Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 30, 2011 - 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A

The Beatitudes - Historical Cultural Context
1st Reading: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
Responsorial Psalm: 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12a  

The most basic piece of information that a modern Western believer should learn about the Mediterranean world of Jesus is that honor, its central value, drives all behavior. Honor is a public claim to worth and a public acknowledgment by others of that claim.

The more than eighty “beatitudes” sprinkled throughout the Old and New Testaments are poetic sayings that present, encourage, and praise honorable behavior. Rather than “happy,” “fortunate,” or “blessed,” the first word in each beatitude should more correctly be translated “truly honorable” or “highly esteemed” (is the one who behaves or thinks thus and so).

(6:17-49) presents what were very likely the “original” three beatitudes Jesus spoke on that occasion; Matthew creatively expands them to eight. 
Matthew uses the appropriate grammatical form: third person singular (“honorable the one who ...”). 
Luke gives them a more personally direct orientation by using the second person singular (“honorable are you who . . .”). 
Matthew’s sermon will occupy our attention from now to the ninth Sunday in this cycle.

The three basic honorable and esteemed behaviors offered by Jesus are 

1) being poor
2) mourning
3) hungering. 
“Poor” in the Bible is never an economic designation. It rather describes someone who has temporarily lost honorable status and must seek at all costs to regain but never surpass that status.

“Poor” thus refers to a revolving class of people. The customary association of poor with widows and orphans confirms this notion of losing status. Widows and orphans did not have to retain this position forever. Widows could remarry (see the serious discussion of “real” widows in 1 Tim 5:3-16); orphans could be reabsorbed into an extended family. Those who lost status were culturally obliged to regain it.

There are, however, two distinctive elements in Jesus’ beatitudes. 

1) First, he says being poor constitutes true honor! 
2) Second, the passive voice in each beatitude (“will be comforted,” “be filled,” etc.) is a strategy used by our ancestors in the faith to avoid saying the name of God. Those who engage in social protest (mourning and fasting) will be comforted by whom? By God, of course! This grammatical usage in the Hebrew and Greek Bible is called, appropriately, the “theological or divine passive voice.”

In Jesus’ view, true honor and esteem are determined and bestowed by God, very publicly, for all to see. And the things that God considers truly honorable and worthy of praise are almost always the opposite of what human beings of any culture think.

Though modern American believers are not driven by the values of honor and shame as is the Mediterranean world, crises often indirectly reveal our genuine assessment of values. The survivors of a hurricane will say again and again that life is more precious than possessions. Yet given new opportunities, many would return to collecting material possessions and resuming conspicuous consumption. These are, after all, signs of American “honor.” 

Our culture, which is tragically devoid of God, esteems a way of life that is in direct contradiction to God's ways. . . . all the more reason to be in the world but not if it.  1st John 2:15 - "Do not love the world or the things of the world. 7 If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
That only becomes more important as time goes by. 
 This article has been edited by Soutenus
Original Author: John J. Pilch of Georgetown University

This Scott Hahn's reflection on the readings. "The Blessed Path"
Listen Here!

In the readings since Christmas, Jesus has been revealed as the new royal son of David and Son of God. He is sent to lead a new exodus that brings Israel out of captivity to the nations and brings all the nations to God.
As Moses led Israel from Egypt through the sea to give them God’s law on Mount Sinai, Jesus too has passed through the waters in baptism. Now, in today’s Gospel, He goes to the mountain to proclaim a new law - the law of His Kingdom.

The Beatitudes mark the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham - that through his descendants all the nations of the world would receive God’s blessings (see Genesis 12:3; 22:18).

Jesus is the son of Abraham (see Matthew 1:1). And through the wisdom He speaks today, He bestows the Father’s blessings upon “the poor in spirit.”

God has chosen to bless the weak and lowly, those foolish and despised in the eyes of the world, Paul says in today’s Epistle. The poor in spirit are those who know that nothing they do can merit God’s mercy and grace. These are the humble remnant in today’s First Reading - taught to seek refuge in the name of the Lord.

The Beatitudes reveal the divine path and purpose for our lives. All our striving should be for these virtues - to be poor in spirit; meek and clean of heart; merciful and makers of peace; seekers of the righteousness that comes from living by the law of Kingdom.

The path the Lord sets before us today is one of trials and persecution. But He promises comfort in our mourning and a great reward.

The Kingdom we have inherited is no earthly territory, but the promised land of heaven. It is Zion where the Lord reigns forever. And, as we sing in today’s Psalm, its blessings are for those whose hope is in the Lord.

Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn, Ph.D.
To Be Blessed: An Attitude
                      A wonderful article by Pat Gohn
Edited by Soutenus

The Beatitudes are meant to shape and form us—like "be attitudes."
They teach us the way that Jesus wants us to be.
The Beatitudes give us choices to deliberately "be more" than minimalists or skimmers of the surface of life.
They dare us to believe in the necessity of being a blessing now in exchange for a blessing yet unseen.
This is no immediate transaction. The return on one's investment is in the hands of God.

When we listen to this Gospel at Mass this weekend, we will be challenged to be like Jesus. To be like Jesus is to reflect his countenance, and to be his charity in the world.

Just think about the face of Jesus and picture his example in each of the Beatitudes. Jesus is a living portrait of how "to be " human. He models the attitudes and dispositions that make up a life of love and service.

Finally, the words of the Beatitudes are more than just a listing of good advice or proverbial wisdom. They point out the path to happiness both in this life and the next.

God's creation of us destined us for beatitude.
We were made for more: We were made for happiness. In fact the Catechism of the Catholic Church says our vocation is beatitude—happiness, supreme blessedness.
The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1718)
The Beatitudes respond to the desire for happiness that God has placed within our hearts. In a surprising paradox, we find that the things we fear might make us unhappy really do just the opposite!

St. Thomas Aquinas taught that "God alone satisfies." That's why Heaven is the goal of life. The Beatitudes point to the beatitude of Heaven. But until we can achieve such a magnificent destiny, following God's way now will bring us a glimpse of heaven's happiness on earth.
It is the unfolding of blessedness in our midst.

Pat Gohn is a writer, speaker, and host of the Among Women podcast and blog. She holds a Masters in Theology, and a Bachelors in Communications. Her passion is working within the sphere adult faith formation both in parish life and in using media for evangelization and catechesis. Find more at

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 23, 2011 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Listen Here!     History Redeemed 
(a reflection on the readings by Scott Hahn)
Isaiah 8:23-9:3
Psalm 27:1,4,13-14
1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17
Matthew 4:12-23

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

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

It marked the beginning of the kingdom’s end. It finally crumbled in the sixth century B.C., when Jerusalem was seized by Babylon and the remaining tribes were driven into exile (see 2 Kings 24:14).
Isaiah prophesied that Zebulun and Naphtali, the lands first to be degraded, would be the first to see the light of God’s salvation. Jesus today fulfills that prophecy - announcing the restoration of David’s kingdom at precisely the spot where the kingdom began to fall.

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

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

By their preaching, Isaiah’s promise has been delivered. A world in darkness has seen the light. The yoke of slavery and sin, borne by humanity since time began, has been smashed.

And we are able now, as we sing in today’s Psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord, to worship Him in the land of the living.

Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn, Ph.D.
For the younger ones . . . . from Sadler Religion.  Reflection followed by discussion . . . .

Reflection on 1st Reading  Isaiah 8:23-9:3

Most of us know how it feels to live in the "land of gloom" for a few hours or days or even longer. The people in the region around Galilee were overcome by gloom when their enemy, the Assyrians, conquered them. But Isaiah promises that God's power is greater than the powers of darkness. "A great light" will lead them into "abundant joy."

Jesus is "the great light" who leads us out of the land of gloom. By his death and resurrection, he has assured us that darkness can never have the last say.

Discussion Questions for 1st Reading

Sometimes we get used to living in gloom. What would it feel like to have our gloom lightened and brightened? Sometimes we get used to living with a burdensome yoke. What would it feel like to have that yoke smashed? We can get used to living under the rod of a "taskmaster" (that is sometimes ourselves). What would it feel like to have that rod and those tasks lifted from us? Identify the gloom and the yoke and the burdensome (unimportant) tasks. Ask the Lord to come, shine his light, and set you free for the important things in life. What do you want more of in your life?

Reflection on 2nd Reading  1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17

People who live in the light must avoid divisions and rivalries. Even though the followers of Christ are uniquely different from one another, Paul reminds us that Christ cannot be divided. And we cannot change his message to suit ourselves. Christ's cross is at the heart of our Christian faith.

It is perfectly natural to have favorites in our lives. We have favorite people, favorite teachers, favorite friends. However, we must always remember that even our favorites are human beings like us. No one is perfect except Christ, and it is him that we are to follow. Our favorite people can be role models for us, but we cannot put them in the place of Christ and his loving action in our lives.

Discussion Questions for 2nd Reading

How do we feel when someone we have looked up to fails in some way? Does this mean we were wrong to look up to them? Does this mean that they were all wrong in everything they said or did?

Someone once asked a very old religious sister, "Who is Jesus to you?" She very quickly answered, "The Lord is my ROCK." When someone fails us, do we talk to Christ about it, or do we stay in our disappointment and anger? How can we help ourselves and others to accept disappointments as part of life? How can disappointments in life lead us to lean on Jesus more as our steadfast rock?

Reflection on the Gospel Reading Matthew 4:12-17

Once again the gospel focuses on Jesus as the Promised One of the Old Testament. Jesus began his preaching in Galilee and is identified by Matthew as "the great light" foretold by Isaiah. Jesus' first message to God's people is a powerful one. He says that we should reform our lives, or repent, for "the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Discussion Questions for the Gospel Reading

"To repent" means that we take a complete change of direction in our lives. Jesus made it possible for all of us to begin again and be saved.
After John was put in jail, he knew that preparing God's people for the kingdom was now totally up to him. So he chose a place to live (Capernaum-by-the-sea) and "began to proclaim." Jesus made a new beginning.

Chaim Potok, a Jewish novelist, once began one of his novels with the statement, "Beginnings are hard." To repent means to begin again. When have you made a new beginning? How can you make a new beginning today in some area of your life?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011 (Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A)

Reading I: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Responsorial Psalm: 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
Gospel: John 1:29-34

From an early Church Father, Cyril of Alexandria:
When he saw Jesus coming toward him John said: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

No longer does he say: Prepare. That would be out of place now that at last he who was prepared for is seen, is before our very eyes. The nature of the case now calls for a different type of homily. An explanation is needed of who is present, and why he has come down to us from heaven.

So John says: Behold the Lamb of God, of whom the prophet Isaiah told us in the words: He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb before his shearer he opened not his mouth.
You can read the rest of  Cyril of Alexandria's  homily here

Focusing on the Gospel:  
Key words and phrases: John . . . saw Jesus, baptizing with water, one who sent me, see the Spirit come down and remain, Behold the Lamb of God

To the point:  John was actively watching for the Messiah. Faithful to his mission to baptize all those who came to him, John readily recognized Jesus as the Messiah when the Spirit came down and rested upon him.
What about us: We too recognize Jesus when we actively watch for his coming into our lives and must remain faithful to the mission God has given us.
Our mission: There is a clear mission we all have - Matthew 22: 36-40 
To love and serve the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
And to  love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
 How we live out that mission brings us closer or farther from God. We need to always remember to ask God to show us the vocation He has chosen for us.  I believe that should be a foundational prayer. 
"God please make known to me my vocation. Grant me the wisdom to know what you want me to do. Please help me trust in You. Please give me the courage and passion to live the life you want me to live. I believe, Lord! Help my disbelief!  Not my will but yours be done! And, Lord, if it is not too much to ask . . .  please bend me to your will so that I may better serve you. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen."

Connecting the Gospel: 
to the first reading: Israel, God’s servant, shines with the glory of God and leads all nations to salvation. 
In the gospel Jesus is the glorified One upon whom the Spirit rests and who leads all nations to salvation.
to experience: We see what we look for. If we look for Jesus, we will see him  

Scott Hahn's Reflection on the Readings!

January 16, 2011 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Perfect Offering  Listen Here!

Jesus speaks through the prophet Isaiah in today’s First Reading.
He tells us of the mission given to Him by the Father from the womb: “‘You are My servant,’ He said to Me.”

Servant and Son, our Lord was sent to lead a new exodus - to raise up the exiled tribes of Israel, to gather and restore them to God. More than that, He was to be a light to the nations, that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (see Acts 13:46-47).

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

In the new exodus, Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” as John beholds Him in the Gospel today (see 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Our Lord sings of this in today’s Psalm. He has come, He says, to offer His body to do the will of God (see Hebrews 10:3-13).

The sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, and sin-offerings given after the first exodus had no power to take away sins (see Hebrews 10:4). They were meant not to save but to teach (see Galatians 3:24). In offering these sacrifices, the people were to learn self-sacrifice - that they were made for worship, to offer themselves freely to God and to delight in His will.

Only Jesus could make that perfect offering of himself. And through His sacrifice, He has given us ears open to obedience, made it possible for us to hear the Father’s call to holiness, as Paul says in today’s Epistle.

He has made us children of God, baptized in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14). And we are to join our sacrifice to His, to offer our bodies - our lives - as living sacrifices in the spiritual worship of the Mass (see Romans 12:1).

Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn, Ph.D.
St. Vincent Bascilica Parish, Latrobe, PA. artist: Joseph Reiter

  1. Cyril of Alexandria *
  2. Thoughts from the Early Church @Center for Sunday Liturgy
  3. Living Liturgy: Spirituality, Celebration, and Catechesis for Sundays and Solemnities Year A - 2011, p. 45.  Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS; Kathleen Harmon, SND de N; and Christopher W. Conlon, SM 
* Cyril of Alexandria (d.444) succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch in 412. Until 428 the pen of this brilliant theologian was employed in exegesis and polemics against the Arians; after that date it was devoted almost entirely to refuting the Nestorian heresy. The teaching of Nestorius was condemned in 431 by the Council of Ephesus at which Cyril presided, and Mary’s title, Mother of God, was solemnly recognized.

The incarnation is central to Cyril’s theology. Only if Christ is consubstantial with the Father and with us can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and ourselves is the flesh of Christ. Through our kinship with Christ, the Word made flesh, we become children of God, and share in the filial relation of the Son with the Father. 

LAGNIAPPE: Paintings of Lamb of God - Agnus Dei

Drawing for the Agnus Dei, Giulio Romano, ink on paper c.1540  
Adoration of the Lamb, by Jan van Eyck (1432), oil on wood, Ghent altarpiece, Cathedral of St. Bavo, Ghent.  
Paul Myhill, Agnus Dei (contemporary painter) 
The Lamb of God in the heaven.ceiling of the vatican embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria 
Izumi Fukushima, Japanese-style painting artist, Romanesque Lamb of God. Contemporary painter. 
Niko Pirosmani, God's Lamb,  Oil on oil-cloth, 55x61 cm. The State Museum of Fine Arts of Georgia, Tbilisi.  
Painting of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) above the apse windows by Joseph Reiter. St. Vincent Bascilica Parish, Latrobe, PA. (Virtual Tour of St. Vincent Bascilica in PA)

Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Ireland, Saint Peter's Chapel, the Jellett window with Lamb of God, created by C.E. Kemp. San Vitale, Ravenna (begun 532, consecrated 547A.D),    

 Francisco de Zurbaran, (Spanish painter, 1598-1664) Agnus Dei (1635-40), bound lamb with horns. Canvas 38 x 62 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Agnus Dei, Francisco de Zurban (1598-1664)
Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664), "Agnus Dei" (1635-40) ,Canvas 38 x 62 cm. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. Larger image.






Albrecht Durer, detail of Adoration of the Lamb
Detail  of "Adoration of the Lamb"  (1496-98) woodcut by Albrecht Durer. Larger image.

Albrecht Durer (German painter, 1471-1528)
Adoration of the Lamb (1496-98), woodcut in Apocalypse of St. John series, each 39 x 28cm,  Detail.




  • Sculpture, Carvings of Lamb of God  

Painting of Scene with John the Baptist pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God

Dieric Bouts d. Ä. (1410 - 1475) (1410 - 1475), "Ecce Agnus Dei", (1462/64)

Agnus Dei Stained Glass Windows

Mosaic Tile

  • Floor of Nativity of Mary Blessed Virgin Catholic Chruch, Schulenburg, Texas, Lamb of God. A Painted Church of Texas!



St. Vincent Bascilica Parish, Latrobe, PA. artist: Joseph Reiter

Cyril of Alexandria *

Thoughts from the Early Church @Center for Sunday Liturgy

Living Liturgy: Spirituality, Celebration, and Catechesis for Sundays and Solemnities Year A - 2011, p. 45.  Joyce Ann Zimmerman, CPPS; Kathleen Harmon, SND de N; and Christopher W. Conlon, SM 

* Cyril of Alexandria (d.444) succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch in 412. Until 428 the pen of this brilliant theologian was employed in exegesis and polemics against the Arians; after that date it was devoted almost entirely to refuting the Nestorian heresy. The teaching of Nestorius was condemned in 431 by the Council of Ephesus at which Cyril presided, and Mary’s title, Mother of God, was solemnly recognized.

The incarnation is central to Cyril’s theology. Only if Christ is consubstantial with the Father and with us can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and ourselves is the flesh of Christ. Through our kinship with Christ, the Word made flesh, we become children of God, and share in the filial relation of the Son with the Father.