the Nativity of Christ! Six weeks later, Mary and Joseph bring the infant to the Temple. Here, Luke's language is strangely inexact, at least when it comes to the Mosaic Law. The Church's liturgy for the Feast of the Presentation tells us that, actually, Luke is theologically exploding all the earlier categories. The couple is not bringing this "firstborn son" to the Temple to "redeem him" from the Lord, as was the case with every other firstborn boy in Israel (and still is, for some of the "ultra-Orthodox"). And the Law did not call for firstborn sons to be "consecrated"; rather, they were born consecrated! Instead, in this moment, the Lord is mysteriously coming to meet his faithful people, represented by Simeon and Anna. In fact, in the Eastern Churches, the Feast of the Presentation is called the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord.

Chapter 3 begins with historical data that should make any modern reader comfortable. Luke is assuring his reader (and patron?) Theophilus that the events he is narrating did not happen "once upon a time," but in the real world: the world dominated by Rome and its policies and its alliances with petty local rulers. Similarly, with his genealogy of Jesus (which varies somewhat significantly from Matthew's, but still establishes Jesus as a descendant of David), Luke puts Jesus in this real world. Even more, while Matthew's genealogy only went as far back as Abraham, Luke continues back to Adam and even to the Creator, establishing that Jesus is brother in the flesh to every human being who ever lived or shall live.

Luke's presentation of the beginning of Jesus' public ministry is very carefully developed. After his baptism by John (Chapter 3), Jesus spends an extended period under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer and fasting. Like his people, he is tested in the harsh conditions of the desert; unlike them, he relies on the Word of God and comes out victorious. The story of his preaching at Nazareth is particularly detailed. Again, the emphasis is on the Word of God. Truly, whatever scroll had been handed him that day in the synagogue, he could have proclaimed: "Today, in your hearing, the Scriptures are fulfilled." But here, instead of the devil being cast out, it is Jesus who is cast out of his own home town.

Start reading here.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Mark 15-16 and Luke 1.

Mark's Gospel has been called (I don't know by whom!) "a Passion Narrative with a long introduction." the powerful details in Chapter 15 have that eye-witness quality that make them essential for any screenwriter creating a Passion Play. Every three years we participate in that Passion Play ourselves, when the "B" cycle of Sunday readings means that we read, aloud, the entire Passion according to Mark in the middle of Mass on Palm Sunday. Don't let familiarity from movies (or from Palm Sunday) blind you to the events the way Mark has written them for his first readers, for whom he noted that Christ "did not take" the drugged wine (for he had promised not to "drink the fruit of the vine until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God" 14:25), and for whom he had to translate the last words of Christ (Psalm 22:2).

Chapter 16 is a bit complex. On the one hand, we find a "typical" Easter morning story: women at the strangely open tomb (the same three who had been near Jesus' cross in Mark 15), a mysterious messenger, bewilderment. Some ancient Gospel manuscripts end on this note. But other (more important!) manuscripts are twelve verses longer. The longer ending is recognized as inspired Scripture and contains, in summary form, episodes that we know in more detailed fashion from Matthew and Luke. 

With the commissioning of the Apostles "to the whole world" (16:15), we turn the page and begin "The Most Beautiful Book Ever Written," at least so the Gospel of Luke was described by an eminent Protestant Bible scholar who published a book by that title in 1913. 

Detail of St Luke and the first lines
 of the Annunciation from a Flemish
Book of Hours; used with permission
from the Walters Art Museum.
The Gospel of Luke is part of a two-volume set (Acts of the Apostles is Volume II), written in the best Greek in the New Testament (so I am told). It has been called the Gospel of mercy: it is only in Luke that find the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. It is the Gospel of Mary, who is assumed to be Luke's primary source for the stories of Jesus' childhood, stories which are nowhere else to be found. (Luke's vivid depiction of Mary is one of the features that led to his being adopted as the patron saint of artists.)

Chapter 1 of Luke is the in-breaking of the divine into human time. And there are two settings. One is as majestic as humans can possibly make it. The other is humanly inconspicuous, but incomparably glorious in God's eyes.

Start reading Mark here and Luke here.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Mark 12-14.

In the first part of Mark's Gospel, it seemed that Jesus was going everywhere, healing and teaching, but Mark didn't record much of that teaching. With the Cross looming nearby, we are getting some of those priceless teachings.

Jesus teachings in answer to his disciples' question about "when all these things [the great glories of Jerusalem that they had been talking about] are to come to an end" can be really misconstrued. Jesus' words about a "desolating abomination" (a reference to the Book of Daniel) take us back to a time when a world power desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem with a pagan idol. The Roman Emperor Caligula would try the same thing, but with a statue of himself. Although Caligula did not get his way, the Romans would profane the Temple, utterly and completely, by razing it to the ground in the year 70 AD. 

Some people assume that we have in Chapter 13 a mistaken prophecy by Jesus of the end of the world. Instead, the warnings in this chapter are primarily about the Fall of Jerusalem, which was dreadful enough to serve as a sign of total, worldwide chaos. The switch to apocalyptic language in verse 24 ("the sun will be darkened..." as in Joel) can signal a shift to "end of the world" teachings, but Jesus steadfastly refused to give any solid clues as to the "day" or "hour" when he, "the Lord of the house," would return.  

Chapter 14 is utterly beautiful, even if it swings repeatedly between love and betrayal. It also contains a precious pearl, one we only find in Mark's Gospel: the sweet name "Abba" invoked by Jesus in prayer. When we see this name again, it will be in the letters of St Paul, but then it will be the Spirit of Jesus praying in us!

Start reading here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Mark 9-11.

In Chapter 8, Jesus confirmed the apostles in their belief that he was the Messiah, but he began to clarify their understanding by predicting his suffering, death and resurrection, challenging them to follow him by losing their own lives for the sake of the Gospel. (In all, Jesus will predict his violent death--and his Resurrection--three times.) With the Transfiguration (at the very start of Chapter 9), the Heavenly Father gives three chosen apostles a kind of preview of the future glory destined for the Messiah after he has been "handed over to men" and "killed." As clear as Jesus is, his apostles seem unable to grasp what he is saying. They still want positions of worldly power. Mark juxtaposes James and John's audacious request with the faith of a blind man who, once cured, follows Jesus on the way that leads directly into Jerusalem. 

And us?

Start reading here.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Mark 6-8.

Jesus is discredited at Nazareth in part because everybody there knew him and his family, including his "brothers," James, Joses (a form of Joseph), Judas, and Simon. This passage is sometimes thought to contradict the ancient teaching that Mary remained a virgin. However, in his story of the Resurrection, Mark will mention Joses again: as the son of a different Mary than the Mother of Jesus (see Mark 15:47). We also read (last Friday!) that "Mary, the mother of James and Joseph," came to the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. Since the Gospel of John indicates that the Mother of Jesus had a sister (or close female relative) named Mary, we are on solid ground in connecting that Mary with at least two of the "brothers" (close male relatives) of Jesus named in Mark 6.

In the story of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, a miracle we read about in all four Gospels, Mark gives us a detail that no one else does, and in so doing makes a strong textual link to Psalm 23 (the "Good Shepherd" Psalm). Look at the reference in verse 39 to the "green grass": Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads his flock to "green pastures" where "nothing shall I want." This will be completely fulfilled in the Eucharist, which is also being evoked in Mark's language: Jesus "took" the bread, "blessed" it, "broke" it and "gave" it to the disciples to distribute to the people. These same four verbs appear in Mark's Last Supper account (and in our Mass).

Notice that Mark makes sure to explain Jewish customs and Hebrew terms to his Gentile readers. Then in Chapter 8, he relates a second miracle of multiplication of loaves and fish: this time in a predominantly Gentile area. Just a few verses later, the Gospel reaches a turning point in Peter's "confession" of Jesus as the Messiah. Peter may think that being the "anointed one" will mean political glory and power, but this point on, we see Jesus preparing his apostles for his death and resurrection.

Start reading here.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Read the Bible with Me!

Welcome to the Pauline Family's "Year of the Bible"! We've been reading the Bible clear through this year. We've reached the New Testament, so read along with me. But first, let us pray: 

Father,

When the fullness of time had come, you sent your Word in the One who said, “Whoever sees me, sees the Father.” No revelation can surpass this, until Jesus comes again in glory. 


Open my mind today to the gift of life and truth your Word offers me through the Church. By your Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom and strength to put this Word into practice and to become, myself, a presence of Jesus for people who are looking for you.


Jesus, eternal Word and Son of the Father, live in me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Today's chapters are Mark 3-5 and (because it is Sunday) Psalms 130 and 131.

Something interesting happens early on in Chapter 3 of Mark's Gospel. Jesus had been attracting attention (and disciples), but here he goes up on a mountain (always a significant place in the Bible), and "summoned those he wanted." He establishes these chosen disciples as "apostles." The way Mark puts it, it is as though Jesus is creating the institution of apostle. (In Matthew's version, we already grasped that these twelve are, so to speak, the "second coming" of the Twelve tribes of Israel.) The Twelve will "be with him" to receive special teaching, and to absorb his way of life, even to take on what St Paul would later call "the mind of Christ" through constant contact with him. And they would be completely at his disposition to "be sent" (which is what "apostle" means). 

Psalm 130, the De Profundis (so called on account of its opening words, "out of the depths") is one of the Penitential Psalms. With its themes of mercy and "waiting for the Lord," was long been part of the "Office for the Dead," a special set of prayers in the Breviary. Pope Clement XII (in 1736) granted an indulgence to the faithful who prayed Psalm 130 on their knees for the faithful departed at the sound of the evening bell. We don't have those evening bells anymore, but an indulgence is still on offer!

Psalm 131 is a wonderful follow-up to the De Profundis, almost as if the trustful prayer has been answered. Notice the peaceful abandonment expressed in this short (and very sweet) Psalm!

Start reading Mark here and the Psalms here.