Monthly Archives: June 2011

Reflecting on the Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on the prayer in Matthew 11:25-27:

The final line of the prayer serves as a revelation to the reader. All things, Jesus says, have been given over to him from the Father. The meaning of this statement is not explained, but looking back over the Matthean storyline thus far, one may surmise that it refers to the divine authority that Jesus wields in the world. He possess teaching authority that ranks him above Moses (5:21–46); he displays healing authority to cure sicknesses and cast out demons in an instant (4:23; 8:3, 13–17; 9:22); and he is vested with spiritual authority to forgive the sins of others at will (9:1–8).

© 2010 Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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Scripture on Divine Judgment

Yesterday’s first reading from Genesis 18:16-33 about Abraham’s prayer for Sodom sheds light on, and to some degree qualifies, what I wrote in my last blog about the prospect of severe judgment on America and the Christian West.

The story of Abraham’s intercession illustrates God’s readiness to withhold judgment on the wickedness of many for the sake of a few who are righteous.

In fact, there is still a great deal of Christian faith and faithfulness in the United States that might preserve this country from judgment for awhile. Although many among our political, educational, media, and entertainment elites and ordinary people whose conduct resembles Rom 1:18-32, still there are many  whose conduct shows love of God.

A battle is raging for the soul of our country. Although the trends don’t look great, it’s probably a mistake to write off America for destruction just yet, even if severe warning judgments may be expected.

From a biblical perspective, it’s interesting to see how long God is willing to wait before bringing definitive judgment to bear. Abraham is told that his descendants will not receive Canaan until the fourth generation, since “the iniquity of the Amorites is not complete” (Gen 15:16). Amos prophesies doom on Israel 30 years before it descends in 722 BC. Micah and Isaiah prophesy the destruction of Judah 150 years before Babylon destroys Jerusalem and exiles the people in 586 B.C. Along the way Hezekiah and Josiah bring reforms that stay God’s hand (2 Kings 18-20; 22-23); the repentance of even the most wicked kings like Ahab (1 Kings 21:27-29) and Manasseh (2 Chron 33:11-19) delays the outcome.

The truth is, we don’t know how much time is left to America and the Christian West.  A major cultural change for the worse, when judged by the standard of obedience to God’s word in Scripture and Tradition, began in the 1960’s with the sexual revolution, legalized abortion, and atmosphere of rebellion against and denial of God, followed by the rampant consumerism of the period that followed.  We’ve had about fifty years of heading in the wrong direction.  How long will America and the West be allowed to continue?  The judgment that comes on Sodom and Gomorrah teaches that God will eventually deal with those who persist in doing evil.

Nevertheless, this story also sets before us the magnanimity of Abraham, who boldly pleads with God to spare Sodom if even ten righteous people  can be found there. Let us also intercede for America and on the other nations of the West, that God treat them and us according to his mercy rather than according to what we deserve.

More on the biblical perspective on divine judgment later this week or next!

First, we have the example of the righteousness and magnanimity of Abraham, who boldly pleads with God for mercy on Sodom if even ten righteous people (the NAB’s “innocent” is less precise) can be found there. We also should intercede for America and on the other nations of the West, praying for God’s mercy for the sake of the just men and women who stand to suffer greatly if North America receives what it deserves.


Filed under biblical theology, Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

A Message from the Prophets?

One of best things about being a Scripture professor is that I get to read a lot of the Bible.  Early in the year I volunteered to teach a course this May at the National Seminary in Beijing.  I sent the dean a list of all the courses I’ve ever taught, offering to teach any he should choose.  But he asked me to teach on the OT Historical Books, so I got to re-read and teach Joshua to 2 Kings.

This summer I’m doing a directed readings course with a couple students on the Prophets, another course I’ve not taught before.  So now I’m reading through the Prophets.  One of the things that strikes me is certain parallels between the situation of Israel and Judah in the eight century B.C., before decisive judgment landed on them, and the situation of the Church and of the Western world today.

Although there was a faithful remnant among God’s people in the eighth century B.C., there were many who had adopted the pagan ways of the surrounding culture.  Many in Israel were affluent, some oppressed the poor, and many engaged in idolatry and immorality.  Sound familiar?

Back then those who spoke for God said that severe judgment was coming.  I’m sorry to say I’m convinced that, unless there is a radical change of direction, severe judgment is coming on the Western world that once was Christian but has in large measure apostatized—including America.

You don’t have to be a prophet to reach this conclusion—just a halfway alert reader of the Bible.  God acts in history to judge both his people and the nations.  This is a basic teaching of the historical books and of the prophets.

So, what will happen to a Judeo-Christian society when it kills millions of infants in the womb, when it pursues wealth and uses it self-indulgently, when it surrenders itself to unrestrained sexual immorality?  You don’t need a PhD in biblical exegesis to know the perspective of Scripture on this situation.

What’s amazing to me is how few are expressing this prophetic perspective and summoning the Church to repentance, despite the many indications that judgment has already begun.  Where are the prophets?

Today I’m in Micah.  Here are some verses that strike me:

Micah 2:6 “Do not preach” — thus they preach — “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”

Apparently, words about coming judgment were not welcome then either!

Micah 2:4  In that day they shall… moan bitterly, and say, “We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! To an apostate he allots our fields.”

When God judges his people he does so at the hands of those who are not his chosen people, even at the hands of the wicked.  We should not be surprised then, when secularists, Muslims, or non-Christian nations prevail politically or economically over the Lord’s inheritance, the once-Christian West.

Finally, after prophesying judgment on corrupt leaders–civil authorities, priests, and prophets–Micah cries out,

Micah 3:8  But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

The Lord will fill some with the Spirit of prophecy to speak to our generation, to the Christian people today.

May we be those who listen and repent!  May we be those who receive the Spirit and prophesy!


Filed under current events, Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body

From First Corinthians (Coming September 2011) by George T. Montauge, SM, commenting on 1 Cor.  10:16:

The union effected by the blood and the body of Christ is a participation. This Greek term koinōnia has a richness difficult to express in a single word. The NAB, RSV, and NIV translate it as “participation.” Others translate it “sharing” (NJB, NRSV) or “communion” (JB). In documents contemporary with Paul, koinōnia is a favorite expression for the marital relationship as being the most intimate between human beings. Depending on the structure of the Greek, it can mean union with a person, as Paul has already in this letter spoken of a koinōnia with the Son of God (1:9), or a common sharing in something, such as in the faith (Philem 6), in sufferings (Phil 3:10), or in a work of service (2 Cor 8:4). Both senses converge in the koinōnia of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:13). The term can also stand for the community created by the sharing. All of these senses can be seen in Paul’s use of the word here. The koinōnia of the Eucharist is (1) a common sharing or participation in the body and blood of Christ; (2) an intimate union with the person of Christ; (3) a “community” brought about by the Eucharist, as is be specified in verse 17.

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


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Venerating the Word of God

Many Catholics who know well to show great reverence for the Holy Eucharist are uninformed about the way our Catholic faith reverences the word of God in Scripture.

Sr. Mary Timothea Elliott, RSM, a highly-respected Scripture scholar, who is now engaged in pastoral ministry in Tennessee, shared with me recently how she helps Catholics grasp the importance of Sacred Scripture to our Catholic faith.

She reminds people of what Vatican II says on the subject:

The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ.

Since Vatican II the “veneration” of the Scriptures in the liturgy is powerfully connected with the Eucharist itself.  Sr. Timothea invites then people to remember and picture in their minds how we venerate the word of God at Mass.

Sr. Timothea gave a few examples off the top of her head that I found arresting:

1)      The deacon carries the Book of the Gospels into the Church, leading the procession, and lifting it high above his head for all to see.

2)      He places the Book of the Gospels upon the altar table for the introductory rites of the Mass.

3)      In the Liturgy of the Word, the book of the Gospels is carried in procession by the Deacon from its place on the altar to the ambo. In solemn liturgies he is led by two altar servers carrying lighted candles signifying the Word as Light

4)      In solemn liturgies incense is offered to the book of the Gospels—indicating the presence of Christ in the Word.

5)      After reading the Gospel the Deacon kisses the page of the Gospel reading

6)      Then he carries it to the presiding celebrant who kisses it also.

7)      If a Bishop is presiding, he takes the book of the Gospels and blesses the Congregation with it—again indicating the presence of Christ in his Word.

So, “The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as she venerates the Body of the Lord….” Do we?


Filed under Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

Reflecting on 2 Corinthians for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

From Second Corinthians by Thomas J. Stegman, SJ, reflecting on 2 Cor.  13:11-13:

The doctrine of God as one and triune took hundreds of years to be fully formulated. What Paul’s writings reveal, at a remarkably early period—recall that he wrote 2 Corinthians only a quarter century after the death and resurrection of Christ—is an extraordinarily rich appreciation of what theologians call the “economic Trinity,” that is, God revealed in his activity in history through the sending of his Son and the outpouring of his Spirit. One prominent Pauline scholar refers to Paul’s benediction in 2 Cor 13:13 as “the most profound theological moment in the Pauline corpus” (Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presnce). The Apostle’s blessing here contains in embryonic form the rich understanding of the Trinity formulated in the Church’s great ecumenical councils.

© 2009 Thomas D. Stegman, SJ 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, Second Corinthians, Thomas Stegman SJ

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians for Pentecost Sunday

From First Corinthians (Coming September 2011) by George T. Montauge, SM, commenting on 1 Cor.  12:7:

Manifestation of the Spirit means that the gifts are visible, outward evidences of the work of the Spirit. They are not merely interior graces of prayer. We might think of a crystal-ball chandelier that sparkles as it turns. This kind of manifestation would tell the unbeliever visiting the church that God is truly in their midst (14:24–25). Is given, repeated in verse 8, indicates that the manifestation cannot be attributed to a natural talent, nor does it indicate that the receiver is a holier person who merited the gift. This is quite important because many Christians believe that the charisms are only for canonizable saints. No, they depend on God’s choice and generosity (v. 11). For some benefit (“the common good,” NIV, NRSV; “the general good,” NJB; “for a good purpose,” JB) again means that the purpose of every gift is to build up the church in faith, hope, and love and to empower its outreach.

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


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Reading Acts From Ascension to Pentecost

Every year I make a point of reading through Acts of the Apostles between Easter and Pentecost.  I do so to remind myself of the power unleashed by Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension and bestowed on the Church at Pentecost, a power that is fully available to us.  This year I got a late start!

All four Gospels record that John the Baptist prophesied that in contrast with his own baptism in water for repentance, the one coming after him would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire,” as Matthew and Luke say!  Interestingly, this prophecy is not fulfilled in the Gospels themselves.

The bestowal of the Spirit could not take place until Jesus had been “glorified” (John 7:39).  Peter explains why Ascension precedes Pentecost: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] has poured out this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

Acts begins with the Risen Lord foretelling the imminent fulfillment of “the promise of the Father” that Jesus had spoken about to his disciples: “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).

That baptism with the Spirit occurs on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles, Mary, the mother of Jesus, his brothers, and other disciples—about 120 people all together (Acts 1:14-15).  The arrival of the Spirit is marked by miraculous signs—the sound of wind, tongues of fire, the ability to understand unknown languages—and by altered behavior of Jesus disciples—spiritual joy that appears to skeptics as drunkenness, and by prophecy, inspired speech in other languages (“tongues”) telling “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11).  The immediate consequence of this Spirit-baptism is a holy boldness that enables the once fearful Peter to preach with power and great effectiveness.

What many readers fail to notice is that Acts reports similar “altered behavior” on the part of subsequent groups of believers in Jesus who are “baptized in the Holy Spirit”:

  • Philip’s Samaritan converts (Acts 8:14-19)
  • Gentile believers in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:45-47)
  • Disciples of John the Baptist who come to faith in Jesus (Acts 19:6)

What’s the point?  For the early Church reception of the Spirit was not merely an article of faith regarding the effects of baptism or confirmation.  It was an experiential reality that was so obvious and universal among the early Christians that St. Paul points to it as a proof against the doctrine of the Judaizers in Gal 3:2-5:

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?  Did you experience so many things in vain? — if it really is in vain.  Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

What about Catholics today?  How many have so distinct an experience of the Spirit in their lives that they could find Paul’s argument persuasive?

Baptized as infants and confirmed in early adolescence, very many Catholics lack the understanding, desire, faith, or repentance necessary for the reception of these sacraments to be fully efficacious when they receive them (see Catechism 1131).  Consequently for many, the grace of Pentecost, the experience of being “baptized in the Spirit” that Jesus came to bestow, awaits their understanding, faith, and desire.

Pope Benedict spoke of this in 2008:  “Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

As Pentecost approaches, let us ask in faith that the Holy Spirit be poured out on us (Luke 11:9-13; John 7:37-39; Eph 5:18-20), so that we may be renewed in the Spirit as the Church in Jerusalem was in its time of need (Acts 4:31-35).  Let us be docile to the Holy Spirit and open ourselves to his charisms as Blessed John Paul urged us to do.

Between Ascension and Pentecost let us read through Acts again to stir our faith regarding “the promise of the Father,” to remember what the Church was like under the powerful influence of the Gift Jesus came to bestow, and to renew our zeal for the mission entrusted to us.


Filed under Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

Reflecting on 1 Peter for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

From First and Second Peter, Jude (Coming November 2011) by Daniel Keating, commenting on 1 Peter 4:16:

But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. Here Peter restates what he just said about being “insulted for the name of Christ,” but now he uses the term “Christian” to identify those who are suffering. Apart from two appearances in Acts (11:26; 26:28) this is the only occurrence of the term “Christian” in the New Testament. It is likely that “Christian” was originally a term of derision and abuse employed by those who opposed Christ’s followers. But now, Peter says, it is to be received “without shame.” When we are abused and reviled as Christians, that is, as followers of Christ, then in fact we are bringing glory to God (see 4:11).

© 2011 Daniel Keating and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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