Pope Benedict: “The quality of homilies needs to be improved”

Perhaps you didn’t the need the pope to tell you that!  Recent surveys in both a major east coast and a major western diocese found that American Catholics find the preaching at Mass to be one of the least satisfactory aspects of church life.  TO READ THE REST, GO TO OUR NEW ADDRESS:  www.SpeakingofScripture.org.   Sign up to receive email notices there.

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New Website and Blog Location

We have launched a new website for the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture.

The new site can be located here: www.catholiccommentaryonsacredscripture.com

The ‘Speaking of Scripture’ Blog is now located HERE.

For convenience, the web address is still www.speakingofscripture.org

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Reflecting on First Corinthians for Easter Sunday

From First Corinthians by George T. Montague, SM, commenting on First Corinthians 5:6b-8

Yeast makes bread to rise, but it also corrupts.  . . .  A little yeast leavens all the dough. (The saying is repeated in Gal 5:9.) Indeed, it takes very little compared to the rest of the flour. Paul’s point is that one tolerated scandal can spoil the whole community, both within and as seen by outsiders.

The only way to assure that there is no corruption is to become a fresh batch of dough: to start over. But lest they misinterpret that, Paul qualifies the metaphor by telling the community, You are unleavened. The community does not need to be founded all over again. Their commitment to Christ and their baptismal consecration have made them a holy people, a people already set aside for God. They must therefore become what they are. Eliminating the corrupting influence is the only way to maintain the integrity of their consecration. The reason they are unleavened is that the true paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. At Passover the lambs were sacrificed, and Paul here represents the earliest New Testament claim that in his death and resurrection, Christ is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover. There is a clear causal connection between their being unleavened and the sacrifice of Jesus, as the connective for indicates. The sacrificing of the lambs in the temple only signaled the time for the Jews to clean out all leaven from their homes; the slaughtered lamb did not cleanse the leaven. But the sacrifice of Jesus the Lamb cast out the leaven and made “a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), a completely new dough. That is what the Christian community is.

Christians’ Passover week never ends, and that is why there should never be a corrupting influence in their midst at all. Thus they celebrate the feast constantly and should live accordingly, with sincerity and truth. This phrase targets the Corinthians’ sweeping under the rug the corrupting influence of sin in their midst.

© 2011 George T. Montague, SM and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


Filed under First Corinthians, From the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, George T. Montague, Lectionary

Reflecting on the Gospel for Palm Sunday

From The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy, commenting on Mark 11:7–9:

Why did Jesus choose to ride a colt, when most pilgrims would enter the city on foot? It was a prophetic gesture, fulfilling the messianic prophecy of Zechariah: “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass” (Zech 9:9). The lowly animal shows that he, the King of glory (see Ps 24:7-10), comes in humility and peace, not as a warrior-king mounted on a stallion to lead a rebellion against Rome. It is also reminiscent of the royal procession of Solomon, the son of David, who rode a mule into the city at his coronation (1 Kings 1:32-34). Jesus knew what he was about, even if those around him did not yet realize its significance.

Jesus’ triumphal entry takes place among thousands of pilgrims arriving in the Holy City for the feast of Passover (14:1). There is a sense of excitement and elation, as the crowd around him shouts for joy and spontaneously shows him signs of honor. To spread cloaks on the road was a gesture of homage before a newly crowned king (see 2 Kings 9:13). . . . The crowd chants from Ps 118:2526: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! This psalm, originally a royal song of thanksgiving for a military victory, was one of the great hymns sung by pilgrims processing into the temple for a festival. Jesus will later apply it specifically to his coming passion and resurrection (Mark 12:10-11).

© 2008 Mary Healy and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.



Filed under From the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Lectionary, Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark

Why You Can Trust the Text of the New Testament

Recently a student of mine told me about someone who claimed he could never be a Christian because manuscripts of the New Testament have undergone so many changes through the centuries that it’s impossible to really know what the New Testament authors really said.  I wish I’d been there to set him straight!

The fact is that the writings of the New Testament are better attested by far than any other ancient works without exception.  Today we have manuscripts copied far closer to the time of the original autographs and in far greater numbers than for any classical work of history or literature.  Although there are numerous minor variants among the manuscripts (as is always the case in hand-copied writings), none of the variations bring into question any matters of doctrine.

For a brief overview of the facts, read this interview with Daniel B. Wallace, one of the world’s leading experts in the comparative analysis of manuscripts, a discipline called textual criticism. Not only does Wallace explain the reasons for the trustworthiness of the New Testament text, he reports the discovery of a fragment of the Gospel of Mark from the first century, an incredible find if it stands up to scholarly examination when it will be published in the near future.


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Reflecting on Ephesians for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

From Ephesians by Peter S. Williamson, commenting on Ephesians 2:4-6:

After succinctly describing humanity’s desperate predicament, Paul bursts out with a declaration of the good news, beginning with the hopeful words, But God. God has not left us in our misery. God saw the situation of the human race, much as Exod 2:23–25 tells us he saw the plight of his people Israel enslaved in Egypt and acted to save them. Paul describes what kind of God this is: he is rich in mercy. Mercy, eleos, refers to the good will and kindness that seeks to help someone who is in trouble or need.

God’s motive for acting was his desire for our welfare: he acted because of the great love he had for us. The Greek is more forceful, using the word for “love” both in its noun and verb forms: “because of his great love with which he loved us.” Love (agapē) refers to cherishing and caring in a self-giving, disinterested way. To make plain that we did not deserve this love, Paul indicates that God loved us even when we were dead in our transgressions. This line recalls Rom 5:8, where Paul says that “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”

© 2009 Peter S. Williamson and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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Reflecting on First Corinthians for the Third Sunday of Lent

From First Corinthians by George T. Montague, SM, commenting on First Corinthians 1:22-23:

The tendency of the Jews who opposed the ministry of Jesus and that of Paul (compare Matt 12:3842; Luke 11:2932), was to demand signs, miracles or spectacular deeds of power, and Greeks look for wisdom, something that will captivate but not disturb the cultured mind. Paul here shows his grasp of the psychology of both cultures, which made him an apt instrument for reaching both, but he does so by proclaiming something that goes counter to, because it goes beyond, the natural tastes of each: Christ crucified. Jews indeed looked for a Messiah, but the fact that Jesus died on the cross proved that he was not the glorious liberator they desired. For them, the cross was a stumbling block, an obstacle to faith.

The Greek understanding of time and history was not eschatological: it did not have a conception of a goal toward which history was moving. . . . A founder who stands the world’s values on its head by going to death on a cross–the fate of the criminal dregs of humanity–would indeed have no chance of winning the Greek, even less by claiming that the cross was followed by the resurrection of the body. As for the Jewish critic, the apparent failure of one who claimed to be the Messiah was proof that he was not. That is why it takes a special grace, a divine call, to read in the cross more than stupidity and weakness.

© 2011 George T. Montague, SM and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.



Filed under First Corinthians, From the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, George T. Montague, Lectionary