Reading the Bible from The Heart of The Church

The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. Learn More


Novena to St. Paul

Every year, the St. Paul Center prays a novena for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25. We pray to our patron for the conversion of our families and friends, as well as for our own deepened conversion. Join us for the next nine days as we ask for the powerful intercession of our beloved patron, St. Paul.

Day One: Today we pray for our own deeper conversion. May we be tireless apostles for the Gospel and emulate St. Paul’s profound love of Christ. 

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day.

Day Two: Today we pray for the conversion of all who have fallen away from the Church. Particularly, we ask through the powerful intercession of St. Paul that our family members and friends will return to the Sacraments.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 

Day Three: Today we pray for the deeper conversion of all priests and deacons who are entrusted with proclaiming the Word of God, that they may be renewed in their love of Scripture and inspired by the Holy Spirit to communicate that love to all the faithful.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 

Day Four: Today we pray for the conversion of non-Christians. May the intercession of St. Paul guide all peoples to the saving message of Jesus Christ

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 

Day Five: Today we pray for all missionaries, that they, like St. Paul, may endure all hardships for the sake of God’s glory and never cease to trust in His providence.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 

Day Six: Today we pray for the conversion of all who violate the dignity of the unborn, that through the intercession of St. Paul, they may mercifully recognize the sanctity of all human life.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 

Day Seven: Today we pray for the deeper conversion of all who study and teach Scripture, that their encounter with the Living Word will bear fruit in the lives of countless others.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.


Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 

Day Eight: Today we pray for the conversion of all who persecute Christians, that like St. Paul, they may experience the person of Christ unmistakable and repent.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day. 


Day Nine: Today we pray for the staff of the St. Paul Center, our Fellows, and all of our benefactors. May the intercession of St. Paul guide all of us as we seek to spread devotion and understanding of Sacred Scripture in the Church.

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O St. Paul, the Apostle, preacher of truth and Doctor of the Gentiles, intercede for us to God, who chose you. You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul, the Apostle.

R: Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Let us pray: O God, you have instructed many nations through the preaching of the blessed apostle Paul. Let the power of his intercession with you help us who venerate his memory this day.


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Anointed Ones: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Baptism of the Lord


Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10

Acts 10:34-38

Matthew 3:13-17


Jesus presents himself for John's baptism in today's Gospel, not because He is a sinner, but to fulfill the word of God proclaimed by His prophets. He must be baptized to reveal that He is the Christ ("anointed one")—the Spirit-endowed Servant promised by Isaiah in today's First Reading.

His baptism marks the start of a new world, a new creation. As Isaiah prophesied, the Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove—as the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep in the beginning (see Genesis 1:2).

As it was in the beginning, at the Jordan also the majestic voice of the Lord thunders above the waters. The Father opens the heavens and declares Jesus to be His "beloved son."

God had long prepared the Israelites for His coming, as Peter preaches in today's Second Reading. Jesus was anticipated in the "beloved son" given to Abraham (see Genesis 22:2,12,26), and in the calling of Israel as His "first-born son" (see Exodus 4:22-23). Jesus is the divine son begotten by God, the everlasting heir promised to King David (see Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14).

He is "a covenant of the people [Israel]" and "a light to the nations," Isaiah says. By the new covenant made in His blood (see 1 Corinthians 11:25), God has gathered the lost sheep of Israel together with whoever fears Him in every nation.

Christ has become the source from which God pours out his Spirit on Israelites and Gentiles alike (see Acts 10:45). In Baptism, all are anointed with that same Spirit, made beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, we are Christians—literally "anointed ones."

We are the "sons of God" in today's Psalm - called to give glory to His name in His temple. Let us pray that we remain faithful to our calling as His children, that our Father might call us what he calls His Son—"my beloved. . . in whom I am well pleased."

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Slaughtering the Fatted Calf: The Gift of Hospitality

This post is an excerpt from The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet by Emily Stimpson Chapman.


Get your copy of The Catholic Table today for 30% off this Advent.


A few years after I moved to Steubenville, I bought a house of my own: a 1915 Craftsman that needed restoring from top to bottom. Unlike the couples fixing up homes on HGTV, I didn’t have a one hundred thousand dollar restoration fund; I had whatever money was left over from each month’s paycheck. Because of that, the restoration process unfolded slowly, taking years, not weeks or months.

Nevertheless, during that time, I continued hosting the weekly dinner parties my roommates and I started throwing during graduate school.

Every Thursday, without fail, twenty-plus friends descended on my house for dinner. I supplied the main dish, while dessert, salad, bread, and wine were brought in by the masses. People ate wherever they could find a seat: in the living room, on the porch, even on the basement floor. It was a happy exercise in chaos, made even more chaotic by constant construction.

If Pinterest were to be believed, not a single person should have shown up for my parties back then. There were no quail eggs laced with truffle oil. People didn’t dine off china plates that I hand-painted myself. No crafty mason jar chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Mostly, there was just construction dust, and a lot of it.

Yet those twenty-plus people kept coming back week after week. They ate simple soups and pasta dishes cooked on a decades-old stove in a kitchen that the city probably should have condemned. And they loved every minute of it.

I loved every minute of it too. For me, those Thursday night dinners gave me a chance to show my love for my friends through the food I cooked. Those nights also gave food the chance to do what food does best: create community.



One of the reasons I started my blog, “The Catholic Table,” was to encourage people to open up their homes more frequently to friends. These days, people need that encouragement more than ever. Despite tens of thousands of Pinterest boards dedicated to “entertaining” and the entire industry that is Martha Stewart, fewer and fewer Americans invite their friends over for dinner . . . or drinks . . . or any reason at all anymore.

Between 1980 and the early 2000s, the number of Americans who “entertained people in their homes” on a monthly basis dropped from 40 percent to 20 percent. During the same time period, the number of people who left their homes at least five times a year to dine at friends’ homes dropped from 50 percent to 30 percent. As of 2000, fewer than 12 percent of American adults ate in friends’ homes at least once a month. More recent data, focused on young adults in their twenties, reports a 40 percent decline over the last decade in the hours they spend socializing in person—as opposed to online—with friends.

Experts have posited any number of theories about the “why” behind America’s increasingly antisocial behavior: busy schedules, working moms, long commutes, families fractured by distance and divorce. All certainly play their part. But the very idea of “entertaining” and how it’s pitched to us doesn’t help.

Not everyone has the opportunity to display courage in battle or to show greatness of soul in holding office; but everyone not owned by another is free to give. Everyone with a home can freely invite others to enjoy his hospitality.”


Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature 



If you’re contemplating inviting a few friends over for dinner, a few minutes on Pinterest just might convince you otherwise. There, you’ll find photo after photo of perfectly plated meals resting on carefully arranged tables in immaculately clean rooms. Click through to the articles those photos represent, and you’ll discover headlines like “10 Tricks Every Hostess Should Know,” “Last Minute Entertaining Tips That Would Impress Even Martha Stewart,” and “How to Throw a Tuscan Inspired Dinner Party.”

The articles’ purported aim is to help prospective hosts and hostesses. But, in reality, what most of those articles do is simply intimidate them. Today’s busy adults can barely manage to get dinner on the table for their own families, let alone find the time to replicate the experience of dining in a rustic Italian garden for thirty of their closest friends. To large swaths of the population, Pinterest-inspired entertaining doesn’t sound impossible; it sounds delusional.

The language of the entertaining industry only makes the problem worse.

“With this book, you will always end up with something beautiful that will impress friends and family,” promises celebrity chef Sweet Paul’s cookbook Eat and Make.

“Music can make or break a party,” warns Martha Stewart herself in her online “Party Planning Guide.”

From Pinterest to Better Homes and Gardens, entertaining is primarily depicted as a performance, with the host putting on a show and the guests taking their seats as the appreciative audience.

The goal of the performance—whether it’s held in a garden illuminated by fairy lights or a spacious, open-concept kitchen with an island big enough to float in the Pacific—is always to impress. The point is to wow others, to elicit praise and admiration. It is, in short, meant to demonstrate to all who walk through our doors how perfectly fabulous we are.

Following that model, entertaining becomes about the hosts, not the guests. It becomes about what we can do—how tasty we can make the food, how beautifully we can set the table, how seamlessly we can make the evening flow. It hinges not on how much love we lavish on our guests, but rather on how much money, time, attention, and skill we lavish on the party.

That kind of hosting comes with a hefty helping of exhaustion, expense, and anxiety, so it’s hardly a surprise that fewer and fewer people attempt it (or attempt it on a regular basis). Life is stressful enough. Who needs to worry about whether or not our carefully crafted silver fork place card holders will impress a couple dozen casual acquaintances?

The problem with that mindset, however, is that we’re throwing out the proverbial baby with the proverbial bathwater, taking a pass not only on Pinterest Perfect entertaining, but also on practicing genuine Christian hospitality.



Practicing hospitality doesn’t have to mean cooking twelve course dinners or hosting black tie affairs. Easy ways to open your home to others include:

• Friday Night Movie Nights: Order pizza and watch a show. Or, alternately, order pizza, throw the kids in front of the television to watch a show, and then hang out in the quiet(ish) living room with the grownups, talking and drinking wine.

• Sunday Brunch: Make scones or an egg casserole the night before. Ask everyone to bring something (make sure to assign Bloody Marys and Mimosas to someone), then serve it buffet style after Mass.

• Backyard Cookouts: You supply the meat, everyone else brings sides, drinks, and dessert. Or vice versa.

• Dessert and Drinks: Skip dinner altogether and go straight for the cookies and martinis. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

• Soup: A pot of soup, a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and a crowd of friends. All you need is a roaring fire and you’ve got the essential ingredients for a perfect night.

• A bourbon tasting (or wine or beer tasting): Everyone brings a bottle. You supply budget-friendly cheeses, meats, crackers, or olives. And glasses. Lots of glasses.



As Christians, we’re not called to “entertain” people or put on a show. But we are expected to practice hospitality.

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” instructs 1 Peter 4:9.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” adds Hebrews 13:2.

Later, in 1 Timothy 5:10, Paul warns that no widow is to be honored unless she has “shown hospitality.”

When the biblical writers talk about hospitality, they’re not talking about slaughtering a fatted calf for every person who comes calling . . . or laying out a fancy spread of artisanal cheeses and imported olives. What they’re talking about is simply opening the doors of our homes and inviting others in—giving the lonely, the lost, the weak, the hungry, the struggling, the searching, the stranger, and the friend an opportunity to experience the love of God through the love we show to them.

That type of hospitality doesn’t demand craft cocktails, five star menus, or killer playlists. You can save the party favors for children’s birthdays (if then) and ignore the stains on your couch. All you need to practice hospitality is something to eat, something to drink, and a heart willing to love.



Food is always a part of hospitality. In Genesis, the first thing Abraham does when strangers come calling is order his servants to prepare food. In the Gospel of Matthew, when Peter’s mother is too ill to cook for her guests, Jesus heals her right quick so that she can get back to the kitchen.

The importance of food to hospitality is partly practical. God made us to eat, and if we don’t eat, we get weak, tired, and crabby. It’s hard for anyone to be at their best if they’re hungry, so offering food to guests is a way to tend to both their bodies and their souls. It’s a kindness to the whole person. It shows we care about their needs and well-being. It also makes our time with them more enjoyable.

That holds doubly true for drink. If alcoholism runs in your family, you may want to confine your libations to coffee and lemonade. And if you’re inviting a few moms over for coffee at 2:00 in the afternoon, nobody expects you to whip out the whisky (although, many might appreciate it if you do). Sometimes, a simple glass of water proffered to a guest is enough refreshment. But I’ve yet to attend or host a party that wasn’t improved by some kind of fermented beverage.

Wine, as the Bible tells us, is a gift from God, given “to gladden the heart of man” (Ps 104:15). It is “like life to man if you drink it in moderation” and it brings “rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul” (Sir 31:27–28). That applies equally to beer and booze, again drunk in moderation. Adult beverages liven a party, elevate a conversation, soothe the weary, relax the stressed, and can do it all while complementing a meal. It just makes hosting (and being hosted) easier.

“God gave us wine to make us gracious and keep us sane.” Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection

On a deeper level, though, food and drink have a place of honor in Christian hospitality because feeding people is a way of imaging God.

In different times and cultures, good hosts have offered food to their guests as a sign of their generosity. Laying out the best spread possible for whoever came into their home was a way for the host to prove his goodness, wealth, and liberality.

For Christians, feeding guests isn’t about proving our own generosity; it’s a participation in God’s generosity. He gives us good gifts, and we thank him for that by sharing good gifts with others.

Similarly, God shows his love for us by feeding us with his Body and Blood, and we can show our love for others by feeding them with a good risotto and nice Bordeaux. Every meal we serve is an opportunity to show others that they matter, that they are important, that they are worth every minute spent stirring, chopping, and basting.

And ultimately, if all food foreshadows the Eucharist, if what we eat is a natural sign of the supernatural mystery of bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ, then feeding others is a form of participation in Christ’s loving sacrifice.

No sacrifice we can make—in the kitchen or elsewhere—can ever compare to the sacrifice Christ made on the Cross. But hospitality is still a sacrifice. Inviting others into our home always costs us time, money, and occasionally sleep (so many late nights doing dishes . . .). It gives us the chance to die to ourselves for the sake of others. It is an opportunity, in the midst of the daily business of life, to imitate Christ.

One more time: the food we cook and the drinks we serve don’t have to be fancy to make love known. They don’t have to measure up to the standards of the judges on Chopped to be a sacrifice or a sign of God’s generosity. Fancy is all well and good, and sometimes, for some of us, it’s an awful lot of fun. I do love the chance to use my silver. But it’s not essential. It’s not even important. When it comes to hospitality, food and drink are a means, not the end. What’s important is that something is offered.

What’s even more important is the attitude of the person doing the offering.

God’s sharing of food, and self-sharing as food, is the source of divine goodness that heals physical and spiritual hungers, but in addition urges us to share with and care for one another.


Angel F. Mendez-Montoya, The Theology of Food: Eating and the Eucharist



The secret to my Thursday night dinners’ success was not the food, the booze, or the venue. During the years my house was under construction, I couldn’t put on a show if I wanted to. Artisan cocktails and beautifully set tables were the stuff of someone else’s life. I had neither the time nor the money to pursue either. If I swept up the dry wall dust before everyone arrived, that was me being classy.

And yet people came back every week. They didn’t mind the construction dust. They didn’t mind that nothing I served them would win me a James Beard award. All they cared about was that on Thursday nights I gave them a place to belong. They had a community. They had people who would talk with them, laugh with them, and hear about whatever trials and tribulations they’d endured that day. They had my attention, and they had the attention of the other guests. That was enough.

Most of us know that’s enough. We know this because we’ve experienced it. We experienced it as children when the best house in the neighborhood was the house with the big crazy family and a yard strewn with toys. We experience it still, every time a person opens up their house to us and spends the evening talking with us rather than laboring over the meal and dishes in the kitchen. It’s not the cleanliness of the baseboards or the clever centerpieces that make an evening. It’s a host who looks us in the eye, asks questions, and listens to the answers. It’s a host who loves us in a casual, easy way and treats us like we matter.

As a hostess, it’s easy to forget this. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of entertaining as performance art, fretting over what people will think about our cooking or our housekeeping and worrying that they’ll be overwhelmed by our children, disappointed in dessert, or judgy about our scratched up, wobbly dining room table.

I know it is, because I have to fight that temptation too. I run a Catholic food and hospitality blog, for Pete’s sake. New people showing up at my house come with the impression that I’m Julia Child, Martha Stewart, and Mother Teresa rolled into one. Which I most definitely am not. Knowing that, it’s tempting to succumb to the pressure of meeting unrealistic expectations and worrying

that the reality of me will inevitably disappoint. But if I do that, if I let my hosting become about serving culinary masterpieces in a picture perfect home, I’ll either never let people into my home or I’ll end up neglecting my most important task as a hostess: loving the people who God sends my way.

That’s really what sets hospitality apart from entertaining. A person who is entertaining might serve the same food as someone practicing hospitality. Their house might be just as clean, their booze just as good, and their garden just as lovely under fairy lights. But the person entertaining is focused on impressing people. The person exercising hospitality is focused on loving people. The person entertaining is focused on themselves. The person exercising hospitality is focused on others.

* * *

Right now, each of us has a neighbor, co-worker, or friend eating dinner alone. There’s also a newly-married couple or newly-arrived family in our parish feeling lost and overwhelmed. Or maybe it’s you eating alone, you waiting for the dinner invitation to come.

We need to stop waiting and invite someone over to join us. It doesn’t have to be twenty people. It can be just one. It’s okay to start small. It’s okay to keep it simple.

It also doesn’t matter if walls are covered with little kids’ handprints, if furniture dates back to the Carter Administration, or if the best dinner we can muster up is grilled cheese and tomato soup served on paper plates. That’s okay. What matters is simply you— your love, your attentiveness, your desire to make your guests part of your life, even for just a little while. Hospitality doesn’t require a lot of money or a lot of skill. It just requires a lot of you.

All that being said, there’s nothing wrong with handmade mason jar chandeliers. If you like making that stuff, great. Go for it. If quail eggs in truffle oil are your specialty, that’s fine too. Serve them up. Heck, if it makes you happy, use the silver while you’re at it. It certainly does me.

And yes, it’s good to tidy up the house a bit before guests arrive . . . at least clearing the bills off the dining room table and the laundry off the living room couch. A place for guests to sit helps.

But as we do all that, we mustn’t make the mistake of thinking those details are the essence of hospitality. They’re not. The essence is love, kindness, and respect. The essence is simply giving people a space where they can come to know others and be known by others. That’s what makes for a successful dinner party and allows community to grow.

That’s what gives people a foretaste of the supper to which we’re all invited: the marriage supper of the Lamb.


Get your copy of The Catholic Table today for 30% off this Advent.


This post is an excerpt from The Catholic Table: Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet by Emily Stimpson Chapman. 

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15th Anniversary Gala Highlights

Dr. Scott & Kimberly Hahn with Mike Aquilina


View from LeMont Restaurant

Dr. Hahn gives the pre-event toast

Attendees browsing Silent Auction items 

Executive Director Andrew Jones     

Co-Founder Kimberly Hahn

Chaplain Fr. Jay Donahue offers opening prayer 

Ben Astono and Miranda Turalakey receive the inagural
Fr. Henry Hilderbrandt Award, traveling all the way from
Syndney, Australia

Executive Producer Matthew Leonard introduces
the new Bible and the Sacraments promotional video


Dr. Scott Hahn delivers the Annual Gala Keynote Address 

Fr. Jay drawing for the 206 Tours Pilgrimage                   

Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR delivers final benediction


Watch the congratulations video.

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St. Teresa of Avila on False Humility

This post is an excerpt from 30 Days with Teresa of Avila by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.

I am not surprised at your imperfections as I find many in myself, although I have had much more spare time here than I have enjoyed for a long while, which has been a great comfort; may our Lord comfort your soul too, as I beg of Him. Amen. You exaggerate your imperfection; I have experienced something of the sort myself as well as of the rest you mention, but my naturally grateful nature and your zeal make me pass for a very different person from what I really am. And yet I am on my guard! . . .

Your Lordship’s unworthy servant,

Teresa de Jesus


False Humility: Here we have the opposite problem as revealed in the previous letter where St. Teresa rejoices in her spiritual advisors ability to see her faults. Just as the hiding of faults is rooted in pride and vanity, so exaggerating our faults can also be rooted in pride and vanity.

This is often called “false humility” or a kind of humility expressed to gain some positive reaction from another rather than a disinterested and sincere expression of the true state of our soul.

Though harder to detect than the kind of pride and vanity that hides weaknesses, this kind of pride can be more dangerous because it masks itself in self-deprecation and a kind of openness to criticism. Often those that harbor this defect are self-deceived into believing that they actually are open to criticism or are self-critical. This deception can be very dangerous as it blinds the pilgrim to their deeply rooted need to be seen as humble when humility is actually in short supply, though desperately needed.

At the same time, the Carmelite doctor of prayer is not surprised or upset by imperfections in others, including false humility. As perfect as her love for God and neighbor had become, she expected imperfection and reveals personal familiarity with it. She also does not let those she loves define themselves in terms of failure. Instead, she zeros in on something good God is doing: in this case, she recognizes her friend’s zeal for the Lord. If the great mystic of Avila is self-effacing, it is only with an eye to encouraging a friend who is too preoccupied with her own inadequacy. She does not allow her friend to suffer this inadequacy alone. She identifies with the struggle and discloses it as her struggle too.

Many of those who look to us for affirmation exaggerate their imperfections. Whether we are dealing with our own children, a spouse, or a good friend, St. Teresa’s thoughtfulness is good to imitate. Correcting failure should be as brief and succinct as possible. Consoling and affirming what is good in a compelling way takes real discretion and charm.


This post is an excerpt from 30 Days with Teresa of Avila by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.

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An Introduction: Living the Mystery of Merciful Love

This post is excerpted from Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.

You have in your hands a thirty-day retreat that can—and will—change your life. We don’t propose that you spend thirty days off in a cave somewhere. That would be contrary to the spirit of St. Thérèse. Instead, we propose that for thirty days you invite God into the midst of your daily toil and that through the wisdom of St. Thérèse you explore the ways that He desires to meet you in your daily life and in your toil and lead you to heaven through it.

The Act of Oblation to Merciful Love and excerpts of twenty-nine letters authored by St. Thérèse of Lisieux are arranged here for thirty day-by-day meditations. This spiritual exercise intends to prepare you to renew the Act of Oblation to Merciful Love each day. At the end of this retreat, our hope is that this daily self-offering will have become an integral part of your personal prayer and that your heart will discover the dynamism of Divine Mercy.

True devotion is fed by truth. To this end, each one of our thirty meditations brings out a slightly different aspect of the Act of Oblation for consideration and prayer. As we proceed, the beautiful horizons of mercy that Thérèse shared with her contemporaries can become our own. This effort is not merely a mental exercise. The instruction provided in these pages presumes that the battle for the heart is waged in the mind. We seek in St. Thérèse’s spiritual teaching a deeper and more personal encounter with God. Her own words to her closest family members and friends provide the mystagogical content—the spiritual catechesis—for these reflections. We simply provide theological context and highlight autobiographical details that draw out the implications of her teachings. By allowing her to draw you into the beautiful horizons that she invited her friends and family to share, she will prepare you to imitate her as she imitated Christ—by offering yourself for love, by love, and with love.

What is an Oblation? An oblation is an act of giving oneself to God for a sacred purpose. To be an oblation to the Merciful Love of God means to offer one’s own life to God so that through it His Mercy might be revealed. An oblation is more than a momentary act of devotion or a one-time event. It is a total life commitment. The offering is meant to become a spiritual heartbeat that carries us through the day, and one that we renew at every opportunity.

St. Thérèse understood her daily oblation as a pathway to sanctity. For her, it was more than a recitation of words on a page. It outlined a whole discipline of life. She makes her Oblation to Merciful Love because she wants to be a saint. Her self-offering is intended to be nothing other than a participation in Christ’s holiness for the salvation of the world. If Thérèse’s oblation is ultimately ordered to the holiness of God, she also offers it for a more immediate purpose: namely, to live one single act with perfect love.

She offers herself to Merciful Love because she wants to show her love in action, by love and for love alone. St. Thérèse is well aware of her own mixed motives and inadequacies, yet these are not the focus of her oblation. Instead, her offering focuses on the God who can bring to perfection the work that He has begun if only souls surrender to Him and makes space for His love. To make the Oblation is to commit oneself to this divine project. Such an offering requires great courage and determination, but more than that, it requires confidence in and passion for the Mercy of God.

Mercy is love pierced to the heart by the plight of another. Within the logic of mercy, a perfect act of love is offered when nothing holds us back from our effort to remove the misery of our neighbor and affirm his or her dignity. Devotion to Divine Mercy recognizes how God’s excessive love for us has moved Him to relieve the disgrace and alienation that our sin has brought into our lives.

In this devotion, St. Thérèse is deeply moved by a profound mystery. She knows that in God’s omnipotence and authority over all, He knows perfectly the depths of human misery and the mystery of evil. God’s perfection cannot block the perfect tenderness and compassion that He offers to humanity. But unless we freely avail ourselves of this unfathomable love, He cannot force us to receive it. Here, we begin to glimpse the immense mystery that engulfs the existence of St. Thérèse like a drop lost in an ocean. In between the tenderness that God yearns to show broken humanity and the mystery of freedom with which He endows each person, Thérèse recognizes a kind of divine anguish: a love that yearns to be shared but is in a sense frustrated until it is freely accepted. The distress that she perceives does not pose a weakness in God, but rather the dramatic proportion of His perfect love for humanity.

These insights into the merciful love of God help us understand the importance that St. Thérèse places on the oblation in her own time. After the Prussian occupation in the nineteenth century, many believed that God had abandoned France because France had abandoned God. Indeed, with the Industrial Revolution and the rise of secularism, the rich blessings of the faith, once dominant in European culture, were now diminished. Instead, preoccupation with material success and political ideologies defined the self-perception of the people and dictated the way they spent their time. An old fashioned and moralizing Church seemed to be out of touch with their daily concerns. Ecclesial indifference or even defensiveness concerning the pressures of modern life only confirmed these popular impressions.

Among many of the devout, there was a desire to rectify France’s standing with God. Some religious offered themselves to divine justice in an effort to make reparation for the sins of their countrymen against God. Their effort was to bridge the gap between the demands of divine justice and the mediocre piety of their contemporaries by making sensational penitential acts and sacrifices on behalf of the ungodly. Over and against this effort, St. Thérèse explicitly acknowledges that she was not capable of this kind of spiritual feat. She seems to have intuited a hubris inherent to this approach that lacked an authentic spirit of reparation and intercession. The problem was not that the world was unjust or filled with misery—it tragically was and even more tragically is today. Her saintly genius was to see the problem instead as a lack of humble openness in the Church to the graces that God yearned to give.

Some attempt to seek union with God by great acts of piety, spiritual achievements, and religious accomplishments. While these efforts may not be intrinsically evil, they are detrimental to the spiritual life to the degree that they orient us towards self-sufficiency and a lack of dependence on the Lord. It is a pursuit of justice animated by a dangerous expectation of a return on a personal investment. In its worst expression, it is similar to treating God like a divine vending machine. I put in my quarter and wait to see if God gives me what I want. This attitude fails to make us humble and vulnerable to the will of the Lord and can even lead us away from the obedience His blessings require.

St. Thérèse makes the starting place of her self-offering her twofold awareness of her own inadequacy and the immense desire to give herself to God. Her awareness of inadequacy places her in a humble posture before the Lord. Her immense desire to console God’s merciful love gives her confidence in what He can do in her life. She knows that only God could put such beautiful desires in her and because of His great goodness, He would never stir any desires except those that He intends to fulfill. In the desire to do something beautiful and purely for Him—not despite her weakness but in the very midst of it—she finds reason to hope that she can make an offering of herself to Him.

St. Thérèse believed it was possible to be a living instrument of God’s merciful love in the world, especially for those who most need the Lord’s mercy, because He has made it so. In this mystery of His rejection and humiliation, the Lord has made space for us to share in His work of mercy. In this place our misery and the misery of Christ, His sorrows and our sorrows, coincide. St. Thérèse’s oblation expresses her decision to stand with the Lord in this sacred place by bearing her own sorrows with faith and in the midst of them choosing to love just as He does.

She found through this solidarity the secret power of God was at work, accomplishing great wonders in the lives of those for whom she offered herself. It was as if her feeble efforts to surrender to the mercy of God made space for the Lord to do great things. In this way, she was convinced that her own love in the midst of difficult trials relieved Christ’s misery in a very real, if imperfect, way. Her frail but repeated efforts allowed the Lord to do something beautiful. The love that moves her to offer herself to Merciful Love informs the spiritual wisdom that she has to share with the Church today.          

The writings of this Doctor of the Church are filled with powerful insights into the inexhaustible mystery of Divine Mercy. Our reflections on St. Thérèse’s words attempt to highlight her insights in a way that evokes the radical dedication to Merciful Love that she herself embraced. As a method for using this work in prayer, rather than reading several chapters in one sitting, we invite you to prayerfully read one of the selected passages from St. Thérèse’s letters and then the reflection that we provide each day. After reading the passage and the reflection, underline phrases that strike you. Then, take at least a few minutes in silence to consider those truths. If the Lord pierces you to the heart through the wisdom of this great saint, take a moment to thank Him for that grace and for the gift of St. Thérèse. If your heart reaches a resolution about your way of life, consider writing it down so that you can go back to it throughout the day. Finally, to seal this time of prayer, we invite you to intentionally pray the Act of Oblation out loud at the end of each meditation as a way of preparing yourself for the mission of Divine Mercy that the Lord has entrusted to you for that day.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux wants to help you become a saint. Her letters were written to help those she loved realize this very purpose. Periodically throughout these thirty days, we encourage you to review your journal and think about how the Lord is speaking to you through this spiritual exercise. You might make some discoveries about God’s will for you to bring to your spiritual director or to discuss with a spiritual friend. We hope that the entries you develop in your journal—whether your own insights or resolutions that you feel prompted to make—will become an important part of the story of your soul, an encouragement for yourself as well as those you love.

We believe that those who will allow St. Thérèse to teach them to make this oblation a part of their daily life of prayer will discover spiritual healing for themselves and for their loved ones. An indulgence was attached to this prayer as early as 1927. This means that whenever this oblation is offered with sincere devotion either for oneself or for someone who has gone before us in faith, Christ uses this prayer to help heal the wounds that sin has caused. The other conditions for the indulgence include going to Confession, receiving Communion, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. In addition to the wonderful grace offered through the Church, at the end of this thirty-day period of prayer, we hope that you will notice a deeper inclination to spend time with the Lord in silence and to extend the merciful love of God to others as part of your everyday life long after you have completed these reflections.


This post is excerpted from Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.

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The Love of St.Thérèse of Lisieux

This post is an excerpt from Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.


“And then she said to her divine guide: “You know where I want to go, You know for whom I want to climb the mountain, for whom I want to reach the goal. You know the one whom I love and the one whom I want to please solely; it is for Him alone that I am undertaking this journey. Lead me, then, by the paths which He loves to travel. I shall be at the height of my joy provided that He is pleased. Then Jesus took me by the hand, and He made me enter a subterranean passage where it is neither cold nor hot, where the sun does not shine, and in which the rain or the wind does not visit, a subterranean passage where I see nothing but a half-veiled light.”

— St. Thérèse to Sr. Agnes of Jesus

Before she entered Carmel, St. Thérèse had journeyed with her father and sister Céline on a pilgrimage to Rome. Most of the travel was done by train and St. Therese marveled at the beautiful countryside. We can imagine that train also passed through some tunnels in the mountains. This present letter, written a few years later, speaks not of a geographic journey, but of a spiritual one. The summit of the mountain of Love is an image in the Carmelite spirituality especially developed by St. John of the Cross in his commentary on his poem The Dark Night.

There are some who look at uncomfortable and unfamiliar experiences in the spiritual life as things to be avoided or problems to be overcome. They presume wrongly that prayer should always make us feel good. They believe that deep prayer is affirming and validating. The moment they do not feel affirmed or validated, they presume that God has abandoned them or that they must have done something to disappoint him. They believed that they have lost the approval of the Lord. This becomes equally problematic when a soul becomes overly anxious or discouraged. In such cases, it is easy to backslide and give up on prayer. This was a pattern that St. Teresa of Ávila struggled with for many years until the Lord brought her through this difficult grace—a grace John of the Cross calls the dark night and St. Thérèse understands as an underground passage up the mountain of Love.


This post is an excerpt from Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux by Anthony Lilles and Dan Burke.

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Follow the Path of the Saints

In Ralph Martin’s modern classic, The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints, the three stages of spiritual growth are defined as the purgative, illuminative, and unitive.

The purgative stage includes the initial phases of the spiritual life—conversion, turning away from sin, bringing one’s life into conformity with the moral law, initiating the habit of prayer and the practices of piety, and maintaining a relatively stable life in the Church.

The illuminative stage is one of continuing growth. It is characterized by deeper prayer, growth in the virtues, deepening love of neighbor, greater moral stability, more complete surrender to the lordship of Christ, greater detachment from all that is not God, and increasing desire for full union.

The unitive stage is one of deep, habitual union with God, characterized by deep joy, profound humility, freedom from fears of suffering or trials, great desire to serve God, and apostolic fruitfulness.

Each stage leads the pilgrim to his final end: the Beatific Vision, where one knows and loves as he is known and loved.

To embark on your spiritual journey, use The Fulfillment of All Desire as a companion. Its comprehensive collection of wisdom from the saints will be a profound compass as you walk the path to holiness. 

"Ralph Martin gives us a rich and clear description of progress through prayer in union with God, drawing on the wisdom of the saints."—Father Robert Faricy, S. J. 

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The Greatest Sacrament: An Excerpt From Speaking the Love of God by Jacob Wood

The following is an excerpt from Speaking the Love of God: An Introduction to the Sacraments (Emmaus Road Publishing).
Holy Eucharist is the third of the seven sacraments, as well as the third Sacrament of Initiation. It is the greatest of the seven sacraments, the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). Its name comes from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning “thankfulness” or “gratitude.” It also has a number of other names deriving from the various elements involved in its celebration and its effects: the Lord’s Supper, the Breaking of Bread, the Eucharistic assembly, the Memorial of the Lord’s Passion, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy and Divine Liturgy, and Holy Communion (CCC 138–1331). All of these various names refer to one sacramental event:

The eucharistic celebration is the action of Christ himself and the Church. In it, Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers himself, substantially present under the species of bread and wine, to God the Father and gives himself as spiritual food to the faithful united with his offering (CIC, Canon 899, §1).


In its central moment, when a priest says the words of Jesus over bread and wine (respectively: “This is my body” and “This is my blood”), those elements become the Body and Blood of Jesus, and, through becoming his Body and Blood, are offered as a sacrifice to God—a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. They are given to the faithful to eat.

Learn more about Speaking the Love of God: An Introduction to the Sacraments visit Emmaus Road Publishing.

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The Richness of the Creed

 It was not a call I’d been expecting. Who would have thought that the world’s most famous composer of evangelical worship music would be calling me?

I had been part of that world—an evangelical pastor in a Calvinist church, deeply engaged in the public conversation about cultural and theological issues. But with my conversion to Catholicism in 1986 I became persona non grata to many of my old friends and colleagues. My story was dissected, deconstructed, and disputed by legions of hardcore Protestant apologists.

So why on earth would Rich Mullins be calling me?

His song “Awesome God,” recorded in the 1980s, was a blockbuster, sung in megachurches and house churches, mainline churches and even on the campus of a certain Catholic university that was known for its praise and worship music.

Again, why was this man calling me?

He called because he was becoming convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, and he wanted a theologian to respond to his lingering questions. Since I had walked that walk, he chose me.

And we talked for half an hour.

He told me his story. He had been brought up Quaker, an austerely anti-dogmatic tradition, and as a young adult fell in line with the Restorationist movement, whose slogan was “No creed but Christ.”

But reading in Christian history he faced the question: Which Christ? Was it the Christ of the Arians or the Semi-Arians, the Docetists or the Adoptionists, the Modalists or the Monothelites? The proliferation of heresies troubled Rich. The “gospels” they preached were mutually exclusive, and so if one were true, then all the others were preaching some “other Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

As a young man, Rich had believed there was “No creed but Christ.” But now he was beginning to realize there was no way to know Christ but through the creed.

He was reading Catholic authors. He had read my book Rome Sweet Home. He loved what he was learning—so much, in fact, that he would track down a Catholic theologian and pick up the phone, just to talk.

Soon after our call he began attending RCIA classes at a Catholic parish.

He died in a car crash that September on the very eve of the day he was to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. The music he produced in that homestretch shows the change in his interior life. Among his most mature works is the song “Creed,” with its mighty chorus: “And I believe what I believe / is what makes me what I am.”

I tell Rich Mullins’ story at the beginning of my new book The Creed: Professing the Faith through the Ages, just out from Emmaus Road. This month I am scheduled also to record a 13-week series on The Creed for EWTN.

I believe this is a very important subject, because so many people are mistaken in what they think about the creed.

They think it is something essentially different from, and barely related to, biblical revelation. They think it’s an altogether different kind of thing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Theologically informed Catholics know better. They know that the creed represents the Church’s infallible interpretation of the whole of Scripture.

But with this book I’m bringing out something even more basic and more essential. I’m demonstrating that creeds are confessions—and confessions are a deeply biblical form.

I show that the ancient Israelites made bold confession of their faith, and so did the first Christians. Nor did they shy away from disputes; their confessions were not watered-down statements, anodyne and obvious. They didn’t aim for the least common denominator. They led with the most provocative and seemingly improbable tenets of their faith.

I show, too, that creeds are covenantal. They follow the form that God himself habitually employs to gather a people as His family. The creeds bear the recognizable marks of true biblical faith.

This is something I discovered in the years leading up to my conversion, and I’ve explored more deeply ever since.

What was true for Rich Mullins had been true for me as well. And it’s true for you! What we believe is making us what we are—and what we hope to be for all eternity.

I thank you for all you’ve done to make this book possible. I thank you for making it possible for the St. Paul Center to reach many people of goodwill, like Rich Mullins. I can never repay you for all you’ve done for me, through your prayers, your words of encouragement, and your donations. You have become, like the creed, a fixture in my prayer life, and I assure you of my daily remembrance.

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The Creed: Yesterday and Today

The following is from Scott Hahn’s latest book, The Creed: Professing the Faith Through the Ages, now available through Emmaus Road Publishing.

Gregory of Nyssa, both brilliant and holy, was recognized by his contemporaries and peers as a man who most perfectly embodied the Council of Constantinople—the council that produced the creed we call “Nicene” and recite every Sunday. The Emperor Theodosius decreed that communion with Gregory was a necessary condition of orthodoxy. As the council ended, the Fathers appointed Gregory to travel extensively promoting the formulas of the creed in places where controversies had arisen.

While in Constantinople, he complained about the condition of the city’s faith. It’s not that the people weren’t interested, he noted. In fact, they pursued their interest in theology with impressive ardor. Everyone seemed to know the Scriptures, and everyone seemed eager to interpret them. But their interpretations veered wildly because the people held themselves accountable to no authority. Gregory complained:

Mere youths and tradesmen are off-hand dogmatists in theology. Servants, too, and slaves that have been flogged. . . are solemn with us and philosophical about things incomprehensible. . . . If you ask for change, someone philosophizes to you on the begotten and the unbegotten. If you ask the price of bread, you're told the Father is greater and the Son inferior. If you ask if the bath is ready, someone answers that the Son was created from nothing.


Gregory’s mission was to remedy this situation. His method was the creed.
His mission was needed and essential. If Jesus had wandered into the market and asked his haunting question, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15), he would have received many different answers. Most, it seems, would seem quite flattering if applied to mere mortals like you and me, but they would be wrong if applied to God incarnate.  And wrong answers about Jesus all come with terrible implications: errors about God, about salvation, and 

about every dimension of human nature. Christ, after all, is the only one who, the Second Vatican Council taught, “fully reveals man to man.”

Our times are not all that different from Gregory’s. If we go to the market, we may encounter many opinions about Jesus—one from the apocalyptic preacher on the street corner, and another from the leaflets left in the laundry, and still another from the tabloids on sale at the checkout line. Popular books treat Jesus as a guru, psychologist, Republican, Democrat.

In such a climate, what are we, in our turn, to do? Perhaps we should do the same as St. Gregory did, all those years ago. We should go forward, fortified by the creed.
If we don’t get the creed right, we don’t get Jesus right. And if we don’t get him right, we don’t get anything right.
—From Scott Hahn’s new book, The Creed: Professing the Faith Through the Ages.

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Right & Just

From the time of King David onward, an attitude of gratitude dominated the worship of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every day, the priests offered blood sacrifices to atone for the sins of God’s people. But the sacrifice most commonly offered, the sacrifice that exercised the most powerful influence on the spirituality of the Jews, was the Todah. 

The Todah, the thank-offering, was a sacrificial meal of bread and wine. If you had been delivered from mortal peril—a deadly illness or an assault by bandits—you would offer the Todah sacrifice as an act of gratitude, sharing the elements with your family and friends. 

Jews in the Greek-speaking world sometimes translated todah as eucharistia, the root of our word Eucharist. 

St. Paul is especially fond of the word. He opens his First Letter to the Thessalonians by assuring his hearers, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). The verb he uses for “give thanks” is eucharistoumen. Similarly, the First Letter to Timothy (2:1) prescribes the offering of eucharistias, which is rendered as “thanksgiving.” This usage certainly evokes Jesus’ thanksgivings whenever he broke bread. The Gospels present him consistently “giving thanks,” and to this end they use forms of the verb eucharisto. (See Matthew 15:36, Mark 14:23, Luke 22:17, and John 6:11 and 23.) 

To first-century readers, the terms todah and eucharistia suggested more than polite expressions of gratitude. They had important sacrificial connotations for both Jews and Christians. More than a century after the fall of the Temple, the Talmud records the rabbinic belief that in the age of the Messiah “all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice. This will never cease in all eternity.” 

The earliest Roman liturgy we know is from the 200s, and it includes this exchange, which should be familiar to you: 

Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. 

People: It is right and just. 

Everything we have is a gift from God: life, family, food, peace, housing, the Church, the pope, and the Gospel itself. It is a matter of simple justice—and basic politeness — to express gratitude for what we have.

Indeed, the Messiah’s sacrifice has not ceased in the Catholic Church, and it never will.

God always gives us what we need. And for that, eucharisto!—I give thanks! Thanks be to God, and thanks to you, for all you do for me and my colleagues.
We at the Center remember you at Mass and in our hours of adoration before the blessed sacrament. It’s only right, and it’s truly just!

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Come to the Feast: Study and Dialogue

My consumption of books, I confess, has sometimes bordered on the gluttonous. I used to haunt library sales, yard sales, and garage sales. When I traveled for business, I’d routinely spend my meal allowance on books, which I devoured in between meetings, on public transportation, in waiting rooms—wherever, whenever. I would forgo sleep to read still more.

My reading habits became the subject of good- natured jokes in my extended family. When my in- laws sent me on an errand, they knew to allow time for my detours in book- shops. When we moved our household from Illinois to Ohio, the truckers had to take the weight of hundreds of crates of books into consideration and detour from interstates in order to avoid fines for overload.

Consuming words, I had put on a bit of weight, and it showed. It still shows. Anyone who visits my house gets a tour of my library, which now includes tens of thousands of volumes shelved on an entire floor of a substantial home in Steubenville, Ohio. Most of the books I own are books of theology, so most of the words I consume are words (logoi) about God (Theos ). As I devoured these books by the hundreds, I found that they—curiously enough—pointed beyond themselves. They pointed to a meal.

Why should this have been strange to me? I knew that Jesus himself was a great devourer of books. He had been schooled in the Law, the Prophets, and the histories of ancient Israel; and even the day he rose from the dead he spent interpreting those books (see Luke 24:27). His “opening” of the Scriptures that day was a clear affirmation of the importance of the books, but it was nonetheless a prelude to his fuller revelation “in the breaking of the bread” (see Luke 24:30–35). At Emmaus the eyes of the disciples were finally opened as they sat at table with Jesus and he fulfilled the words of the Psalm: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8), following its sequence rather exactly.

In the early days of my book collecting—when I was a new Catholic and a graduate student—I led a Bible study in my home. Most of the members were Catholic undergraduates who were unaware of the sacramental riches of their tradition. My wife, Kimberly, was still Protestant at the time, but she was still more aware of Catholic doctrine than the cradle Catholics were. One night she complained that she and I had spent so much time studying the menu while these young people had been enjoying the meal.

Enjoying the meal, they were better equipped to appreciate the menu—once they understood the connection. That was as true of the young readers in my Bible study as it was of the disciples at Emmaus. Consuming the Word of God made them hunger ever more for the words of God. So, to help people make the same connection, I have written another book, titled (of course) Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church; and I pray that it will be consumed with delight by many people. This book appears as a third course, as it were—a main course—following after my earlier titles The Lamb’s Supper and Letter and Spirit. In it I demonstrate that the New Testament was a sacrament long before it was a document, and the proof of that is even in the document!

My great hope is that this book will open up new conversations between Protestants and Catholics. We agree on so much; and our points of disagreement are often based on deep misunderstandings. With this issue in particular—the sacrifice of the Mass and its relation to the New Testament—we’ve been talking past each other for centuries. We’re using the same words, but to mean different things. That’s the opposite of what Jesus came to establish—that all may be one! It’s the opposite of what the Mass is supposed to accomplish—one bread, one body! The situation should be unbearable to us, because it’s contrary to God’s will. If I can advance our walk together a step or two, I’ll be a very happy man.

Get Consuming the Word: The New Testament and The Eucharist in the Early Church.

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Scott Hahn Reflects on “The Hour”

"The Hour" of Jesus is a key theme in the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Indeed, it's a key theme in the entire Gospel of John.

Literally, "The Hour" of Jesus is the time of His crucifixion, His self-offering on the cross.

But there is also a "spiritual" way to read the passages that refer to Jesus' hour - a way of reading that reveals how "The Hour" of Jesus continues in the Mass:

Jesus says that the hour is coming when we'll worship in a new way - in Spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). We'll gather in that hour as "Greeks" and "Jews" to celebrate a new Passover feast, He says (see John 4:23; 12:20-23).

In that hour, the dead will hear His voice and have life by His Word (see John 5:24-25). And in that hour we will receive miraculous, new wine (see John 2:9-10) and the "fruit" of the grain of wheat sown in the ground (see John 12:13-24).

We have here, in the description of Jesus' "hour," a picture of the Mass. The Mass is a spiritual worship in which we join the choirs of angels in heaven. It's a living remembrance of His last Passover supper in which we who were once dead in sin hear His Word in Scripture, and receive living bread and new wine.

When His hour finally came, "blood and water" flowed from His side (see John 19:34). It was a final sign that His "hour" continues in the Sacraments of the Church, especially in Baptism and the Eucharist. Every time we celebrate the sacred mysteries, we enter into "The Hour" of Jesus which is signified and made present in the Liturgy (see Catechism, nos. 1165, 1225).

For more on "The Hour," see Chapter 9 of Scott Hahn's Scripture Matters: Essays in Reading the Bible From the Heart of the Church. 

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Jesus and the Last Supper

For decades, biblical theologians have used the tools of historical criticism to drive a wedge between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. Now, thanks to the work of St. Paul Center Fellow Dr. Brant Pitre, those same tools are being used to demonstrate that no such wedge ever truly existed. There has always been only one Jesus, the Jesus of history and faith. 

In his newest book, Jesus and the Last Supper, Pitre sets out to answer four questions: 1) What is the relationship between Jesus and Judaism? 2) Who did Jesus think He was? 3) What did Jesus expect to happen in the future? And 4) What is the relationship between Jesus and the early Church?
       Ever since the advent of the historical-critical method, those four questions have been at the heart of scholarly attempts to understand the man Jesus apart from the Church. By viewing those questions through the prism of the Last Supper accounts, however, Pitre shines a light on Jesus’ humanity that is as Catholic as it is intellectually rigorous. 

Funded, in part, by a grant from the St. Paul Center, Jesus and the Last Supper is earning rave views from scholars across the Christian world.

Catholic participation in the Jesus quest has hereby finally borne its hoped-for fruit, with enormous implications for all Christians. Pitre should win the Ratzinger Prize for this book alone.

—Matthew Levering, Mundelein Seminary

With Jesus and the Last Supper, Brant Pitre constructs a bridge from the best scholarship of previous generations to the most promising possibilities of the present. This book is nothing less than a blueprint for resurrecting Jesus studies in the twenty-first century.

—Anthony LeDonne, United Theological Seminary

Brant Pitre’s contribution is provocative in the best sense of the word. At every turn readers will find new observations worth pondering and new arguments worth weighing…No one will come away from this volume without having learned much. 

—Dale Allison, Jr., Princeton Theological Seminary

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New Song by Scott Hahn

Isaiah 52:7–10

Psalms 98:1–6

Hebrews 1:1–6

John 1:1–18



The Church’s liturgy rings in Christmas with a joyful noise. We hear today of uplifted voices, trumpets and horns, and melodies of praise. 

In the First Reading, Isaiah fortells Israel’s liberation from captivity and exile in Babylon. He envisions a triumphant homecoming to Zion marked by joyful singing.

The new song in today’s Psalm is a victory hymn to the marvelous deeds done by our God and King.

Both the prophet and psalmist sing of God’s power and salvation. God has shown the might of His holy arm, they say. This language recalls the Exodus, where the people first sang of God’s powerful arm that shattered Israel’s enemy Egypt (see Exod. 15:1, 6, 16).

The coming of the Christ child into the world fulfills all that the Exodus and the return from exile prefigured.

In Jesus, all nations to the ends of the earth will see the victory of God over the forces of sin and death.

Jesus is the new King. He is the royal firstborn son and Son of God promised to David, as we hear in today’s Epistle (see Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14).

And as our Gospel reveals, He is the Word of God, the one through whom the universe was created, the one through whom the universe is sustained.

In speaking to us through His Son, God has unveiled a new age, the last days.

The new age is a new creation. In the beginning, God spoke His Word and light shone in the darkness. Now, in this new age, He sends us the true light to scatter the darkness of a world that has exiled itself from God.

He is the one Isaiah foretold – who brings good tidings of peace and salvation, who announces to the world that God has come to dwell and to reign (see Rev. 21:3–4).

So we sing a new song on Christmas. It is the song of those who have believed in the Christ child and been born again – by grace given the power to become children of God.

Bonus! Discover the true meaning of Christmas in this insightful interview with Scott Hahn and Gus Lloyd: Listen Here

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The New ‘Ark’

The Church in her liturgy and tradition has long praised Mary as “the Ark of the New Covenant.” We see biblical roots for this in the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (Cycle C).

Compare Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth with the story of David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and you’ll hear interesting echoes.

As Mary “set out” for the hill country of Judah, so did David (see Luke 1:19; 2 Samuel 6:2). David, upon seeing the Ark, cries out “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth says the same thing about “the mother of my Lord” (see Luke 1:43; 2 Samuel 6:9).

John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, as David danced before the Ark (see Luke 1:41; 2 Samuel 6:16). And as the Ark stayed three months in “the house of Obed-edom,” Mary stays three months in “the house of Zechariah” (see Luke 1:40,56; 2 Samuel 6:11).

The Greek word Luke uses to describe Elizabeth’s loud cry of joy (anaphoneo) isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament. And it’s found in only five places in the Greek Old Testament - every time used to describe “exultation” before the Ark (see 1 Chronicles 15:28; 16:4-5; 2 Chronicles 5:13).

Coincidences? Hardly. The old Ark contained the tablets of the Law, the manna from the desert and the priestly staff of Aaron (see Hebrews 9:4). In Mary, the new Ark, we find the Word of God, the Bread of Life and the High Priest of the new people of God (see also Catechism, no. 2676).

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The Angel and Mary: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the angel Gabriel greets Mary in an unusual way: "Hail, favored one" (see Luke 1:28).

Kecharitomene, the Greek word translated as "favored one," is very rare, used in only one other place in the New Testament. It comes from charis, the Greek word for "grace" and basically means "made full of grace" or "transformed by grace." 

This is how the word is used in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, where he describes how God "granted" His grace to all of us in Jesus (see Ephesians 1:6-7). This sheds light on what the angel means - Mary has been "transformed by God's grace." 

Notice that the angel doesn't mention Mary's name. That's odd, too. There's no other angelic greeting like this in Scripture. It's as if Mary's name is "favored one" or "made full of grace." 

In Scripture, when God gives a person a new name, it reveals the person's role in His saving plan. Think of Abraham - the father of all nations (see Genesis 17:5), or Peter, the Church's "rock" (see Matthew 16:18). Mary is God's favored one, transformed by God's grace to be the sinless mother of His only-begotten Son. 

That's why the angel's greeting is one of the biblical foundations for Mary's Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate December 8. Listen closely to the Mass readings that day - you'll hear the angel's greeting, and Paul's beautiful words about God's transforming grace.

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Celebrating Ten Years of Journey Through Scripture

2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the St. Paul Center’s Journey Through Scripture Bible Study Program in Catholic parishes. Over the past decade, the Program has grown to become one of the most popular of its kind in the country, with each of the six studies helping Catholics discover the connections between the Old and New Testaments, the Bible and the Liturgy, and the sacraments and everyday life. 

Across the country, we’ve trained thousands of people to lead these life-changing studies. “Genesis to Jesus,” “The Bible and the Mass,” “The Bible and the Virgin Mary,” “The Bible and the Sacraments,” “The Bible and the Church Fathers,” and “The Bible and Prayer” have been offered from coast to coast in parishes, schools, homes, prisons, and even a Protestant church. 

Soon, we’ll also begin offering these studies on DVD. In just a few weeks, “The Bible and the Virgin Mary” will be available at

This will make it possible for the studies to reach far more people than we ever could through individual presentations alone. 

Here’s just a sampling of what we’re hearing from those who’ve recently gone through one of the Bible studies or our Presenter Training Program. 

I never realized how important the Mass was until now.

It is wonderful—a good blend of nourishment for the brain and the soul.

This helped me see how very “user-friendly” the Bible really is. I am no longer afraid
to read, research, and talk about it thanks to this presentation. 

This study has provided me with great information for future homilies.

As new Catholics, we find this right up there with the best
Protestant materials, and I’ve been teaching adults all my life!

Every person should hear this study. What an evangelizing tool!

This program is genius. It is an easy approach to opening up
the Word of God—extremely well thought out and easy to apply.

This brought me into a closer relationship with the Trinity.

This glimpse of the story of salvation history made me hunger and thirst for more.

This actually exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to get the green light to go
forward and present this in my parish.

Over the past ten years, the St. Paul Center has not only trained Catholics from all fifty states to lead the Journey Through Scripture Bible studies. We’ve also trained presenters from more than a dozen countries. Thus far, Journey Through Scripture  has been presented in:

  • New Zealand
  • Spain
  • Singapore
  • Ireland
  • Nigeria
  • Sweden
  • Kenya
  • Mexico
  • Chile
  • Canada
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • England
  • Ghana
  • Brazil
  • Honduras.  


Learn more about how the program works or how to become a trained presenter.


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Mom by Scott Hahn

I wonder if even the greatest saints ever outgrow the desire to please their moms—or the pleasure when they succeed at doing so.

Not long ago I discovered that I had outgrown neither the wish nor the feeling of satisfaction.

My mother was proud enough of my accomplishments. I knew that. And I heard, every now and then, secondhand and thirdhand, of her bragging about my latest book or TV show.

Firsthand … I heard very little. Between us there was the matter of religious difference. When I was growing up, our family was Presbyterian, though our churchgoing was irregular. I became a Catholic as a young man. Mom eventually came to attend a Baptist church. It’s understandable that she might see my Catholic theologizing as a rejection of what she gave me.

But of course it wasn’t. For Catholics, the Church is Mother, and Mary is Mother. We understand these truths more easily if we have known a good mother. And I did. That was my privilege. Motherhood and fatherhood both figure prominently in my approach to theology, and that is my legacy from Molly Lou Hahn and her husband, Fred. Insofar as I have succeeded, I have to give Mom credit.

I told her all that, but there was still the difference between us—the distance—and the resistance. I could sense her guard go up, when we talked, if our conversation drifted into religious matters.

So I was a little surprised, one day while she was visiting our house, when she asked me about the St. Paul Center. “You’re always talking about it,” she said. “What exactly does the Center do?”

What an invitation! It was my chance to speak about what Mom and I held in common, and what my church held in common with hers. I talked about our common love for the Bible. I explained how the Center promoted biblical literacy for all Catholics and biblical fluency for clergy and teachers. I told her about our events, our audio and video programs, our publications, our web presence—everything.

I was feeling so good that I grabbed a brochure the Center had recently produced, a case statement detailing our mission and methods, and I handed it to her.

With that, I had apparently crossed a line. She said: “Scott, you know I’ve never supported Catholic things and never will.”

I was taken aback. I wasn’t looking for money, and I explained that to her. Nonetheless, it was an awkward moment.

I was, I guess, fishing for Mom’s approval—which is a good thing, but not the best. In my heart I gave God the glory.

Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks later, she called to tell me she had read the brochure—and she was amazed! “I never knew you were doing such amazing things,” she said. “I’m sending you a check for a thousand and five hundred dollars—as long as you promise not to tell anyone.”

I was beaming. I told her I didn’t think I could make that promise.

“Oh, fine,” she said. “I’ll send you the check anyway.”

How grateful I am for that moment, which I count as an actual grace. It showed Mom’s acceptance, approval, and support for what you and I are doing together through the St. Paul Center.

I’m grateful to God that this happened when it did. My mom died on August 20 after a brief battle with cancer. Like all her children and grandchildren and her many friends, I miss her. We’re all holding on to many memories, of many moments, as our consolation. But I’m holding on to that one in particular.

The St. Paul Center immediately set up a memorial fund in my mother’s honor, and I thank my colleagues for that kindness. I thank all of you who have contributed so generously to the fund. I was just informed that the Center is planning to keep the fund active in perpetuity.

The legacy continues. May my mom—and all of your beloved who have died—know eternal rest and perpetual light in the Lord.

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Defenders of the Family:  JPII & Gianna

Saints John Paul II and Gianna Beretta Molla are the official patron saints of the World Meeting of Families—two defenders of the family par excellence.

Both Saints John Paul II and Gianna Beretta Molla defended the dignity of the family and each presented in a unique way an image of total, self-giving love.
Like a good father, John Paul II approached his pastoral duties with a “big picture” mentality. In the myriad cultural and social issues he addressed, whether they be political, economic, or religious, the institution of the family inevitably factored into his teachings.The good of the family, in the most universal sense, was a consistent objective of St. John Paul’s mission.
While John Paul II’s concern for the family was played out in the global sphere, Gianna Beretta Molla’s great sacrifice demonstrated total dedication at the most personal level. Suffering from a large tumor during her fourth and final pregnancy, Gianna morally could have had her uterus removed, thus sparing her life but terminating that of her unborn child. As a mother, she believed her greatest obligation was to her child and sacrificed her personal comfort—and ultimately, her life—for the life of her daughter.
Today, both Saints represent heroic charity and firm commitment to the protection of the family. Both believed that the eternal good of individuals is safeguarded by the family and, in ways simple and profound, evidenced this truth to the world.
As the World Meeting of Families continues in Philadelphia, let’s pray that we too may work within both our families and wider communities to defend and support the family.
Saints John Paul II and Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Family Today

This afternoon, the World Meeting of Families Congress kicked off in Philadelphia. Faithful and clergy from all around the world are gathered to pray, study, and celebrate as the struggles and triumphs of the family are brought front and center.
For those who aren’t able to attend the gathering in Philadelphia, there are still plenty of ways to participate in the celebration: namely, by praying, studying, and celebrating wherever you are!
Emmaus Road author Katie Warner’s new book Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family is jam-packed with ideas for strengthening family life. Here are just five of Katie’s many suggestions from Head & Heart:

  1. Prioritize Prayer St. Teresa of Avila offers a simple and powerful prayer philosophy: If you don’t pray sometimes, you can’t pray always. Seize those “sometimes” moments to intercede for family members or to give thanks for God’s providence.
  2. Identify Your Family Mission Writing out your family mission will give you the power to unify, focus, and guide your family to achieve your goals.   
  3. Take Up Your Cross God does not let our suffering go to waste. If we accept our trials, He allows us to share in the redemptive value of the Cross by uniting our sufferings to His, for the sake of building up the body of Christ.
  4. Cultivate Peace God wants to free us from the stress that plagues our families. Simplifying our lives, honoring the Lord’s Day, and maintaining personal balance and rest are all ways we can safeguard peace in our homes.
  5. Be Who God Made You to Be The best way to strengthen your family is to be an active participant in God’s plan for your life. By pursuing sanctity, you’ll become a source of inspiration and transformation in your own family. 

For more advice on growing together spiritually as a family, check out Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family by Katie Warner.



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Pray for us!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia. Catholics from all over the globe will come to celebrate the theme, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” 
I’m pleased to have been asked to present at this year’s Congress. I’ll be speaking on God’s covenant with humankind and the divine institution of marriage.
Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in God's image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27) and concludes with a vision of the consummation of salvation history—as "the wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7-9). Indeed, the primordial form in which humanity bears God's "image and likeness" is the marital covenant.
This covenant, we discover, has profound and practical insights into the social and spiritual dimensions of God's saving plan for the human family—and now more than ever the Church needs these implications to become applications! 
I invite you to join me in praying for our Holy Father and for all in attendance, that their hearts and minds will be open and engaged in the events of this week’s World Meeting of Families. 

Yours in Christ,



Scott Hahn, Ph.D.

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Typing Tutor by Scott Hahn

Long before I considered becoming Catholic—during the time, in fact, when I considered myself to be anti-Catholic—I found myself drawn to the study of biblical typology.

Typology describes a certain approach to the reading the Bible. When Christians read typologically, they discern in the Old Testament “types” that prefigure a fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Isaiah spoke of a man of sorrows, and all Christians since the first generation have seen his oracle as a foreshadowing of Our Lord’s suffering and death. Similarly, the Passover lamb is seen as a prefigurement of the sacrifice of the cross. These are Old Testament types that the New Testament itself draws our attention to.

It’s a very ancient method of approaching Scripture. We Protestants, however, were ambivalent about it.

On the one hand, we saw that the Apostles used typology. Saint Paul spoke of Adam as a “type” of Jesus (Romans 5:14). Saint Peter spoke of the ancient flood as a figure of Christian baptism (1 Peter 3:20–21). The Letter to the Hebrews presented the old Law as “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). The Gospels presented Jesus as a new Temple, a new Solomon, and a new Moses.

On the other hand, modern interpreters seemed not to know what to do with typology. Some of them—we called them “hyper-typers”—read the Old Testament imaginatively and found types buried everywhere. But there was no discipline or coherence to their accumulated symbols. The associations often seemed arbitrary. But … it was widely understood that certain typologies were off-limits—like any Old Testament figure (manna, showbread, Melchizedek) that the Catholic Church saw as a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.

It was in the Church Fathers that I—at last—found the deeper and unifying sense in the typological reading of Scripture. As Saint Augustine put it: “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” 

I loved the Bible and read it hungrily; and now, as I read it with Justin, Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Jerome, I read all the Scriptures as a single book, a masterpiece carefully composed by a divine author.

The sense was there in the words as well as the events they described. In the writings of the Fathers, I found not a riot of correspondences, but a single fabric of creation and history, woven by the Creator according to the pattern of His providence.

As much as I cherish the discoveries I made, I made them slowly and with difficulty, over the years that followed. How I wish I’d found a single volume that presented this method to me in a comprehensive way.

Now, more than thirty years later, I’m pleased to say, I’ve found such a volume. And so I’m even more pleased to say that the Saint Paul Center is bringing it out through our publishing arm, Emmaus Road.

The book is Fulfilled in Christ: The Sacraments: A Guide to Symbols and Types in the Bible and Tradition; and it’s written by Father Devin Roza, who teaches Scripture at Rome’s Pontifical University Regina Apostolorum. In this volume, Father Roza considers each of the seven sacraments and, using the great interpretive tradition, he demonstrates how God prepared the way for each, with prophetic oracles and saving events. Thus, the creation story begins with the Spirit descending upon the waters. Noah guides his ship to salvation through water. The exodus proceeds because Moses strikes the rock and draws out water for refreshment. Ezekiel sees waters flowing from the right side of the Temple and bathing the earth. And Isaiah bids all his hearers to come to the water. And then, in the fullness of time, salvation came to earth by way of the waters of baptism.

You can Purchase Fulfilled in Christ Here.

Each of the sacraments arrives at the culmination of a similar story, as old as creation.

That’s the exciting story Father Roza tells in this book, which, I predict, will help to speed many souls (like me) on their way to the fullness of Catholic faith.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). 

Every Catholic knows this truth. It marks the structure of the readings we hear at Mass every Sunday. Let’s tell the world, once again, the story as the Apostles told it, and the Fathers after them.

I thank you for all you do to help us tell the story—to help us publish books like Father Roza’s. Without your prayers, your encouragement, your donations, we could do nothing.

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Molly Lou Hahn (1928-2015) Rest in Peace

Many of you will have heard of the passing of Dr. Hahn’s beloved mother, Molly Lou Hahn yesterday.  A number of people have called the Center to share their sympathy and inquire about making memorial gifts in her honor.  She was a devoted mother, grandmother, and a dear friend of the Center.  She will be greatly missed.  Please keep her and the Hahn family in your prayers.  If you would like to make a memorial gift, you can do so here.

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Summer Vocation by Scott Hahn

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

I’ve often written and remarked on the astonishment that’s evident in that line. It seems to require an exclamation point: “And so we are!”

After decades of preaching the Word—the same message day after day, year after year—Saint John could still be surprised by the Good News. It still made him giddy to know that he was a child of God.

His joy was communicable, and it still is today. I know this for a fact, because I just spent a week with fourteen young scholars intensively studying John’s first epistle. The occasion was the Saint Paul Center’s eighth annual Summer Institute, and I believe it was our best and most fruitful gathering ever.

Our attendees converged from all points of the compass—from Notre Dame, Boston College, Ave Maria, Catholic University, Duke, Marquette, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and Rome’s Gregorian University. The gathering included our highest number of people enrolled in doctoral programs—and the greatest number of Old Testament specialists.

Our faculty was stellar. Dr. Michael Waldstein of Ave Maria University began with classic works of art and used them to lead us into the biblical text. Dr. Daniel Keating of Sacred Heart Major Seminary drew deeply from his recently completed commentary on Saint John’s epistles. Dr. John Bergsma of Franciscan University spoke about the significance of Israel’s dispersion and restoration.

We conducted our sessions throughout the day and into the night. I led a series of seminar discussions—that, given the expertise of the group, were quite lively. Prayer punctuated our days and evenings: daily Mass, the Rosary, a holy hour, the Divine Office. There were opportunities for Confession. There were opportunities as well for pickup basketball games and Frisbee.

I was inspired by their vigor—both physical and spiritual. It gives me hope, as I know these scholars will be around for a long time, training future generations in the Scriptures. Most will be professors, equipping seminarians and other students to break open the Word for fellow Catholics. Some will be priests and deacons, leading tomorrow’s Church through prayer, preaching, and reasoned resistance to a wayward culture.

It seemed like too much fun. Throughout the week we felt like little children—to use Saint John’s phrase—and we were at play in the garden of his Word. And so we were!

We ended the week, as Catholics do, with a celebration, a picnic after Mass on Sunday. One priest —who has attended seven of our eight  Summer Institutes—made it a point to say to me: “Stupendous! The best ever!”

You made it possible, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. Because of your prayers, your encouragement, and your financial support, we at the Saint Paul Center can make opportunities like this for the leaders of tomorrow’s Church, enabling them to grow in their knowledge of Scripture and Catholic tradition.

See what love the Father has for us that he has brought us together in this way—for the privilege of doing his work.

Count on my prayers through the many great feasts we celebrate this month. Please remember to pray for us and the work we share.

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A Novena Celebrating Our Mother

August brings not one, but two great Marian feasts: the Feast of Mary’s Assumption on August 15 and the Feast of Mary’s Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth on August 22. To celebrate Mary, our mother and most faithful intercessor, the St. Paul Center team will mark the time between the two feasts with a special novena to the Queenship of Mary. 

We’ll begin this novena on the eve of the Assumption, August 14, and conclude it on the morning of the Feast of the Coronation. In addition to praying for the success of our apostolate and our own personal intentions, we’d also like to include the intentions closest to our friends’ and supporters’ hearts. 

Please feel free to send us any intentions for which you’d like us to pray, using the enclosed reply card. You’re also welcome to join us in this powerful prayer, by using the traditional novena, printed below. 

Novena to Mary, Queen of All Hearts

O Mary, Queen of All Hearts, Advocate of the most hopeless cases; Mother most pure, most compassionate; Mother of Divine Love, full of divine light, we confide to your care the petitions which we humbly ask of you today. 

Consider our misery, our tears, our interior trials and sufferings. We know that you can help us through the merits of your Divine Son, Jesus. We promise, if our prayers are heard, to spread your glory by making you known under the title of “Mary, Queen of All Hearts, Queen of the Universe.”

Grant, we beseech you, hear our prayers, for every day you give us so many proofs of your love and intercession to heal both body and soul. We hope against all hope; ask Jesus to cure us, pardon us, and grant us final perseverance. 

O Mary, Queen of All Hearts, help us; we have confidence in you.
O Mary, Queen of All Hearts, help us; we have confidence in you.
O Mary, Queen of All Hearts, help us; we have confidence in you.

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The Beggar’s Banquet Takes the Prize

This summer, at the 2015 Catholic Press Association Awards, one of Emmaus Road Publishing’s books—The Beggar’s Banquet: A Personal Retreat on Christ, His Mother, the Spiritual Life, and the Saints by Regis Martin—took second place for Best Books on Spirituality. 

Based upon a series of private retreats Dr. Martin led for a group of Cistercian monks in Utah, the book meditates on questions of the utmost importance: the mystery of God’s love for his people, the suffering required of love, the intersection of time and eternity, the wonder of the Incarnation, the great grace of the Immaculate Conception, the holy folly of the saints, and so much more.     

In the citation, honoring the book, the CPA wrote: 

How rare to find a book that’s—all at once—poetic, theologically rich, entertaining, and accessible.  Martin draws from voices as diverse as Eliot, Pascal, Dickens, Balthasar, Barth (and countless canonized saints) to make his points.  But he’s always telling stories, and always relating his reading to his own struggles, and so the book never feels academic.  His humor is a singularity in the Catholic world and should probably be protected by UNESCO.  He uses it to good effect and for the best purposes.

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Why Shepherds?

Micah also sees the coming King as a "shepherd" - another allusion to David, who a shepherd in the countryside around Bethlehem (see 1 Samuel 16:11).

So as soon as Jesus is born, Luke, the master painter, shows us a field full of shepherds.

This, too, may be a reference designed to stir the hopes of Luke’s readers.

The Lord was Israel’s “shepherd” (see Psalm 23:1 and Psalm 80:2). And God had promised, through the prophet Ezekiel, that He himself would punish Israel’s false shepherds – the rulers and teachers - and replace them with a good shepherd, a new David (see Ezekiel 34), who would gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

How fitting then, that the shepherds heard the good news first! Once again, Luke does not speak this directly, but uses evocative language from the Old Testament to show us that the Good Shepherd had arrived.

An excerpt taken from Lesson Four of our FREE online Bible Study ‘HE MUST REIGN’: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN SCRIPTURE 

Click Here to Read the rest of the Study


Course Description

The drama in the Gospels turns on a single question: Is Jesus the long awaited Messiah, the son of David come to restore the everlasting monarchy promised to David? Underlying this drama are centuries of rival interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures and competing expectations of who the Messiah was to be, the signs that would accompany his coming, and the shape of the kingdom he would establish.

We explore all these issues in this thematic survey course, which goes to the heart of what the New Testament has to say about the identity of Christ and the Church.

We start with a detailed look at the importance of David in the Old Testament, the shape of the Davidic monarchy, and its historic rise and fall. We examine next the messianic hopes of Israel and the traditions of exile and restoration found in the Old Testament and in Jewish literature written between the Old and New Testaments.

We then make a detailed study of how Jesus is portrayed as the Davidic Messiah in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as in Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles. We round out our study by exploring the Davidic-kingdom imagery in the remaining New Testament texts, and how the biblical understanding of the Church as the kingdom is reflected in the Catholic Church.

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On the Road by Scott Hahn

If you know me at all, you know that I draw deep inspiration from the last chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel. I love the story of the disciples’ walk with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. I imagine those disciples to be you and me. As we walk the road with him, he opens up the Scripture to us — and then he makes himself known to us in the breaking of the bread.

I know no better image for the mission of the St. Paul Center: reading Scripture from the heart of the Church.

Even before the founding of the St. Paul Center — nearly 20 years ago — I helped found a publishing company along with my friend and colleague Curtis Martin (who is now president of FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students). When we were choosing a name for our imprint, the natural choice (and the supernatural choice) was Emmaus Road.

The first title published by Emmaus Road Publishing was Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God, which I co-edited with Leon Suprenant. Over the years Emmaus Road has published many great books by people associated with the St. Paul Center. My name is on the cover of seventeen titles in the Emmaus catalog!

After so many years of close collaboration, we’ve decided to draw even closer. I’m pleased to announce that Emmaus Road Publishing has joined the St. Paul Center and become our publishing arm. We now share common office space, staff, and mission. This will make both operations more effective and more efficient in service to the Gospel and to your personal apostolate.

We have set ambitious goals for the near future — to bring you books you need from authors whose words you trust. We’re having a sale to celebrate.  And, in the spirit of celebration, I’d like to give you a gift.

Go to the website today, and you can sign up for a free digital copy of my book Understanding Our Father: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer.  You’ll also find great discounts on many other Emmaus Road titles. As I said, this is a big moment in our history. We’re celebrating with a big sale.

So please join the celebration! I thank you for your companionship so far as we walk together on the road to Emmaus. You make our work possible. I am constantly aware of that fact, and so are my colleagues at the Center — and now at Emmaus Road Publishing, too! We give thanks for you daily. We intercede for you and your loved ones.

And still I have the audacity to ask you for more! Please pray for our work. Please continue to contribute generously. There’s much we need to do — and, like those long-ago disciples, I feel the urgency of the need in our world. They implored Jesus, “constrained him,” saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent” (Luke 24:29).

And you know what? That’s a strategy that works! “So he went in to stay with them.” Let’s you and I constrain our Lord with our love, our prayer, and our pious works. Then watch what happens as he makes himself known to us.

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The Apostles’ Church: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul

Acts 12:1–11  
Psalm 34:2–9

2 Timothy 4:6–8, 17–18  
Matthew 16:13–19

Today’s celebration of the great apostles Peter and Paul is a celebration of the Church. Peter’s deliverance from jail is compared to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Like Israel he is rescued at Passover from “the hand” of his enemy by an “angel of the Lord” after girding himself with belt, sandals, and cloak (see Ex 3:8; 12:8, 11–12; 14:19).

The Church is, as Peter says, “all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” As he affirms in his great confession of faith in today’s Gospel, Jesus is “the Christ,” the Messiah that the prophets had taught Israel to hope for.

But Christ is more than what the Jewish people had been hoping for.

He is the Christ. But He is also, as Peter confesses, “the Son of the living God.” Born of the flesh of the Jewish people, he is a son of Abraham and David (see Mt 1:1; Rm 1:3). Through Him and the Church founded on the rock of Peter’s faith, God fulfills the promise he made to Abraham—to bless all nations in his seed (see Gen 22:18).

What Christ calls “my Church,” is the new Israel, the kingdom of God, the family made up of all peoples—Jews and Gentiles—who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (see Gal 3:26–29; 6:16). And we must make this confession our own. Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” is addressed to each of us personally.

We must confess our faith in Christ not only with our tongues, but with our lives. As Paul describes his discipleship in this today's Epistle, we must make our lives a oblation, an offering of love for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom (see Rm 12:1).

We know, as we sing in this week’s Psalm, that the Lord has rescued us in Christ Jesus. We know that he will stand by us, giving us strength to face every evil—and that He will bring us to the heavenly kingdom we anticipate in this Eucharist.

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John the Baptist: In the Spirit and Power of Elijah by Dr. Michael Barber

This week we celebrate the Solemnity of John the Baptist this article provides an overview of the biblical texts describing his importance. 

The First Annunciation

In Luke 1 we actually have two annunciations. Most Catholics are familiar with the second, the announcement of the birth of Jesus. Before that however the angel makes an appearance to the priest Zechariah. The similarities are striking—as well as the one major difference!

  • The angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah / Mary
  • Addresses Zechariah / “Full of grace”
  • He is “troubled” (1:12) / She is “troubled” (1:29)
  • “Do not be afraid” (1:13) / “Do not be afraid” (1:30)
  • “you shall call his name John” (1:13) / “you shall call his name Jesus” (1:31)
  • “How shall I know this?” / “How will this be?”
  • Fails to believe / “Let it be done unto me. . .”

Sanctified in the Womb

In the announcement of his birth we hear that, “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). This is a striking statement—even as an unborn child John the Baptist would receive the Holy Spirit. This of course plays out in the narrative in the story of the visitation:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! (Luke 1:41–42)

Notice, being filled with the Holy Spirit here is associated with a confession of faith, Elizabeth’s. However, given that John is said to be filled with the Spirit even from his mother’s womb and given that he leaps inside of her at the arrival of the Mother of the Messiah, it seems clear that his action is best understood as a kind of evidence of faith as well.

Indeed, this was recognized as early as Origen (here the podcast on Origen here):

“Elizabeth, who was filled with the Holy Spirit at that moment, received the Spirit on account of her son. The mother did not inherit the Holy Spirit first. First John, still enclosed in her womb, received the Holy Spirit. Then she too, after her son was sanctified, was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke 7.3)

Because of this the fathers of the church such as Ambrose recognized that the John the Baptist was given the gift of grace even while still in utero. In short, John was understood to have been sanctified in the womb.

A New Jeremiah: Consecrated in the Womb

Does this seem far-fetched? Not from a biblical perspective. The same thing is said about another Old Testament prophet: Jeremiah. The Lord explains, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5) Of course, St. Paul talks about how Abraham was “justified” by his faith in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah we have another Old Testament figure that was “sanctified”. Although, here we have something truly special—he was consecrated in his mother’s womb.

This of course highlights in a particular way the gratuity of salvation. As Paul explains,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

Even before he had done anything, God consecrated Jeremiah (cf. Rom 9:11-12). For more on this, see Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae III, q. 27 (here).

Jeremiah’s Prophetic Signs

Jeremiah in fact is an especially important Old Testament prophet. In some ways, his entire life was a sign of faith. Scholars recognize the many prophetic signs he performed.* He didn’t simply speak the Word of the Lord, he lived it. Consider just a few of his prophetic actions in the account of his life in Scripture:

  1. He wears a waistcloth, buries it and digs it back up, symbolizing Israel’s corruption, sin and humiliation (cf. Jer 13:1–11) 
  2. He is celibate: symbolizing God’s judgment on Israel and his separation from wicked Israel (cf. Jer 16:1–4) 
  3. He refashions a spoiled vessel, pointing to God’s willingness to forgive and remake Israel (cf. Jer 18:1–12) 
  4. He breaks a pot to symbolize the irrevocable divine decree of judgment (cf. Jer 19:1–13) 
  5. He takes a cup from the Lord and gives it to the nations to drink, symbolizing coming judgment (cf. Jer 25:15–29) 
  6. He makes and wears yokes, announcing that the Babylonians are coming to conquer Jerusalem and take the people away as slaves (cf. Jer 27:1–28:17) 
  7. He purchases a field to indicate God’s promise of a future restoration (cf. Jer 32:1–15) 
  8. He rewrites a scroll after the king destroys it to show that God’s words endure (cf. Jer 36:1–32). 
  9. He hides stones in the mortar used for Pharaoh’s palace as a sign that the Babylonian king will conquer Egypt (cf. Jer 43:8–13).
  10. He writes about the coming judgment upon Babylon in a book and tells Seraiah to read from it in Babylon and throw it into the Euphrates (cf. Jer 51:59–64) to demonstrate that the exile had been foretold!


Jeremiah as a New Moses


Indeed, Jeremiah is described as a New Moses, as Dale Allison shows. His calling in Jeremiah 1 in many ways mirrors the calling of Moses in Exodus 3.

  1. Both complain that they are not good speakers (Jer 1:6; Exod 4:10). 
  2. Both are told “you shall speak all that I command you” (Jer 1:7; Exod 7:2). 
  3. Both are comforted by being told that God will be with them (Jer 1:8; Exod 3:12). 
  4. Both are told that the Lord’s words will be in their mouth (Jer 1:9; Deut 18:18).

The list goes on and on.

Jeremiah then is a kind of New Moses. It is no wonder then that he predicts the coming of a New Covenant, using language of a New Exodus:

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31–33)

When God’s people looked for deliverance, Jeremiah was not far from their mind. This is evident in 2 Maccabees. There we read about a mysterious appearance of Jeremiah who is credited with giving the sword to Judas Maccabeus that he used to defeat Israel’s enemies. As Onias the high priest is praying over the people, he spots none other than Jeremiah in the crowd:

Onias, who had been high priest, a noble and good man, of modest bearing and gentle manner, one who spoke fittingly and had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. 13 Then likewise a man appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity, and of marvelous majesty and authority. 14 And Onias spoke, saying, “This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God.” 15 Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave to Judas a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: 16 “Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries.” (2 Macc 15:12–16)

John the Baptist and the New Exodus


Not surprisingly, John the Baptist evokes New Exodus imagery himself. Look at the language describing his ministry in Matthew 3:

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way (Gk. hodos) of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Matt 3:1–3)

Here John is seen quoting from Isaiah’s famous New Exodus prophecy. As in the Exodus, God is preparing a way, in Greek, a hodos (note: ex-hodos means the “way out”) in the wilderness.

John the Baptist and Elijah

In addition, John the Baptist is linked to another figure who, like Jeremiah, was linked both to Moses and to Israel’s future deliverance: Elijah. This connection is evident in Luke 1, in which his birth is announced.

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16–17)

In fact, in Matthew 3, John the Baptist is described as essentially wearing the costume of the Old Testament prophet:

“Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matt 1:4)

In 1 Kings we discover, “[Elijah] wore a garment of haircloth, with a girdle of leather about his loins” (2 Kgs 1:8).

Elijah as a New Moses

Elijah, like Jeremiah, was described as a New Moses figure.*** It makes sense that a figure announcing the New Exodus—John the Baptist—would be linked to Elijah. Consider some of the following ways Elijah mirrors Moses’ life and ministry. I could compile quite a list. Let me just name a few points of contact here.

  1. He upheld Mosaic religion and cult against Baal worship
  2. He went into exile after angering the King (Ahab) (1 Kgs 17:1–7; cf. Exod 2:11–15 where Moses goes into exile) 
  3. He miraculously provided “bread” and “meat” in the morning and in the evening in the wilderness (cf. 1 Kgs 17:6; cf. Exod 16 where Moses provides the manna). 
  4. He gathered Israel at a mountain (Carmel) where God’s power is revealed in fire (1 Kgs 18:19; cf. Exod 19:17 where Moses leads Israel to Sinai) 
  5. He combats false prophets of Baal (cf. 1 Kgs 18:20–40; cf. Moses vs. Magicians, Exod 7:8–13, 20–22, 8:1–7) 
  6. He intercedes for idolatrous Israel, appealing to God of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (1 Kgs 18:36–38; cf. Moses’ intercession for Israel after the sin of the golden calf Exod 32:11–14)  li>He repairs the altar of the Lord at Mt. Carmel taking 12 stones symbolizing Israel (1 Kgs 18:30–32; cf. Exod 24:4: Moses erects altar with twelve pillars at Mt. Sinai) 
  7. He calls down fire to consume the sacrifices. Notice the parallels here!
    1. “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God” (1 Kings 18:38–39).
    2. “Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting; and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came forth from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat upon the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Lev 9:22–24). 
  8. Elijah commands idolaters to be slain (1 Kgs 18:40; cf. Exod 32:25–29: Moses commands Levites to kill those who worshipped the golden calf)

  9. After slaying idolaters Elijah goes up to Sinai/Horeb and fasts for forty days and forty nights in the (1 Kgs 19:8; Exod 32:28: Moses also fasts at Sinai/Horeb).

  10. Elijah is (re-)commissioned at Horeb (1 Kgs 19; cf. Exod 3: Moses is commissioned at the burning bush) 

  11. Elijah was in a cave when the Lord “passed by” (1 Kgs 19:9–11; cf. Moses in Exod 33:21–23) 

  12. On Horeb/Sinai there is a theophany with storm, wind and an earthquake (1 Kgs 19:11–12; cf. Exod 19:16–20 and Deut 4:11; 5:22–27: at Sinai “wind, earthquake, fire”)

  13. Elijah becomes depressed and “asked that he might die” (1 Kgs 19:1–14; cf. Num 11:1-15: Moses also prayed for death to come) 

  14. Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume his enemies (2 Kgs 1:9–12; cf. Num 16 and Lev 10:1–3: fire consumes Moses’ enemies) 

  15. Elijah parts the Jordan: “the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground” (2 Kgs 2:8). Compare with Exodus 14:21-22: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exod 14:21–22) 

  16. Elijah appointed a successor who resembled him and split the Jordan (2 Kgs 2; cf. Moses appoints Joshua)

  17. People thought Moses might still be alive, cast “upon some mountain or into some valley” (2 Kgs 2:9–18; cf. Deut 34:6: Moses died mysteriously and no one knew the place he was buried).

In short, Elijah is a New Moses. As I will explain, this is significant as it relates to understanding John the Baptist’s role in the Synoptic Gospels.

Elijah and the Restoration of Israel

As I mentioned, like Jeremiah, Elijah was linked to Israel’s future hopes for deliverance. Malachi describes the way “Elijah” will come before the eschatological age—i.e., the messianic age.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” (Mal 4:5)

Sirach also speaks of Elijah in similar terms:

“you [Elijah] who are ready at the appointed time, it is written, to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury, to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.” (Sir 48:10).

Notice the similarities here with the angel’s description of John to his father Zechariah in Luke: “he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children”.

Not surprisingly then John is identified by Jesus as Elijah. This is made explicit in Matthew after the Transfiguration. The disciples wonder at Jesus’ eschatological language, asking, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” (Matt 17:10). Jesus replies,

“Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matt 17:9-13).

John’s Baptism and the Essenes


In fact, it appears that John had his finger on the pulse of first century Judaism. As the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal, there were many Jews who were thinking eschatologically, preparing for the coming of the messianic age.

Interestingly enough, the Jews at Qumran, apparently used language and performed rites similar to John the Baptist. For instance, in a striking parallel to the speech of John the Baptist recorded in the New Testament, we read in one Dead Sea Scroll text:

“When such men as these come to be in Israel, conforming to these doctrines, they shall separate from the session of perverse men to go to the wilderness, there to prepare the way of truth, as it is written, ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’ [Is. 40:3]” (1QS 6:12-16).

Likewise, we know that the Essene community, which is most likely to be identified in some way with the community who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, practices ritual washing, symbolizing cleansing from impurity and entrance into the New Covenant community. Whether John had direct contact with the Essene community is impossible to know. But we do see John announcing something that many were apparently looking for: the dawning of the messianic age.

Of course, the New Testament points to John’s baptism as only a foreshadowing of Christian baptism. In Acts of the Apostles, Jesus explains after his resurrection to the apostles, “for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). Likewise, Paul explains to those who had only received John’s baptism the need to receive Christian baptism, through which they receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 19:1–7).

Elijah and Elisha, John and Jesus

Given that Jesus comes after John, it is also worth noting something else about Elijah: he was followed by Elisha. After Elijah is taken up by a heavenly chariot at the River Jordan, Elisha receives a “double-portion” of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kgs 2:9–15). He in fact becomes a figure much like Elijah, performing several miracles reminiscent of his mentor.**** For example,

  1. Like Elijah, Elisha works a miracle making oil last indefinitely (cf. 1 Kgs 17:8–16; 2 Kgs 4:1–7). 
  2. Like Elijah, Elisha parts the waters of the Jordan (cf. 2 Kgs 2:8, 13). 
  3. Like Elijah, Elisha raises a child from the dead (1 Kgs 17:17–24; 2 Kgs 4:32–37)

Yet it is worth noting that, Elisha’s miracles are more numerous and impressive!***** He is the only figure other than Moses to cure leprosy (cf. Num 12; 2 Kgs 5). Likewise, whereas Elijah feeds the widow and her son, Elisha feeds a hundred men with ten loaves (cf. 2 Kgs 4:22–24).

If that last miracle sounds reminiscent of a miracle of Jesus, it should. Scholars recognize that Jesus feeding of the five thousand mirrors Elisha’s miracle of feeding a hundred men with only ten loaves. Consider the parallels between 2 Kgs 4:22-24 and Matt 14:15-21:

  1. Bread plus another item is brought to Elisha / Jesus
  2. Jesus / Elisha instruct their servant / disciples to give the bread to the crowds. 
  3. The servant of Elisha / the apostles of Jesus protest that there is not enough food for everyone. 
  4. The people eat and food is left over.

Notably, that miracle follows on the heels of the account of John’s death in Matthew 14 and Mark 6. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Like Elisha receives a double spirit of Elijah’s spirit at the Jordan, Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, where the Holy Spirit descends upon him.

John is therefore the final prophetic figure, the final messenger, announcing the coming of the Messiah. He, in a sense, is the last of the “Old Testament” prophets—though clearly he is described in the New Testament. Thus Jesus describes him as marking the end of an era in Matthew’s Gospel:

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 11:11–14).

John is the greatest of the messengers sent by the Lord. Yet the New Covenant surpasses the Old. Those who are least in the Kingdom are greater than John. What does that mean about the dignity and importance of the vocation to the Christian life?! Quite a lot I suspect. But I suppose that is something best taken to prayer.

*On prophetic signs, see W. D. Stacey, Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament (London: Epworth, 1990); Kelvin G. Friebel, Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s Sign Acts: Rhetorical Nonverbal Communication (JSOTSup 283; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999). Here I am especially dependent on the work of Scot McKnight. See his, “Jesus and Prophetic Actions,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 10/2 (2000): 201–22. (Back to Article)

** Dale Allison, The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 53–60.

*** The most comprehensive overview of the parallels is found in Allison, The New Moses, 39-50. See also R. A. Carlson, “Élie à l’Horeb,” VT 19 (1969): 432; P. Josef Kastner, Moses im Neuen Testament (Munich: Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, 1967), 30; Frank M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epoch (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard, 1973), 192; G. Coats, “Healing and the Moses Traditions,” in Canon, Theology, and Old Testament Interpretation (Tuck, G. M., et al eds.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988, 136; R. P. Carroll, “The Elijah-Elisha Sagas: Some Remarks on Prophetic Succession in Ancient Israel,” VT 19 (1969): 411; G. Fohrer, Elia (ATANT 53; Zürich: Zwingli, 1957), 57); R. D. Nelson, First and Second Kings (Atlanta: John Knox, 1987), 128; Laurence Boadt, Reading the Old Testament (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), 301. Many of the similarities between the two figures were spelled out in detail by R. Tanhuma (Pesiq. Rab. 4:2). (Back to Article)

**** For a fuller discussion of the relationship between Elijah and Elisha as well as the literary unity of the narrative in 1-2 Kings see the great discussion and the plethora of references in Thomas Brodie, The Crucial Bridge: The Elijah-Elisha Narrative as an Interpretive Synthesis of Genesis Kings and a Model for the Gospels (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2000), 1-27 (Back to Article)

*****See Colin Brown, “Miracles,” in vol. 3 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (4 vols; G. W. Bromiley, ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 373, who explains that after Elisha receives a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, we read about “miracles greater and more numerous than those performed by Elijah.” Here he sees more than the Elijah-Elisha succession, but also Moses-Joshua (see below). See also Paul J. Kissling, Reliable Characters in the Primary History: Profiles of Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha (JSOTSSup 224; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 192: “The miracles which Elisha performed are far greater in number than those which Elijah performed.” (Back to Article)

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Into the Deep! by Scott Hahn

Every year we reach many thousands of people through our events, our books and publications, and our online and video Bible studies. This is a grace of refreshment, and we give thanks for it. Many Christians labor for years but do not live to see the fruits of their prayer and witness. Simon Peter speaks for multitudes when he says: "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets”(Luke 5:5).

We at the Saint Paul Center, however, have lived to see the joy on people’s faces as they are transformed by their encounter with the Sacred Page — no, with Jesus Christ. The mail carrier and our internet service provider bring us reminders every day of the power and reach of the apostolate we share with you.

We’re grateful for all those joys and consolations. We’re thankful for those short-term satisfactions. Yet Our Lord calls us also to venture into more challenging waters, to "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4).

Our work with teachers — faculty at seminaries and universities — is by far our most demanding task. But it is the also the work that promises the greatest yield. Each teacher we teach will, in turn, teach future teachers — future preachers, pastors, bishops, and professors. Each of their students and parishioners, then, will take the Gospel home to a family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Thus, by focusing our attention on a few select leaders, we can affect the lives of tens of thousands and maybe even millions.

When I face those classrooms, I know what Jesus meant when he said he saw fields white and ready for harvest.

And we are about to begin that “harvest” season once more. This summer we will host our eighth annual Summer Institute and welcome academic participants, both clergy and lay, from the most prestigious schools. We have hosted young scholars from the Ivy League, from Rome’s pontifical universities, and from the venerable corridors of American monasteries.

In these weeklong seminars we strive to communicate a Catholic biblical worldview. In conversation, in prayer, in study, we try to take students to a perch where they can see the sweep of salvation history, the glory of tradition, the solidity and prescience of the Church’s magisterium.

It is often a moment of conversion for those who attend. It’s not that they become Catholic after a lifetime as something else. But they begin to believe in the rich possibilities of their lives. They begin to believe in the reach and tender care of their providential father — not only for history in the grand sense, but for them personally and their work with souls.

I beg your prayers for our Institute this year — and also for our other outreach to scholars: our journal Letter and Spirit, our seminars during the school year, our ongoing presence at major academic conferences and colloquia.

Our Lord has called us to be fishers (Matthew 4:19). We want to be faithful to his call, and we know that fish must be caught by the head. In these endeavors, you and I can expect success on a grand scale, though we may not live to see it. Think of what happened when the Apostles believed in Jesus’ promise — when they put out into the deep. “And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking” (Luke 5:6).

So pray for us. Keep working with us. I am grateful for all you do for us.

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O Sacrum Convivium by Fr. Brian Mullady O.P.

“O Sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of his Passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace and the pledge of future glory is given to us.”

This famous Eucharistic antiphon from the feast of Corpus Christi is attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, and well summarizes both the faith of the Church and the theology of St. Thomas concerning the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

The doctrine of transubstantiation is central to this teaching. The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 was the first to formally define the manner in which Christ is present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist:

“There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside which, no one at all is in a state of salvation. In this Church, Jesus Christ Himself is both priest and sacrifice; and His body and blood are really contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine, the bread being transubstantiated into the body and the wine into the blood, by the power of God, so that, to effect the mystery of unity, we ourselves receive of that which is His, what He Himself received of that which is ours.”

The Fourth Lateran Council used the word “transubstantiation” to summarize a long tradition originating in the Gospels and St. Paul concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Transubstantiation occurs after the priest says the words of institution over the bread. This technical term refers to the being of bread changing into the being of the body of Christ while all the properties of bread remain. In the late 1960s I attended a lecture by a famous Catholic theologian given to a large group of Protestant and Catholic seminarians in Berkeley. He declared that if one put the host under a microscope, he would see—according to the doctrine of transubstantiation—the molecules of Christ’s body. Modern scientific investigation had demonstrated that there was no change in molecular structure and so there was no change in substance. As a result, the change must not be a change in being, but only in being perceived by the subject through his faith. The bread now means Christ to him, and he uses it for the purpose of union with Christ. These last ideas are termed generally by modern theology “transignification” (change in meaning) and “transfinalization” (change in purpose).

The difficulties in this position are, first, that it mistakes the philosophical understanding of substance for the modern idea of chemical-molecular substance. Substance in the philosophical sense does not refer to element, but to a being which exists in its own right. Bread is a substance; a rock is a substance. An accident is a being which cannot exist in its own right. White is an accident. White cannot exist apart from a white thing like white bread or a white rock. Transubstantiation, then, does not mean that molecular structure changes, as this is merely an accidental or non-essential aspect of the substance.

Secondly, it is true to say that the change in the Eucharist includes change in meaning and change in purpose, but these changes involve change in nature. In other words, the objective change must support the subjective change. Pope Paul VI expresses it very well:

“As a result of transubstantiation, the species of bread and wine undoubtedly take on a new meaning and a new finality, for they no longer remain ordinary bread and ordinary wine, but become the sign of something sacred, the sign of a spiritual food. However, the reason why they take on this new significance and this new finality is simply because they contain a new ‘reality’ which we may justly term ontological. Not that there lies under those species what was already there before, but something quite different; and that not only because of the faith of the Church, but in objective reality” (Mysterium Fidei, 1965).

By this change in substance, Christ associates us with His Passion, suffered and accepted, and with His Body, resurrected and ascended.

This can only happen if He becomes truly present to us here on earth so that we may participate in the body and blood and make His perfectly obedient soul our own. This sacrament is the bond of love and stimulus for hope, because in this food we become the food. In all other food, the food becomes us. In this we are more and more transformed into Christ. Still, because we only know Him here through faith, this sacrament is also a food for our faith by which all the interior obedience and love of Christ’s human heart becomes the constant nourishment for our spirits. It is the food of pilgrims. Though the Eucharist is a meal/banquet, it is a sacred banquet. When we as pilgrims feed on Christ, we are participating in the heavenly banquet.

By the same token, Christ desires to be intimately present to everyone in His true body and blood. He could not do this if He were only present in the manner His body is present in heaven. The Blessed Sacrament is truly that body, but present in a substantial, sacramental way. His body does not move through space to leave heaven and become present in one altar on earth, then in another. The change of transubstantiation is not just a change in form nor a change in place. It is a true change in substance. The dimensions and quantity of Christ’s risen body remain at the right hand of the Father, but become completely present on all the altars of the world completely and simultaneously. Otherwise we would not all participate equally in the fullness of His obedience and love. “Christ,” the Mystical Lamb of the Apocalypse, “is received.”

Christ instituted this sacrament precisely so that we, the wayfarers and pilgrims, could share fully in the mystery of His atonement. This is a true memorial or anamnesis. He said, “Do this in memory of me.” Yet this is not just a play reenacted. It is a true participation in the whole interior drama of His perfect obedience on the Cross. “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the Cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit” (Catechism, no. 1366). This begins by His association of the apostles with His atonement at the Last Supper. For this reason, all Catholic accounts of the Passion begin not with the agony, but with the Last Supper. The Supper and the Cross are intimately united. The sign and associated effects exist to plunge our own moral lives into the mystery of Christ’s perfect obedience on the Cross.

According to the Catholic faith, after the priest recites the words of institution, every facet and part of Christ is present in the Host (the victim). Not every part is present in the same way, though. Some are present as entailed in the sign, while others are present by natural accompaniment. For example, in the consecration of the Host, only the body becomes present by sacramental sign. The words which induce the change are “This is my body.” The blood is present by natural accompaniment. The property of quantity remains with Christ fully present body and blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread.

The miraculous character of this change is expressed because the priest repeats the words of Christ- He speaks in the Person of Christ, not in his own person as minister. In all the other sacraments, the priest speaks in the person of the minister. “I baptize,” “I confirm,” “I anoint.” In this sacrament alone, he speaks directly in the Person of Christ because this sacrament is not only the power of Christ, but is also Christ Himself. “This is My body; This is My blood.” For this reason, it is more than just a tasteless act for the priest to dress, act, or speak as though he were Father X speaking. He is Christ speaking and makes Christ present. This is the Real Presence with capital letters.

“This presence is called ‘real’—by which it is not intended to exclude all other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, the God- Man, is wholly and entirely present” (Mysterium Fidei).

Since the entire purpose and effect of this sacrament is our union with the whole mystery of Christ, including his Mystical Body the Church, one must be morally prepared to receive it worthily. Moral preparation is freedom from mortal sin.

Such is the great miracle of transubstantiation. Christ Himself becomes present to feed us with the moral value of His atonement and to prepare us morally and physically to live with Him in Resurrection forever. Our bodies are prepared for resurrection. “A pledge of future glory is given to us.”

Fr. Mullady writes from Holy Apostles College & Seminary, Cromwell, CT.

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The Mysteries of May

I love the month of May — and not only because it comes with nicer and more predictable weather where I live. I love it for reasons even better than that. I love it because, in a distinctive way, it traces the mysteries of our redemption. And it does this in a way that’s different from Lent or Advent or any other season.

It’s a Marian pilgrimage, of course, since Christians have for centuries marked May as Mary’s month, and midway is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. (This year that day will mark the one-year anniversary of my pilgrimage to Fatima — an event that continues to affect my family and me in powerful, spiritual ways.)

But Our Lady’s month always begins with a feast of Saint Joseph. May 1 is the great feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

We set out, then, with not just our greatest saint — or even our two greatest saints — but with our awareness that they formed a family. Mary and Joseph formed their Holy Family with Jesus, who is our Savior and theirs.

They were a sojourning family — and a witnessing family. When Jesus was just a baby, Herod’s persecution sent them into hiding. They fled to faraway Egypt, where they remained till the despot’s timely demise.

Mary and Joseph lived in a strange land — among the traditional enemies of their people — and they brought life and love with them. The Egyptians ever after could boast that they were the first to receive Jesus.

Mary and Joseph were, in a root sense, apostles. The Greek word apostolos means “one who is sent,” and they — every bit as much as Peter and Paul — were aware that they went abroad on a divine mission. They were the icon of righteousness wherever they went. And the places where they went remain as pilgrim sites today.

Tradition honors the Holy Family as “the earthly trinity” — a communion of love, with the eternal Son of God as its center. There’s a profound message in this. Salvation came to us by way of the family, because the family is the earthly image of God’s life in heaven. And that is the life Jesus saved us to share. We are not merely saved from our sins; we’re saved for sonship. We’re saved so that we can share the divine nature through our life in Jesus Christ. We’re saved in order to become fully alive in the Divine Family, the Heavenly Trinity.

And that’s where the month of May leads us. This year it ends with two major feasts of the Church, on two consecutive Sundays: Pentecost Sunday and Trinity Sunday. So we celebrate the deepest mysteries of all: the giving of the Spirit, the birth of the Church, and the inner and eternal life of the Godhead.

The family of Mary, the family of Joseph, the family of Jesus points us to the Family of God. With them this month, we sojourn not to Egypt and back, but to heaven — to stay.

May is also a month of intense preparation for our Applied Biblical Studies Conference, July 22-24 at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I hope I’ll see you there. In the meantime, please pray for the success of the conference.

I thank you in advance for that. And I thank you for all you do for the Saint Paul Center.

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The Spread of the Kingdom in Acts

An excerpt of our FREE online Bible Study

Course Description
The drama in the Gospels turns on a single question: Is Jesus the long awaited Messiah, the son of David come to restore the everlasting monarchy promised to David? Underlying this drama are centuries of rival interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures and competing expectations of who the Messiah was to be, the signs that would accompany his coming, and the shape of the kingdom he would establish.

We explore all these issues in this thematic survey course, which goes to the heart of what the New Testament has to say about the identity of Christ and the Church.

D. The Prime Minister

The Twelve thus took their positions as the King’s ministers. Just as David and his successors had had ministers to sit on thrones and judge the people (see, for example, 1 Kings 4:1-19, and compare Psalm 122:4-5), so Jesus, the ideal Davidic King, would have His ministers.

And just as in the original Davidic kingdom, one of those ministers would be the leader of the rest.

David had Joab (see 1 Chronicles 11:6), and every one of his successors had what we today would call a prime minister.

Following that pattern, we see that Jesus, too, had a prime minister.

As soon as He told His disciples that they would sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:28-30), Jesus turned to Simon Peter and told him that he must strengthen the others (see Luke 22:31-32).

Peter was the “Rock” (which is what the name Peter means) on which Jesus had promised to build His Church (see Matthew 16:18).

All the Apostles were Jesus’ ministers, but Simon Peter was the prime minister.

Now we see Peter exercising that authority. It is Peter who announces to the Twelve and the rest of the church in Jerusalem that Judas must be replaced (see Acts 1:15-22), and his decision is accepted without debate (see Acts 1:23-28).

We see him acting as the unquestioned leader at Pentecost, too, when he speaks for all the Apostles in front of the astonished crowds (see Acts 2:14).

Peter speaks for them again before the leaders of the people and the priests (see Acts 4:8). He exercises a healing power like Christ’s (see Acts 3:1-12), pronounces God’s judgment on Anananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5:1-11), and gains such a reputation that people line up just to be touched by his shadow (see Acts 5:15).

Finally, it is Peter whose word determines the whole future course of the Kingdom on earth. When some converted Pharisees have argued that Christians are bound by the whole law (see Acts 15:5), Peter is the one who interprets the will of God for the rest of the Apostles (see Acts 15:7-11).

James, summarizing the decision of the Apostles, refers to Amos’s prophecy about the fallen hut, in which the restoration of the Davidic kingdom comes about so that the rest of the world may also come to God (see Acts 15:14-18).

A kingdom that includes “the rest of humanity” is what God had promised through the Prophets, and the mission of the Church is to be the fulfillment of that promise.

Luke leaves us in no doubt whatsoever: Peter has taken over as leader of the Twelve, just as Jesus had ordained. He interprets the will of God, and he decides the course of the whole Church.

But Peter is only the first among the ministers of the Kingdom. Jesus, as Peter himself will tell us, is still the King.

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The Love that Covers a Multitude of Sins: A Reflection on Divine Mercy

By +Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.

Pope John Paul the Great gave us Divine Mercy Sunday.

Over a period of thirty-five years, from the time when he was archbishop of Krakow, John Paul actively forwarded the process of canonizing Sister Faustina.

On April 30, 2000, the first Sunday after Easter, John Paul canonized Sister Faustina—now SaintFaustina. In his homily of canonization, John Paul joyfully announced that the first Sunday after Easter “from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’”

Throughout Scripture and our liturgy we hear about divine mercy; so often, in fact, that we may be tempted to take it for granted. That would be a grievous error. Think with me for a few moments about divine mercy.

Hundreds of times and in many ways throughout Sacred Scripture, the text exults in the mercy of God. We read, for example, that the mercy of God is “great” (1 Kings 3:6); “plenteous” (Ps 86:5); “tender” (Lk 1:78) “abundant” (1 Pet 1:3); it is “from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him” (Ps 103:17).

In the legal form, mercy is the opposite of justice. Justice is what a person deserves. Mercy is what a guilty person needs.

In His mercy, God reveals that love always trumps justice. Indeed, in his encyclical Rich in Mercy, Pope John Paul II declared that mercy is “love’s second name.”

So far as our individual relationships with God are concerned, mercy is God’s greatest attribute and perfection. Because human history is a history of sin and death, God’s love has to be revealed and made real in human lives primarily as mercy.

Rich in Mercy

In his book The Devil’s Dictionary, a humorist of last century defined mercy as “an attribute beloved of detected offenders.” Though the man was speaking cynically, he was also speaking the truth. All of us are offenders against God, and all of us have been detected.

So the “true and proper meaning of mercy,” Pope John Paul told us, is God’s love drawing “good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man.”  We have to say, therefore, that mercy is (in John Paul’s words), “the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ. . . .” It is, in fact, the basic power of His mission on earth (Rich in Mercy, no. 6).

To bring the meaning of mercy into ultimate focus, we must say that Jesus Christ incarnates mercy; indeed, Jesus Christ is mercy (Rich in Mercy, no. 2).

Our salvation hinges on trusting in God’s mercy. But remember: Mercy means pardon forguilt. Pardon for our guilt can come, by God’s mercy, only if (a) we face and acknowledge our guilt under God, and (b) we are truly sorry for having offended God.

God will not, God cannot, fill with His mercy the life of one who is not truly penitent. Jesus made this clear with His parable of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Recall that the Pharisee congratulated God and himself on his own good character. In sharp contrast, the tax collector simply groaned, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Jesus said that only the tax collector was reconciled to God.

A Lost Sense of Sin

When we think about God’s mercy, therefore, we have to ask ourselves about our own sense of sin. And that’s our second point.

Start with the fact that our culture has lost any real sense of sin. In all of human history, there apparently has never been a society that so widely ignored—or even widely denied—the reality of sin as our culture.

We read in the Old Testament that even pagan rulers like Nebuchadnezzar or the king of Nineveh acknowledged their sins and repented of them. In every primitive society of which we have any information, one always finds a sense of sin, even though pagan beliefs about their gods may be highly superstitious.

Back in the 1940s, in a radio address to an American catechetical conference, Pope Pius XII stated that “the sin of the century is the loss of sin.” In the later 1950s, he declared that the most serious spiritual problem of Catholics is the loss of a sense of sin. Pope John Paul also strongly emphasized the same fact.

That we Catholics have largely lost a proper sense of sin is quite clear, for two reasons: Only a very small percentage of otherwise practicing Catholics regularly choose to receive the Sacrament of Penance. Furthermore, many—should I say most?—Catholics who do go to Confession seem to find it hard to be specific in their confessions.

The fact is, our consciences have become calloused. Our consciences have been calloused by the moral and doctrinal confusion created by dissenters, unfaithful Catholics who reject the Church’s authority. Our consciences are continually being calloused by the moral filth that flows from the media: from our TVs, from our movies, from the books and magazines we read, from the newspapers. In 1982 Pope John Paul warned us that “modern man is threatened by an eclipse of conscience . . . a deformation of conscience . . . a numbness or ‘deadening’ of conscience” (Reconciliation and Penance, no. 18).

Not Just for Mortal Sins

The common Catholic rationalization for not going to Confession—if people bother to rationalize—is usually, “well, I don’t have any mortal sins to confess.”

Let me remind you that the Sacrament of Penance was given by our Lord Jesus Christ not only for mortal sins, but also for venial sins. Let me remind you further of our Catechism’s listing of the very harmful effects of venial sin.

Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. (no. 1863)

How dare we take venial sins lightly?

Ponder carefully what Pope John Paul the Great taught us in apostolic exhortation entitledReconciliation and Penance.

As a rupture with God, sin is an act of disobedience by a creature who rejects, at least implicitly, the very one from whom he came and who sustains him in life. It is therefore a suicidal act” (emphasis added). And why is that? Because by refusing “to submit to God, . . . [the sinner’s] internal balance is also destroyed” and “contradictions and conflicts arise” within himself.

In the next section of the exhortation, the Holy Father becomes more specific in his teaching. “By virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others.” That is, “one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world.”

This, said the Holy Father, is the bedrock fact: “. . . there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family” (no. 16; emphasis added).

Loving Jesus

So if we want the mercy of God to flood our hearts—and who of us does not?—we have to work at deepening our sense of our own sin.

Consider the lives of the saints, who made such frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance. We regard their lives as exemplary. We wonder, what did they have to confess? Yet the fact is, they were all keenly conscious of a heavy weight of sin.

Why did the saints have such deep consciousness of sin? It was a reflection of their deep love for Jesus. The more intimately they knew and loved Him, the more painfully conscious they were of the ways in which they offended Him.

The point for us is, the deeper our love for Jesus, the more we will be aware of our sins and the greater will be our sorrow for the suffering our sins have inflicted on Jesus. And turn the proposition around. If we have slight sense of our own sinfulness, what does this tell us about the quality of our relationship with Jesus?

If we truly yearn to grow in sanctity—and that’s our whole reason for living—we need to go to Confession frequently. When we go to Confession frequently, we can make a more thorough confession, and thereby more deeply receive the mercy of God.

And I mean specific confession: none of this confession by title: “I was uncharitable” or “I was critical” or “I was unforgiving.” Be specific: call a spade a spade, or even call it a dirty old shovel. When you confess specific sins, you get them out in front of you and see them in all their ugliness: and you say to yourself, “And Jesus suffered agony for this!”

You and I need to make frequent aspirations in the course of a day. We need to call on the holy name of Jesus, or on the Blessed Trinity. We need to recall ourselves into the presence of the Blessed Trinity. We need to try consciously to carry out our responsibilities in such a way as to give honor and glory to God. We need to be nourished by regularly reading the Scriptures—especially the Gospels—and by doing spiritual reading.

Until we draw our last breath, we have to work at growing in our love for our Lord Jesus, growing in our basic desire to please Him in word and thought and deed.

When a sudden heart attack occurs, how thankful we are if someone present has been trained to practice CPR. That means someone who can keep blood carrying oxygen to the heart and brain of a person until that person’s heart begins to beat again.

Divine Mercy Sunday tells us about spiritual CPR which Our Lord entrusted to His Church. He gave to His bishops and priests the Sacrament of Penance, the authority to act in His name and forgive sins. This sacrament is spiritually life-giving.

Jesus gave us this sacrament not as a simple option, but as something He wants us to use.

When we ignore this sacrament, we ignore Jesus’ command given for our spiritual welfare. And when we ignore His command, we ignore Him.
God forbid that any of us should ever do that!

Ray Ryland was a priest of the Diocese of Steubenville and a spiritual director to many Catholic apostolates. His memoir, Drawn From Shadows into Truth, is available through Emmaus Road Publishing.


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Explore the Many Riches of the Catholic Faith

Now that we’ve made the journey from Lent to Calvary to the empty tomb, the Easter season is a time to revel in the glorious treasures of our faith, purchased for us through Christ’s sacrifice and Resurrection.

What better time than now to explore the many riches of Catholic life? 
Whether we are just beginning our spiritual journey or have been walking with the Lord for years there is so much to discover and so many ways to deepen our faith. We are all unfinished Christians in the process of continuously rediscovering the profound mystery: that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and opened the gates of heaven so that all men would have eternal life with Him. This Easter season, let this reality take root in your heart and allow it to make your Catholic faith come alive!

We’ve put together a short list of excellent books to utilize during this Resurrection season to help you uncover the riches of the faith and grow more deeply in love of Christ and His Church.

Drawing upon the teachings of seven Doctors of the Church, Ralph Martin renders an account of the spiritual path to perfection. The Fulfillment of All Desire provides encouragement and direction for the pilgrim who desires to know, love, and serve our Lord. Whether the reader is beginning their spiritual journey or has been traveling the road for many years, he will find a treasure of wisdom in The Fulfillment of All Desire.

Ralph Martin is the president of Renewal Ministries, an organization devoted to Catholic renewal and evangelization. He is a popular speaker, radio and television host, and the author of a number of books, most recently The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call and Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.

Living the Mysteries by Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina

Until we get to heaven, we’re all unfinished Christians. There are no self-made success stories in the spiritual life.

The early Church had a process in which a teacher guided seekers through stages of inquiry and purification, culminating in a final phase called “mystagogy”—“the revelation of the mysteries.” The instruction of the early Christians is what we all need, whether we are a newly baptized Christian or a lifelong Catholic.

Designed as a devotional and instructive guide for the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, Living the Mysteries is a rich spiritual resource that offers a daily reading from one of the Church’s great teachers and a plan for implementing its lessons in your daily prayer and works.

The End of the Fiery Sword by Maura McKeegan

St. Augustine wrote, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old is unveiled in the New.” Applying this truth to her storytelling for children, Maura McKeegan presents the story of salvation in The End of the Fiery Sword. Made spiritually enriching with remarkable illustrations by Theodore Schlunderfritz, children will see in The End of the Fiery Sword the story of Adam and Eve side-by-side with the Mary and Jesus to help them “Find the buried treasures that the Sacred Scriptures hold.” Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Maura McKeegan earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and spent five years teaching elementary and middle school children. While studying theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, she was especially drawn to biblical typology, which inspired The Old and the New biblical typology series for children. She resides in Steubenville, Ohio with her husband Shaun and their four children. 

Mere Catholicism by Fr. Ian Ker

Mere Catholicism explains in easily accessible, non-technical language the fundamental doctrines of Catholicism. It shows how these doctrines follow naturally from the fundamental doctrines common to orthodox Christians (“mere Christianity”). Catholicism can mystify or even repel other Christians, while its complexities can confuse Catholics themselves. Ian Ker’s stimulating book makes Catholicism come alive as the fullness of Christianity.

Fr. Ian Ker teaches theology at Oxford University and is also a parish priest. He is the leading authority on the thought and writings of John Henry Newman, on whom he has published many books, including the definitive biography (1988, republished in 2009), as well as The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961.

Louder Than Words: The Art of Living as a Catholic by Matthew Leonard

We have living examples of holy men and women who overcame the same types of temptations we face and shortcomings we all have, to become huge, blinking neon signs that pointed to Jesus. And if they can do it, so can we . . . with a little practice.

In Louder Than Words: The Art of Living as a Catholic, author, lecturer, and Catholic covert Matthew Leonard combines the stories of the saints triumphs and struggles along with his own personal anecdotes and wry humor to show us all a fresh take on the art of being truly Catholic in a contemporary world.

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The Springtime of Evangelization

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As we mark the ten year anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s death, the St. Paul Center is reflecting on the many gifts our Holy Father left to the Church. Among them, his call for a “new springtime of evangelization” resounds even more profoundly today.

The new evangelization is in full swing, and every Christian is called to partake in this mission of renewal through the spreading of the Gospel.

But what’s at the core of the new evangelization? It’s not about street corners and sandwich boards. The new evangelization, as John Paul II envisioned, requires a dynamic relationship with the living God and a willingness to share the graces that stem from this life-altering friendship.

Want to know more about Saint John Paul II’s vision for the new evangelization? Click on the play button above to listen to Scott Hahn talk all about this exciting labor of love every Catholic can undertake.

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Saint John Paul II, Pray for us!

Today the St. Paul Center honors the memory of Saint John Paul II on the ten year anniversary of his death. Difficult as it is to wrap our minds around the numerous dimensions of his tremendous legacy, arguably one of the most important is his “theology of the body.

”Many scholars have applied this teaching to marriage and human sexuality, but a true theology of the body encompasses much more. John Paul II’s lessons apply not only to marriage and sexuality, but also to our professional lives, our recreation, what we eat, and how we dress.

 If you’d like to come to a deeper understanding of Saint John Paul II’s legacy, Emily Stimpson’s These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body is an excellent starting point. In this accessible collection of essays, Stimpson unpacks the teachings of John Paul II with clarity, wisdom, and humor.                 


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The theology of the body, properly understood, allows us to ever more perfectly image the likeness of God and live exemplary lives of holiness. John Paul II proclaimed this truth not only through his teachings, but by his life. Let’s celebrate the legacy of our beloved Holy Father by allowing his profound wisdom to transform our hearts and minds.

Saint John Paul II, Pray for us!

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Historical Questions about the Resurrection of Jesus: Special Easter Post and Podcast

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St. Paul makes it clear that Resurrection is an essential aspect of Christian faith. He states,

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15:16–19).
The importance of this feast is also reiterated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrectionfills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy. It really is a “year of the Lord’s favor.” ... Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities,” just as the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments” (the Great Sacrament).St. Athanasius calls Easter “the Great Sunday” and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week “the Great Week.” The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1168-1169) 
Yet many dispute the historicity of the Resurrection. For example,

“The tiny fraction of New Testament Easter traditions that comprises our bona fide historical evidence—the core empty tomb tradition (Mark 1:1–6, 8) and the appearance list given by Paul (1 Cor 15:3–8)—is woefully inadequate to establish a proposition as bold as the resurrection hypothesis.”—Robert Cavin1

Here I want to look at some of the reasons for such skepticism.

Skepticism towards miracles

One of the most common reasons scholars often raise questions about the historical veracity of the resurrection accounts is the simple fact that they portray a miraculous event, something that is said to be too incredible to believe historical. Is this fair?

Here I am not going to launch into a detailed explanation.1 Let me just say this: while historical work necessarily demands a critical judgment, the outright a priori denial of the possibility of such occurrences represents no less of a metaphysical commitment than one which accepts them. To rule out a priori the possibility of inexplicable events can hardly represent a truly critical methodology.2

Discrepancies, history and harmonization

Here’s what everyone knows about the Gospel narratives: they all agree that on Easter Sunday morning Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. Scholars, however, note that a close reading of the evangelists’ reports reveal a number of apparent discrepancies. I’ll get to these momentarily.

Before we go any further though a few words need to be said about historiography and harmonization. “Harmonization” refers to the attempt to reconcile different aspects of the various reports, which seem divergent or contradictory. When it comes to harmonization, one has to be cautious.

On the one hand, harmonization has led to some unbelievably unlikely readings. We need to be on guard against such approaches. For example, some people, in an attempt to prove the historical truth of Scripture, have tried to find ways to harmonize all of the sayings of Jesus. The reality however is that ancient writers were not expected to always convey the exact wording of speeches.

So, for example, whether Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant” (Mark 14:24), or ““This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20), is really missing the point. They all agree that Jesus spoke words over the Eucharistic cup, that these words linked the cup to his blood and the concept of covenant. Ancient writers were expected to convey the substance of what was said, but not necessarily the ipsissima verba, the exact words.

In short, it is bad historiography to attempt to harmonize everything.

On the other hand, this does not mean that all harmonization is a bad idea. Historiography will inevitably involve some amount of harmonization. Eddy and Boyd cite the work of historians Barbara Allen and William Montell.

“In their book on methodology for conducting local historical research, Allen and Montell investigated two different accounts of the 1881 lynching of two young men–Frank and Jack McDonald (‘the McDonald boys’)–in Menominee, Michigan. One account claimed that the boys were hung from a railroad crossing, while the other claimed they were strung up on a pine tree. The accounts seemed hopelessly contradictory until Allen and Montell discovered old photographs that showed the bodies hanging at different times from both places. As macabre as it is, the McDonald boys apparently had first been hung up from a railroad crossing, then taken down, dragged to a pine tree, and hoisted up again. Sometimes reality is stranger–and more gruesome–than fiction.”3
In sum, historical work will inevitably involve the recognition that sometimes harmonization is possible. The question here then is whether or not the Gospel accounts of Easter Sunday are so hopelessly and dramatically inconsistent they must be looked at as fabricated.

Let’s turn now to some of the apparent problems.

Who came to the tomb on Easter Sunday?

First, who exactly went to the tomb? We can break down the various accounts as follows:

Matthew has two women, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” (Matt 28:1).

Mark has three women: Mary Magdalene, “Mary the mother of James,” and Salome (Mark 16:1).

Luke has Mary Magdalene, “Mary the mother of James,” no mention of Salome, but “Joanna” and “other” women (Luke 24:10).

John only mentions Mary Magdalene going to the tomb.

Yet here’s the interesting thing about John. Immediately after telling us about Mary Magdalene going to the tomb, John tells us that Mary Magdalene ran back to tell Peter and “the other disciple”, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). The use of the plural here seems to suggest an awareness that Mary Magdalene was not alone.

A lot more could be said but let’s point out that none of the Gospel accounts necessarily exclude the others. Matthew does not say that only Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were among those going to the tomb. John never says, “Salome stayed home that morning because she had some bad unleavened bread.”

Let me put it another way. I might run into a colleague on a Monday morning and tell him I was at church on Sunday and mention I spent sometime afterwards talking to a mutual friend. I might leave out other people I also talked with because he may not be that familiar with them.

But if I mentioned that I saw some of those other people to someone else later in the day, have I really “contradicted” my earlier account? Of course, not. In short, perhaps Luke’s community knew “Joanna” but not “Salome”.

What is even more surprising are the details the accounts agree upon. Most surprising is this: all the Gospels explain that the first witnesses were women. This is notable. Women were not believed to be reliable witnesses in the ancient world. Josephus, a first century Jew, writes, “From women let no evidence be accepted, because of the levity and temerity of their sex” (A.J. 4.219).

If the early Christians were to make up a story about the resurrection, it wouldn’t have looked like this!

When did the women come to the tomb?

Again, let’s look carefully at the Gospel reports:

Matthew: the women come “at dawn” (Matt 28:1)

Mark: they arrive “just after sunrise” (Mark 16:1).

Luke: they come “very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1)

John: Mary Magdalene came “while it was still dark” (John 20:1).

It should be pointed out that only John’s account seems to pose a problem. But is John’s report here really evidence that the story was made up?

First, note what all three stories have in common—frankly, quite a bit! Not only was Mary Magdalene at the tomb, it was also Sunday and it was in the morning.

Now, back to John. Certainly it is possible that the women came to the tomb very early and that it was dark when they set out but that it the sky was lighting up by the end of the episode.

We should also observe that it seems important that John uses “darkness” as a symbol throughout his narrative (John 1:5; John 1:3). Could John here be speaking symbolically: i.e., the “light” of the Risen Lord was not yet known to the disciples when they came to the tomb.

Either way, doesn’t it seem like a stretch to insist that this slight divergence is evidence the story is entirely implausible?

Other similar discrepancies could also be mentioned. For more on this, listen to the podcast.

An unbelievable story?

Some have made the case that it is unlikely Jesus would have been laid in a tomb. Scholars like Funk and Crossan insist it is more likely an executed man like Jesus would have simply been dumped in a mass grave. Such scholars insist the entire empty tomb narrative is therefore likely a Markan invention.

These claims are just specious and betray such writers’ ignorance.

Philo, a first century Jewish writer, makes it clear that such a story is not at all unbelievable:

“I have known cases when on the eve of a holiday of this kind, people who have been crucified have been taken down and their bodies delivered to their kinsfolk, because it was thought well to give them burial and allow them ordinary rites” (Flaccus 83).
Likewise, Josephus explains, “the Jews are careful about funeral rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset” (B.J. 4.377).

Why make up a resurrection?

In his book, What Really Happened, Lüdemann asserts another explanation for the resurrection story: Peter, in his guilt and in mourning conjured up an apparition of Jesus to help him in his mourning process (What Really Happened, 93–94).

But even if Peter did this, why would the Church go on to proclaim a bodily resurrection of Jesus? Some might say the resurrection story was invented to prove that indeed Jesus was the Messiah. After all, the Messiah’s resurrection was predicted in the Scriptures, right?

Well, not explicitly.

As Dale Allison observes, the resurrection was an event that was supposed to take place at the end of time (which, Christian eschatology still affirms!).

In fact, one looks in vain for a prophecy in Israel’s scriptures that suggests that the Messiah would rise by himself before that.

So if Peter did have some sort of psychological event, it still doesn’t explain why the early Christians believed the Messiah had to rise from the dead. No specific text in the Scriptures actually says, “The Messiah will rise after three days.”

So where did they get this idea? Why assert it?

Peter could have come to the belief that Jesus had been vindicated and that his spirit somehow ascended to God even while his body remained in the grave.

This would have fit perfectly well into Jewish views. Take for example Jubilees 23:31, which describes the righteous as follows:

“And their bones will rest in the earth, and their spirits will increase joy, and they will know that the LORD is an executor of judgment; but he will show mercy to hundreds and thousands, to all who love him.” 
But no, the early Christians took one further step: they asserted Jesus had been risen from the grave. Why invent such a belief—particularly one that seemed so unlikely!

To Die For

Finally, St. Paul describes a list of eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection.

he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
That Paul doesn’t mention Mary Magdalene here is really fascinating—was a woman eyewitness just not worth mentioning given the suspicion over the testimony of female witnesses?

More interesting is this: what did these people have to gain from making up such a story? Fame? Money? Power?

What many of them apparently received was death (cf. e.g., 1 Clement 5:5–7). Even if you believe their account that Jesus rose from the dead, the fact that people like St. Paul never recanted—even under such a threat—is remarkable. What gave them such courage?

All of this suggests that it is unlikely the story was simply made from whole cloth. I think just from a historian’s view then you’ve got to come to one unsettling conclusion: something happened Easter morning—and it can’t be easily explained.

Such a conclusion opens the door for something more—the supernatural gift of faith, which cannot be simply established by empirical evidence.

1 Robert Cavin, “Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence to Establish the Resurrection of Jesus?,” The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (ed. Robert M. Price and Jeffrey J. Lowder; New York: Prometheus Books, 2005), 36.

2 Along these lines I must recommend the recent discussion by Boyd and Eddy Here we agree with much of what is said by Eddy and Boyd concerning the importance of an “open-historical critical method” in their recent work The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007) [pages 39–90]. They explain that, “The claim that the natural world and its history constitute a ‘closed continuum’ of natural causes and effects is a metaphysical claim” (49). As such they go on and state why an open historical-critical approach that makes no a priori decisions about the possibility of miracles is superior to the alternative:

“In our estimation, this methodology is not less critical than the naturalistic historical-critical method; rather, it is more critical. For . . . this method requires that Western scholars be critical of their commitments to their own culturally conditioned naturalistic presuppositions. . . It requires that scholars not be uncritically committed to any metaphysical stance, but rather, in the name of critical scholarship, always bring a certain inquisitiveness to their presuppositional commitments” (53).

3. Eddy and Boyd, Jesus Legend, 424.

4. “Because of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the way to the prize for patient endurance. (6) After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the East and in the West, he won the genuine glory for his faith, (7) having taught righteousness to the whole world and having reached the farthest limits of the West. Finally, when he had given his testimony before the rulers, he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place, having become an outstanding example of patient endurance.”—Clement, Corinthians, 5:5–7.

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The New Creation: Scott Hahn Reflects on the First Sunday of Lent

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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 of 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 (seeHosea 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 (seeEzekiel 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 (seeColossians 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 (see1 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.

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Our Lenten Reading List

Every Lent, the Church calls all Catholics to grow closer to Christ through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. She also urges us to deepen our love for Christ and the Church through spiritual reading. By setting aside just a few minutes every day to sharpen our understanding and increase our knowledge of God, we flex not only our intellectual muscles, but our spiritual muscles as well. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving become easier as our love grows, and Lent becomes not an arduous journey, but rather a daily walk with the Beloved. To help you embark upon that walk this Lent, the staff of the St. Paul Center has compiled a list of some of our favorite Lenten reading, both old and new. Our prayer is that before Easter arrives, at least some of these books will be among your favorites as well.

Knowing the Love of God: Lessons from a Spiritual Master, by the Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. In this collection of retreat talks, the beloved Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., gives us a blueprint for progress in the spiritual life. He particularly focuses on:

  • The goal of life as supernatural life and love
  • The obstacles in life brought about by evil and sin
  • The Lord's redemptive work as the source of the spiritual life
  • The power of mortification and acceptance of our crosses
  • Conformity to Christ by prayer and devotion to Mary

Permeated with rich doctrine and ideal for devotional use, this book will help those known and loved by God to know and love the same God more than ever. Click Here to Read Dr. Hahn's reflection on Knowing the Love of God in "Lenten Back to Basics"

The Light is On for You: The Life-Changing Power of Confession. Cardinal Donald Wuerl examines the healing power of Confession and reviews how to get the most out of the sacrament, including how best to examine your conscience, how to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your sins to you, and why a regular prayer time is crucial.

Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession. Dr. Scott Hahn unpacks the scriptural foundation of Confession, demonstrating how contemporary practices are rooted in God’s dealings with Israel, as well as the ongoing importance of penance.

What Jesus Saw from the Cross. Father A.G. Sertillanges’ classic exposition on the Passion narratives will transport you to first-century Jerusalem, forever changing how you experience Holy Week and the Easter Triduum.

The Soul of the Apostolate. Dom John-Baptiste Chautard’s masterpiece illuminates the nature of the interior life, revealing how prayer, contemplation, and love for Christ provide the only sure foundation for the active life of spiritual and corporal charity.

This Tremendous Lover. In this modern spiritual classic, Dom Eugene Boylan shows Christians how to draw closer to Christ through spiritual devotions and how to grow in holiness in the midst of the world.

Prayer Works: Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality. New in 2014 from St. Paul Center Executive Director Matthew Leonard, Prayer Works offers readers a thorough introduction to the Catholic understanding of prayer and the spiritual life, as well as a step-by-step lesson in practicing different forms of prayer.

To Know Christ Jesus. One of the great apologist Frank Sheed’s most beloved works, This book is an intimate and detailed reflection upon the life of Jesus Christ as told in all four Gospels.

A Year with the Church Fathers. Organized into a series of daily readings by Patristics expert (and St. Paul Center Vice President) Mike Aquilina, this devotional offers you wise and practical advice for Christian living from the “greats” of the early Church, including St. Clement of Rome, St. Gregory the Great, and St. John Chrysostom.

The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time. In this book from author Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, you’ll discover how to tame your temper and demonstrate your love for God through concrete acts of patience and compassion towards others.

The Fulfillment of All Desire. In what is perhaps the best and most comprehensive introduction to the spiritual “masters,” Dr. Ralph Martin helps readers apply the wisdom of St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and more to their own life in Christ.

These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body. In her groundbreaking book, author Emily Stimpson explores what it means to see the world with Catholic eyes and live a thoroughly Catholic life in the most ordinary moments and ways.

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Fasting on Fridays and the Passion of Jesus the Bridegroom

Have you ever wondered? Why do Catholics fast on Good Friday? Moreover, why is it traditional to fast on the Fridays of Lent?

There are, of course, various historical and liturgical reasons for the custom of fasting. But there’s also a biblical foundation for fasting on Fridays that’s directly tied to the topic of my new book, Jesus the Bridegroom: the Greatest Love Story Ever Told. The connection really hit me when I went to Mass last Friday with my wife and children.

Jesus the Bridegroom and the First Friday in Lent

Sitting there on the front pew (because that’s the best seat if you have young children!), we were, like many other young families at the beginning of Lent, somewhat tired and distracted at the end of a long week. I for one was starting to get anxious about the flurry of speaking engagements and interviews that were coming up to promote the book, and also thinking hard about how to help people see why the topic was not just fascinating but spiritually relevant to their lives. And then, much to my surprise, when it came time to stand for the Friday Gospel, I heard these words:

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the Bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14-15)

As I heard these words,  a big smile spread across my face. Any worries I may have had about the importance of the topic of the new book melted away.  My twelve-year old daughter reached over and tugged my arm, smiling and pointing up to the Gospel! (She knew my book was on Jesus the Bridegroom.) At that moment, I realized for the first time: Every year, on the very first Friday of Lent, the Church proclaims Jesus’ riddle about the Bridegroom and the Wedding Guests. Why?

For one thing, it’s because this is one of Jesus’ first allusions to his coming passion and death. You can see this by realizing that Jesus’ mysterious response is really a parable, in which he makes three key comparisons.

Jesus’ Riddle about the Sons of the Bridechamber

First, Jesus implicitly identifies himself as “the bridegroom” in order to suggest that the present, while he and his disciples are together, are like an ancient Jewish wedding feast: it’s a time for celebration, not for fasting.

Second, he compares his disciples to the wedding guests—or, more literally, the “sons of the bridechamber” (Greek huioi tou nymphonos). These were basically the ancient Jewish equivalent of ‘groomsmen’, who—in ancient as well as modern times!—weren’t exactly known for fasting. Indeed, in rabbinic tradition, both the bridegroom and the sons of the bridechamber were not obligated to perform ordinary religious duties during the seven-day Jewish wedding, including fasting.

Third and finally—and most importantly for us—Jesus is also implicitly identifying the day of his passion and death as his wedding day. He does this by speaking about the coming time “when the bridegroom is taken away from them” and how they will fast on that day (cf. Mark 2:20).

The Jewish Bridechamber and Jesus’ ‘Wedding Day’

On one level this is a reference to the ancient Jewish night of consummation, when the bridegroom would leave his family and friends and enter into the “bridechamber” (Hebrew huppah) in order to be united to his bride, not to come out again until morning (see Psalm 19:4-5; Tobit 6:15-17). On a deeper level, the day that Jesus the Bridegroom is “taken away” is of course the day of his passion an death. As New Testament scholar Craig Keener puts it: “Jesus is the groom of God’s people in the coming messianic banquet… The ‘taking’ of the bridegroom, of course, is a veiled reference to the impending crucifixion.’ (Keener, Matthew, p. 300). In other words, Jesus’ ‘wedding day’ is the day of his death. (And this isn’t just a pretty metaphor. As I show in the chapter on the Crucifixion in the book, there are several striking parallels between Jesus’ crucifixion and an ancient Jewish wedding day.)

Remembering the Day our Bridegroom was “Taken Away”

What does any of this have to do with fasting on Fridays in Lent, and on Good Friday above all? From a biblical perspective: the reason we fast is because Friday is the day our Bridegroom was ‘taken away’ from us, and we don’t ever want to forget it. In fulfillment of Jesus’ words—“then they will fast”—we deny ourselves and remember the passion of the Bridegroom God of Israel, who loved us so much that he not only became man, but mounted the wood of the cross in order to save humanity from sin and be united to us in love. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:

“In [Jesus] in an unexpected way, God and man become one, become a ‘marriage’, though this marriage—as Jesus subsequently points out—passes through the Cross, through the ‘taking away’ of the bridegroom. (Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, 1, p. 252)

From this perspective, our Friday fasting and penances should not just be acts of self-denial, but sacrifices given out of love, just as the Bridegroom Messiah sacrificed himself out of love for us. We fast in memory of the one who ‘loved us and gave himself for us’ (cf.Galatians 2:20).

The Divine Love Story

Although many a man throughout history has compared his wedding day to his funeral; Jesus of Nazareth is the only man who ever compared his funeral to his wedding day. That is because he was no ordinary man; he was the Bridegroom God of Israel come in the flesh in to save his Bride. And his life and death on the Cross were nothing less than the center of the divine love story that is the real meaning of human history. Why else does the Bible begin with the wedding of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3) and end with the Wedding of Christ in the Church in the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)?!

On every Friday during Lent—especially Good Friday—may his disciples remember his words about the passion—“they will fast on that day.” In this way, we will truly prepare ourselves for the great Feast of Easter, when we will celebrate the Resurrection of the Bridegroom who gives himself to his Bride in every Eucharist as a foretaste of heaven—of the eternal “Wedding Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7).

Have a blessed Lent!

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Made Clean: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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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.

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Lenten Back to Basics

I love Lent.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I take pleasure in fasting. And I don’t enjoy “giving stuff up” any more than the next guy. In my devotional life I can be a typical spoiled American.

But Lent, for me, is always a hopeful time. It’s my annual reminder that change is possible. More than that, I’m reminded that God wants me to change and wills me to change. So he’ll give me the grace I need to put away vice and put on virtue. All the readings at Mass reinforce those lessons. God calls Israel to repent — to cease its sinning — and to grow by means of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

I usually begin the season with a silent retreat, so that I can get back to the basics of the spiritual life. I’ll usually take a book with me; and this year I know which book I want to take. It’s Knowing the Love of God: Lessons from a Spiritual Master, by the Dominican Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

This author defined “the basics of the spiritual life” for me, way back when I was a new Catholic. Father Garrigou-Lagrange was perhaps the most celebrated Catholic theologian of his lifetime (1877-1964). He taught for many years at Rome’s Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), and among his illustrious students was a young Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla. Father Wojtyla (whom we now know as Saint John Paul II) completed his doctoral dissertation under the direction of Friar Reginald.

He is best known, however, for his foundational work of spiritual theology, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, which he wrote when he was young. That title, too, bears careful reading and re-reading. I cannot name — and can’t even imagine — a book more justly influential on the practice of spiritual direction.

But this year I will read Knowing the Love of God. It is Father Garrigou-Lagrange’s most mature work. In fact, its chapters are the meditations that he preached at retreats for his fellow friars.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange anticipated what Pope Saint John XXIII called the greatest teaching of the Second Vatican Council: the universal call to holiness. Father Reginald believed that ordinary Christians, by virtue of their baptism, were called to the mystical life and empowered for it. This doesn’t mean we’ll all be visionaries or prophets; in fact, it seems that God calls very few to experience such dramatic phenomena.

But we’re all called to enjoy a life of profound, prayerful, and intimate union with God. This is the ordinary vocation of Christians.

It is my vocation and yours, and we can certainly live it better. If you can’t join me on retreat this year, please join me at least in the pages of this book, which is now once more available after many years out of print. I consider it a privilege that I was invited to write the foreword for this new edition of the English translation.

I consider it a privilege, too, to count you as a benefactor. I am deeply grateful for your prayers, your encouragement, and your contributions to the Saint Paul Center. I ask you to remember our work as you pray more fervently in the coming forty days of Lent.

Click here to order your copy today.

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Saint Agatha, Virgin, Martyr

February 5th is the memorial of St. Agatha, patroness of Sicily, the land of my grandparents, and one of the patrons of my parish.

Because of the tortures she endured in martyrdom, St. Agatha is also patroness of women who live with diseases of the breast. Fr. Paul Zalonski has a deep devotion to the third-century martyr. He sent me a prayer card with the saint’s image on front and the following novena on back. Pass it around. Think of it as a deeply traditional version of the pink ribbon.

O glorious Saint Agatha, through whose intercession in Christ I hope for the restored health of body and soul, hasten to lead me to the true Good, God alone. By your intercession, O blessed Agatha, may I ever enjoy your protection by faithfully witnessing to Christ. You invite all who come to you to enjoy the treasure of of communion with the Holy Trinity. Moreover, if it be for God’s greater glory and the good of my person, please intercede for me with the request of [mention request here].

Saint Agatha, you found favor with God by your chastity and by your courage in suffering death for the gospel. Teach me how to suffer with cheerfulness, uniting myself to Christ crucified with a simplicity and purity of heart. Amen.

Saint Agatha, eloquent confessor of Jesus Christ as Savior, pray for me.

Saint Agatha, the martyr who says to Jesus, “possess all that I am,” pray for me.

Saint Agatha, concerned with the welfare of all God’s children, pray for me.

Saint Agatha, pray for me.

(I’ve found other prayers for breast ailments, to Christ and to Our Lady, in the book Celtic Spiritual Verse: Poems of the Western Highlanders from the Gaelic.)

Agatha’s story is in Butler, of course, and critically dissected and patristically pedigreed in the old Catholic Encyclopedia. Her images abound at Artcyclopedia.

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The King’s Authority: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
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 20:8-11; 31:12-17), 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 11:12; 1 Kings 17:18).

And as God by His word “rebuked” the forces of chaos in creating the world (see Psalms 104:7; Job 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 4:39; Zechariah 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 7:14,27; Revelation 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.

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Aquinas: The Biblical Approach of the Model Catholic Theologian

Today is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas! In honor of that, I thought I’d cover some ground I’ve been over before, namely, Thomas’ role as a model of Catholic theology and his primary focus on Scripture. Perhaps most striking—at least to some—is Thomas’ insistence on the priority of the literal-historical sense of Scripture.

In short, for Thomas Theology is a Scriptural enterprise. Since he’s consistently held out as the model, Catholic theologians should be sure to, likewise, make “the study of the sacred page. . . the very soul of theology” (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 24).

St. Thomas’ Significance

Throughout the ages, Thomas’ work has consistently been held out as a model for Catholic theology by the Catholic Church. Consider some of the following quotes from various popes. I’ve added some italics.

Pope John Innocent VI, Serm. De. St. Thomas (c. 1352): “[Thomas’] teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error.”

Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris (On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy), 17, 19(1879): “Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because ‘he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to inherited the intellect of all’ [cited in Pius XI, Stud. Ducem. #5]… he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a love of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. 
. . . Moreover, the Angelic Doctor… single-handed… victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in aftertimes spring up.”

Pope Leo XIII, Depuis le jour (On the Education of Clergy), VI, 100: “The book par excellence whence students can study Scholastic Theology with much profit is the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas… It is our wish, therefore, that professors be sure to explain to all their pupils its method, as well as the principle articles relating to Catholic faith.”

Pope St. Pius X, In praecipius to the Roman Academy, I, 124: “Indeed, those principles of wisdom useful for all time, which the holy Fathers and Doctors passed on to us, have been organized by no one more aptly than by Thomas, and no one has explained them more clearly.” 
Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem, 11 (1923): “. . . Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church…”

Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (1998), 78: “It should be clear… why the magisterium has repeatedly acclaimed the merits of St. Thomas’ thought and made him the guide and model for theological studies… The magisterium’s intention has always been to show how St. Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought.”

St. Thomas as a Biblical Theologian and His View of the Literal Sense

While Thomas’ importance is seldom disputed, what is often overlooked is the fact that for Thomas, the study of Theology was to be first and foremost a biblical exercise. An excellent overview can be found in Christopher Baglow, “Rediscovering St. Thomas Aquinas as Biblical Theologian,” Letter & Spirit 1 (2005): 137-146. You can purchase the volume here(it is full of a number of other excellent articles, including one by my friend and co-blogger, Brant Pitre).

Baglow begins by pointing out that, as many scholars explain, for Thomas there is a “unity between sacred Scripture and sacred doctrine” (137). He goes on to cite Thomas Aquinas, who wrote, “Only the canonical scriptures are the standard of faith (sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei)” (141).

Baglow highlights Thomas’ treatment of Scripture in article ten of the first question of the Prima Pars of his famous Summa Theologica:

The multiplicity of these senses does not produce equivocation or any other kind of multiplicity, seeing that these senses are not multiplied because one word signifies several things, but because the things signified by the words can be themselves types of other things. Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one — the literal — from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says (Epis. 48). Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.

Expounding on this passage, Baglow writes:

“Thomas holds that only the literal sense of Scripture is available to theological argumentation. That is because he maintains that all the truths necessary for salvation—the only proper ‘content’ of doctrine and theology—are to be found in the literal sense of Scripture. It is not that he denies the possibility or utility of the spiritual senses. Rather, he insists on an essential, foundational status for the literal sense. To be legitimate, all spiritual interpretation must be based on the literal sense. This rules out any allegorizing that does not first deal with the literal meaning of the text” (142).

Suffice it to say, this is probably not what most people expect from St. Thomas. In fact, Thomas’s strong biblical emphasis is positively shocking to many Christians who have never read him. To those who think Catholicism ignores Scripture, think again: this is the man the Church holds up as the model of Catholic theology!

In particular, I’d recommend his commentaries on biblical books to those interested in Scripture study. They are an absolute gold mine.

On this, the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, why not check them out?

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St. Agnes, a lamb for Christ

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“Wednesday is the feast of St. Agnes of Rome, virgin and martyr. I have a special devotion to little Agnes. Both my mom and my eldest daughter are named for her. I visit her relics whenever I’m in Rome. ”

~ Mike Aquilina

Listen to Mike Aquilina as he talks with Bruce & Kris McGregor on Spirit Catholic Radio KVSS about one of his favorite saints.
For more, click here to read another post on St. Agnes.

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Get the Newest Letter and Spirit

Just as there is a Catholic way of praying, eating, and living in community, there is a Catholic way of understanding history. Catholics don’t look at the world and see man trapped in a fatalistic, never-ending cycle of birth and death as the ancient pagans did. Nor do we see history progressing as a triumphant march, with the future always besting the past, as most modern secularists do.

Rather, Catholics see God’s hand in all of human history—teaching us, correcting us, and calling all men to himself. We see the unity between what has past and what is to come. And we see failures as well as progress, as men grapple with God’s call and God’s law.

In the newest volume of Letter and Spirit, the St. Paul Center’s journal of biblical theology, leading Catholic scholars explore the unity of Scripture, both old and new, reflecting upon how this Catholic understanding of history deepens our understanding of God’s Word.

Letter and Spirit, Volume 9: “Christ and the Unity of Scripture”, features essays by St. Paul Center President Dr. Scott Hahn; Center Fellows Dr. Michael Barber, Dr. Brant Pitre, Dr. William Bales, Dr. Vincent DeMeo, and Dr. Leroy Huizenga; plus Duquesne University Professor, Dr. William Wright.

Topics include: Christ as the center of Salvation History, Mosaic law and Jesus’ teachings on divorce, the Book of Wisdom and the Gospel of John, the Abrahamic Covenant and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and more.

Written for priests, scholars, and seminarians, but accessible to serious, motivated lay Catholics, Letter and Spirit is available for order now. Click Here to learn more about the journal or to order your copy.

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Joy without Borders

The apologist C.S. Lewis imagined an unredeemed world as a place where it was always winter, but never Christmas.

This winter I find myself in a different place from Lewis’s imagining. It’s always Christmas, it seems — and that is as it should be.

My book about Christmas, Joy to the World, appeared shortly before Advent last year; and the reviews and press coverage were the stuff of an author’s wildest dreams. I spent much of December responding to newspaper reporters, talking to radio interviewers, and traveling to television networks. My chitchat and sound bytes were consistent with the subtitle of my book: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does).

Thus, my Advent was more focused than ever. So was my Christmas. That was a gift, and it keeps on giving — because here we are in January, and I’m still transfixed by the thought of Christ’s coming. I’m still amazed by the fact that God became man.

In the Old Testament he had made brief cameo appearances in the drama; but with the New Testament he came to stay. He made his home here, in a family like yours and mine — and, in fact, he wants to make his home precisely where you and I make ours.

We should be as astonished by the Incarnation as the shepherds were on that Bethlehem hillside. God has come to earth to share his divine life with us. How can we contain our joy?

And why should we contain it within December? The Christmas season continues for its allotted days, ending almost at mid-January, with the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. We should not let the terms of our celebration be dictated by advertisers. Our tradition sustains the joy at least a little longer.

Even so, I wonder now — and I truly hope — if I should feel this joy always. In my book I trace Christmas back to its origins, and I note that the feast has not always had the prominence we give it today. In fact, it’s possible that the earliest Church marked no particular day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Yet there’s no doubt that the first Christians knew the joy of Christmas. They knew that their salvation had come — that he came by way of the family — that he was God, and yet he was a baby — that he came to save his people from their sins.

They did not keep their joy bottled up in a day, an octave, or a season. They let it flow into the world — a world they converted to Christ in fairly short order. As they grew in their awareness of the significance of the Incarnation, so the world grew in the intensity of its celebration.

Now, even secularists find Christmas impossible to escape. It’s ubiquitous and ineradicable, enforced even by Fortune 500 marketing departments. With the incarnation came heaven’s inescapable joy.

Pray for me that I will carry that joy through a demanding January. The Saint Paul Center co-sponsors its annual West Coast Biblical Conference in San Diego, California, on January 9-10. I’ll be speaking there with my colleagues Brant Pitre of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and Michael Barber and John Kincaid of John Paul the Great University in San Diego.

As the month goes on, I begin my second semester at Mundelein Seminary, training men for the priesthood. I continue teaching at Franciscan University, of course, where we are now entering the second semester of the Saint Paul Center’s Letter and Sprit Continuing Seminar for graduate students.

It’s a challenge — a lot of travel, a lot of preparation, a lot of lecturing — and it’s winter, so there will surely be a lot of weather and no shortage of contagion wherever we go.

Even so, I know that it can always be Christmas. It can always be well with my soul. And if I keep that thought before me, my joy will be more contagious than anything else I carry.

I ask your prayers that I can be faithful to the gift I’ve been given. I pray that you will be faithful to all you’ve received this Christmas. And I thank you for all you do for the mission of the Saint Paul Center.

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Children of God: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

Today we give thanks to Mary, the Mother of God. Her response to the angel, born of a humble heart, brought us life and salvation in the Child conceived in her womb.

From before all ages, God had destined her for this decisive role in salvation history. She was to be the woman who in the fullness of time would bear God’s only Son, as Paul tells us in today’s Epistle.

In times past, God spoke to His chosen people, the Israelites, through prophets (see Hebrews 1:1-2), and imparted His blessings upon them through His priests, as we hear in today’s First Reading.

But now, He has sent His Son—to reveal His glory and His kingdom, to make His way of salvation known to all nations, as we sing in today’s Psalm. In the Infant lying in the manger, God has shone His face upon us (see John 14:8-9).

Jesus is made a child of Israel, an heir of God’s covenant with Abraham, by His circumcision in today’s Gospel (see Genesis 17:1-14). And we have been made adopted sons and daughters by Baptism, which is the circumcision of Christ, the true circumcision (see Colossians 2:11; Philippians 3:3).

As children of God, Paul says today, we are heirs of the Father’s blessings, which He promised to bestow on all peoples through the descendants of Abraham (see Genesis 12:3; 22:18; Galatians 3:14). This is the blessing which Aaron imparted to Israel, the people descended from Abraham. And this blessing comes to us through Mary and the Child.

This is the good news of great joy that the shepherds make known in Bethlehem today (see Luke 2:10).

Like the shepherds, we too should make haste today to find Jesus with Mary and Joseph, and to glorify God for His blessings. And like Mary, we should keep His word and reflect upon it, letting it dwell richly in our hearts (see Colossians 3:16).

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

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Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Psalm 128:1-5
Colossians 3:12-21
Luke 2:41-52

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 “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 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-6; 10:21).

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 21:3,7).

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New Song: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Readings for Christmas Day

Isaiah 52:7–10  
Psalms 98:1–6
Hebrews 1:1–6  
John 1:1–18

The Church’s liturgy rings in Christmas with a joyful noise. We hear today of uplifted voices, trumpets and horns, and melodies of praise. 

In the First Reading, Isaiah foretells Israel’s liberation from captivity and exile in Babylon. He envisions a triumphant homecoming to Zion marked by joyful singing.

The new song in today’s Psalm is a victory hymn to the marvelous deeds done by our God and King.

Both the prophet and psalmist sing of God’s power and salvation. God has shown the might of His holy arm, they say. This language recalls the Exodus, where the people first sang of God’s powerful arm that shattered Israel’s enemy Egypt (see Exod. 15:1, 6, 16).

The coming of the Christ child into the world fulfills all that the Exodus and the return from exile prefigured. In Jesus, all nations to the ends of the earth will see the victory of God over the forces of sin and death.

Jesus is the new King. He is the royal firstborn son and Son of God promised to David, as we hear in today’s Epistle (see Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14).  And as our Gospel reveals, He is the Word of God, the one through whom the universe was created, the one through whom the universe is sustained.

In speaking to us through His Son, God has unveiled a new age, the last days.

The new age is a new creation. In the beginning, God spoke His Word and light shone in the darkness. Now, in this new age, He sends us the true light to scatter the darkness of a world that has exiled itself from God.

He is the one Isaiah foretold – who brings good tidings of peace and salvation, who announces to the world that God has come to dwell and to reign (see Rev. 21:3–4).

So we sing a new song on Christmas. It is the song of those who have believed in the Christ child and been born again – by grace given the power to become children of God.

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The Mystery Kept Secret: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday in Advent

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2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11,16
Psalm 89:2-5,27,29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

What is announced to Mary in today’s Gospel is the revelation of all that the prophets had spoken. It is, as Paul declares in today’s Epistle, the mystery kept secret since before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-9).

Mary is the virgin prophesied to bear a son of the house of David (see Isaiah 7:13-14). And nearly every word the angel speaks to her today evokes and echoes the long history of salvation recorded in the Bible.

Mary is hailed as the daughter Jerusalem, called to rejoice that her king, the Lord God, has come into her midst as a mighty savior (see Zephaniah 3:14-17).

The One whom Mary is to bear will be Son of “the Most High” - an ancient divine title first used to describe the God of the priest-king Melchizedek, who brought out bread and wine to bless Abraham at the dawn of salvation history (see Genesis 14:18-19).

He will fulfill the covenant God makes with His chosen one, David, in today’s First Reading. As we sing in today’s Psalm, He will reign forever as highest of the kings of the earth, and He will call God, “my Father.” As Daniel saw the Most High grant everlasting dominion to the Son of Man (see Daniel 4:14; 7:14), His kingdom will have no end.

He is to rule over the house of Jacob - the title God used in making His covenant with Israel at Sinai (see Exodus 19:3), and again used in promising that all nations would worship the God of Jacob (see Isaiah 2:1-5).

Jesus has been made known, Paul says today, to bring all nations to the obedience of faith. We are called with Mary today, to marvel at all that the Lord has done throughout the ages for our salvation. And we too, must respond to this annunciation with humble obedience - that His will be done, that our lives be lived according to His word.

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There’s an App for That

Are you tired of misplacing your copy of Breaking the Bread and not being able to find Dr. Hahn’s reflections on the Sunday readings, right when you want them most? Or do you wish there were a better way to share what you’re learning about the day’s Gospel with your whole family?

Now, there is. Thanks to the St. Paul Center’s new mobile app, you’ll never need to worry about misplacing Breaking the Bread and can access the Sunday Mass reflections anytime from anywhere. The audio component of the device also allows you to listen to the reflections on your phone, so the whole family can hear what Dr. Hahn has to say about the Gospel in the car on the way to church.

As an added bonus, those who enable push notifications will receive email updates whenever Dr. Hahn speaks in their area.

This free app is currently available to both Apple and Android mobile device users. Simply click on one of the links below or go to you App Store and type in “St. Paul Center”.

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God in the Details

Joy is what we sing about at Christmas, but it’s not often what we have in our hearts. We get so distracted by work and worries that we hardly notice the season; and then, when we do notice, the logistics of the celebration can lead to more worry still.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the details of Christmas preparation. As we prepare, we need to remember that God is in the details.

I turned to the task of remembrance last year as I wrote my most recent book, Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does). I put the finishing touches on the manuscript as I was keeping the days of Advent.

Joy to the World is a book about Christmas, but it really belongs to every season — because it’s true: the incarnation has changed everything. It’s changed our world down to the smallest detail, and it should change the way we look at the details and live in our world.

In Joy to the World I examine the predictions of the prophets and the names in the genealogies. I call upon the witness of Jewish, secular, and pagan historians, as well as the early Church Fathers. I show the clear connections between the Old Testament’s foreshadowing and the New Testament’s fulfillment. Everything confirms the marvel of that particular moment in history. The testimony to the miraculous quality of Christmas is overwhelming.

Today we need the joy of Christmas. We live in a world that’s a lot like the world Jesus came to change — a world that’s losing hope, a world of cultural decline and political division, a world where the family’s breaking down. And into that darkness came a great light, brighter than the sun. Into that darkness came joy.

The good news is that it didn’t stop coming. The light shone in the darkness, which could not overcome it. The light is still coming to us, every day. This seems too good to be true, but it’s as true as truth can be, and it truly overcomes the world’s confusion, division, and rivalry.

The eternal Word “was made flesh and dwelt among us.” For every Christian that’s the turning point of history. God became incarnate in a family. God became incarnate in the kind of chubby baby flesh we grownups love to love. God became incarnate in a place you can find on a map, at a moment you can place on a timeline. Christmas is something intensely, profoundly real.

If we allow our lives to get caught up in the true drama of the season, we’ll be able to celebrate with sincerity when we get to the 25th.

I promise you my prayers in this season of grace. I ask your prayers for me and for the Saint Paul Center.

As 2014 draws to a close, I thank you for all you did for us this year. If you find it in your heart to remember us with an end-of-year, you’ll make our work of evangelization that much more effective in 2015. And we’ll be well on our way to yet another joyful Christmas!

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Watch For Him: Scott Hahn Reflects on the First Sunday of Advent

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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.

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When the End Comes: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Feast of Christ the King

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Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
Psalm 23:1-3, 5-6
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

The Church year ends this week 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 66:18; Zephaniah 3:8). The King is the divine shepherd Ezekiel foresees in Sunday’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.
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 2:20; Galatians 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 Sunday’s Psalm. And we are to follow His lead, to imitate His example (see 1 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 5:1).
He healed our sickness (see Luke 6:19), freed us from the prison of sin and death (see Romans 8:2,21), welcomed us who were once strangers to His covenant (see Ephesians 2:12,19). He clothed us in baptism (see Revelation 3:5; 2 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 the Epistle this week.
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 4:1,9-11).

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No Problem, Houston!

All I can say is, “Wow!” This past weekend in Houston, Texas, was unbelievable. Along with St Paul Center staff and Fellows, Rob Corzine, Raquel Lopez, and Ximena DeBroek, I was as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church to present Genesis to Jesus, the foundational program of our parish Bible study program Journey Through Scripture. We expected some warm weather and a little more than 100 people for the event. We were wrong…on both counts.

Surprisingly, the weather was pure Midwest - cold. Even more surprising was that by the time we started, almost 200 people had taken their places for day of study all about the story of the Bible. So many extra pairs of boots showed up, that I was actually a bit worried whether or not there would be enough food. (The local Knights of Columbus outdid themselves in preparing our meals.) Alas, no need to worry. God blesses Texas. The number of chicken and ham sandwiches seemed to multiply before our very eyes as everyone was more than well fed. (They had leftover homemade chocolate chip cookies even though I ate five myself!)

But it wasn’t just the number of people that made this event special. It was multi-lingual. More than half of the people present were receiving instruction in Spanish at the same time the rest were studying in English. It was amazing!
Here are some comments from participants:

“As a Protestant, great explanation of a Catholic perspective on reading the Scriptures”.

“The amazing pulling of salvation history, chronology of covenants, types, parallels, amazing”.

“It seems that every possible resource has been made available…unspeakable value”.

“Threading the OT/NT so skillfully, inspiring and pointing me forward in my spiritual journey. May what I learned benefit others.  Thank you so much!”

“Demonstrated Messianic prophesies in a short overview enabling further study for appreciating Old Testament as history of salvation and we are part of salvation history!!”

“Bringing together the pieces from many Bible study topics over the past 18 years!”

We’re all looking forward to returning to the great state of Texas in the future. But in the meantime, if you’re interested in hosting a Journey Through Scripture Bible study training in your diocese or parish, give us a shout at 740-264-9535. God bless you!

Matthew Leonard
Executive Director

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled in early 2015 for the release of our first video version of the Journey Through Scripture studies - The Bible and the Virgin Mary. Go to for a taste of what’s coming.

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Settling Accounts: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
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 12:3,8).

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 9:31; Proverbs 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.

He 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.

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writer. fighter. mitre - St. Leo the Great

All Christians believe the key doctrine that Jesus is all God and all man. Why? Because of the Catholic Church and men like St. Leo the Great.

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Body Building: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica

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Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9,12 

Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9

1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17 

John 2:13-22 

Why commemorate a church dedication that happened in fourth-century Rome? First, because St. John Lateran is no ordinary church—it’s the cathedral church of the Pope and still known as “the mother of all the world’s churches.”

But more than that, because God has from all time intended the church building to be a symbol of His Church and our bodies. This is what the readings for today’s feast invite us to consider. God’s prototype for the church is the Jerusalem Temple, described in this week’s First Reading and Psalm. It’s God’s “holy dwelling,” site of His presence in our midst, source of “living waters”—of all life and blessing. But God intended the Temple to give way to the Body of Christ.

That’s what our Lord’s words and actions in Sunday’s Gospel are intended to dramatize. Christ’s Body is now the dwelling of God’s “glory” among us (see John 1:14). It’s the new source of living waters (John 4:10,14; 7:37-39; 19:34), the living bread (John 6:51), the new sanctuary where people will worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:21,23). By Baptism, we are joined to His Body in the Church (see 1 Corinthians 12:13).

Sunday’s Epistle says the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us and makes us “God’s building…the temple of God” (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9). Jesus drove out the sellers of oxen, sheep and doves, signaling an end to the animal sacrifices that formed the worship of the old Temple. In the spiritual worship of the new Temple, we offer our bodies—our whole beings—as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1). Like living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5) built on the cornerstone of Christ (see Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11), together we are called to build up the new Temple of God, the Church.

As the Jerusalem Temple was, so the Church will always be under construction—until at last it is perfected in the new Jerusalem, our mother Church, come down from heaven (see Revelation 21:3,10,22; 22:1; Galatians 4:26).

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The King, the Drama, and the Joy

November is, for me, a month of great drama. It begins with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls — days when the Church celebrates God’s outpouring of holiness upon his people. The month concludes with the Solemnity of Christ the King, the conclusion of the liturgical year.

The readings at Mass are often apocalyptic. They’re revelatory. They pull back the veil between heaven and earth, so that we “see” ourselves standing among “all the angels and saints” when we go to Mass.

This is the kingdom. Christ is our king. As our year reaches its climax, we acknowledge these facts and we prepare to celebrate the advent of the king at Christmas.

I feel especially ready this year, as I’ve just received copies of my new book, Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does). It’s a book to read as one year ends and another begins. It tells the story of how one era ended and a more glorious era began.

I don’t want to be like those retailers who start hawking Christmas on the day after Halloween. But the truth is that, as Christians, we’re always celebrating Christmas. The pivot of our faith is the fact of Jesus’ coming. In the fourth century, Saint Ambrose observed that the power by which the Word took flesh is the same power by which he comes among us today in the Holy Mass. What we celebrate at Christmas, we Catholics celebrate every day.

In my book I consider Christmas as the story of a family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And I examine their interactions with other characters in the story: shepherds and angels, magi and priests, elderly devout souls and the wicked King Herod. All these forces for good and evil converged as a perfect storm in the little town of Bethlehem.

It was history’s turning point. It was the sudden intrusion of the kingdom, the critical moment long prepared by our Father God; and any king who wished to be God’s rival feared that the end was at hand. God’s reign of peace began with a tide of bloodshed. Herod’s slaughter of the innocents was his most famous massacre, but hardly his only one. He knew, and the priests in Jerusalem knew, that something momentous was at hand.

There is epic drama to the story of Christmas. The story is complex — dark, but with sudden bursts of glory. It is a story of hope — but it takes place in violent, transitional times. It demands much more attention than it gets from us.

There is indeed drama to our days, as one Church year turns over to another, as one season turns over to another, as one era turns over to another.

We can celebrate our seasons, this month and next, the end and the beginning — always with Joy. Our times may not be easy, but with Christ they can be joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Even though it’s only November, it’s not too early to raise the blessing: “Joy to the World!”

I hope you find my new book helpful for living these seasons and these times. I’m grateful for all you do for me — and for the sake of evangelization — as you support the Saint Paul Center.

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

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Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51
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 6:5; Leviticus 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 15:12-13; Hebrews 13:15).

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Dressing for the Feast: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-eighth Sunday Ordinary Time

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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).

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

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Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
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.

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Feast Forward by Scott Hahn

Pope John Paul II was arguably the most iconic priest of the last century. Millions attended his Masses — at extraordinary World Youth Day rallies, from Denver to Manila. And over the course of his twenty-seven-year pontificate, tens of thousands more attended the “private” weekday Masses in his apartment, whose little chapel was always crammed with as many people as possible.

He inspired a generation of men to answer God’s call and follow his footsteps to the altars of our Catholic churches. They sometimes call themselves the “John Paul II Generation” of priests. And now they are inspiring another generation to give themselves in service to Jesus Christ and his Church.

From his first days enrolled in the underground seminary in Nazi-occupied Poland, Karol Wojtyla gave everything and held nothing back. He showed himself willing to risk his life for the faith. Once he almost gave his life, when he was felled by an assassin’s bullet. But God restored him for two more decades of service.

In his last years he remained the iconic priest, even as he was hobbled and required assistance at the altar — even when he could no longer ascend the altar and could only offer his personal suffering from his sickbed.

For such a life he was canonized in short order, less than a decade after his death. This year — for the first time — we will celebrate his feast day as a saint. We at the Saint Paul Center will mark it in a special way, with a festive dinner, attended by two bishops, and an address by Yours Truly.

He was pope when I converted. He was pope when we founded the Center. It was in his words that we found our mission: “The most urgent task is that of the biblical and liturgical formation of the people of God, both pastors and faithful.” From the moment I read that sentence, I knew what I had to do. God confirmed the mission by placing me in the midst of so many talented people who were eager to serve the Church in the way the Church wanted to be served.

I am so looking forward to the celebration, the Gala Dinner at LeMont, a premier restaurant in Pittsburgh. But, I have to admit, I’m already celebrating the feast. Because this semester I am myself absorbed in seminary studies. I am teaching with Father Robert Barron at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago; and I continue to teach theology at Franciscan University, where many of my students are preparing for priesthood. This fall, my wife Kimberly and I also said goodbye to our son Jeremiah as he left for Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, as he began his studies to be a priest of the Diocese of Steubenville.

I said just a moment ago that the priestly life of Saint John Paul is “iconic.” That doesn’t mean we’re supposed to admire it from afar. As Catholics, we venerate icons. We contemplate their message. We imitate the lives they portray.

In life Saint John Paul called the Church to a New Evangelization, and his successors, Benedict and Francis, have renewed that call. Such a movement of the Spirit cannot proceed without the sacraments, which are the ordinary means established by Jesus for the salvation and transformation of the world. For that we need good priests, holy priests, well-formed priests.

We at the Saint Paul Center are doing what we can do to accomplish this “most urgent task” — the biblical formation of the faithful and priests of the Church. I am invested in this in a passionate and personal way.

I’m glad you are, too, and I thank you for all you’ve done to advance our cause, through your prayers, your encouraging words, and your donations.

Please join us in prayer in a special way on the first Feast of Saint John Paul.

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The Humble Path: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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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 refuse to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, the kingdom. At the preaching of John the Baptist, they repented and did what is 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’#8217;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 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.

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

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Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm145:2-3, 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 Pslam. 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.

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To Win Them Back
: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Ezekiel 33:7-9

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9

Romans 13:8-10

Matthew 18:15-20

As Ezekiel is appointed watchman over the house of Israel in today’s first Reading, so Jesus in the Gospel today establishes His disciples as guardians of the new Israel of God, the Church (see Galatians 6:16). 

He also puts in place procedures for dealing with sin and breaches of the faith, building on laws of discipline prescribed by Moses for Israel (see Leviticus 19:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:13). The heads of the new Israel, however, receive extraordinary powers - similar to those given to Peter (see Matthew 16:19). They have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins and to reconcile sinners in His name (see John 20:21-23).

But the powers He gives the apostles and their successors depends on their communion with Him. As Ezekiel is only to teach what he hears God saying, the disciples are to gather in His name and to pray and seek the will of our heavenly Father. 

But today’s readings are more than a lesson in Church order. They also suggest how we’re to deal with those who trespass against us, a theme that we’ll hear in next week’s readings as well.

Notice that both the Gospel and the First Reading presume that believers have a duty to correct sinners in our midst. Ezekiel is even told that he will be held accountable for their souls if he fails to speak out and try to correct them. 

This is the love that Paul in today’s Epistle says we owe to our neighbors. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to be vitally concerned for their salvation.

We must make every effort, as Jesus says, to win our brothers and sisters back, to turn them from the false paths. 

We should never correct out of anger, or a desire to punish. Instead our message must be that of today’s Psalm - urging sinner to hear God’s voice, not to harden their hearts, and to remember that He is the one who made us, and the rock of our salvation.

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To Stir with Love by Scott Hahn

“And they came, every one whose heart stirred him, and every one whose spirit moved him” (Exodus 35:11).

They came to Franciscan University; and like those long-ago Israelites, they found their way to the tent.

The occasion was our annual Applied Biblical Studies Conference, which is always heart-stirring. This year’s was special, though, because we were able to welcome so many people to the new home of the Saint Paul Center.

Our theme this year was “The Word of God and the Life of Prayer.” We took as our Scripture Colossians 3:16 and 4:2:“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … persevere in prayer being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” And the word dwelt richly among us, in the teaching of some amazing speakers: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Jeff Cavins, Brant Pitre, Michael Barber, John Bergsma, David Currie, my bride Kimberly, and so many others. From the Saint Paul Center were my colleagues Matt Leonard, Rob Corzine, and Mike Aquilina. A newcomer to the conference rostrum was Father Charles Samson, a priest ordained just last year, who’s now pursuing a doctorate at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

About five hundred people attended — and almost two hundred showed up for extra days of Bible-study training in our Journey Through Scripture (JTS) program. This year we gave three options: our standard introductory study, “Genesis to Jesus”; our very popular Marian study, “The Bible and the Virgin Mary”; and our beautiful new study, “The Bible and Prayer.”


I call it beautiful because it is. I love the way this track has come together, though I was nervous about it at first. When we launched the project, it was clear that this study would be different from all the others — more practical, more systematic. I worried that our loyal supporters might find it too different. But we all felt that this was where the Spirit was leading, so we went ahead.

Our confirmation came with the evaluations of those who attended. Their judgment was overwhelming:

“The best of all of the JTS studies!”

“This was a great seminar. It pulled so many concepts together – the Church, the liturgy, the goal of prayer – using both Old and New Testament sources!”

“As perfect as humanly possible!”
“Well done, good and faithful servants!”

Another JTS veteran said that “The Bible and Prayer” was “the most valuable” series of all and could hardly “to bring this back and share with others – the ripple effect – to encourage others to begin praying prayers no just saying prayers!”

Imagine the hearts that will be changed. Imagine the ripple effect — in parishes, in homes, in workplaces, and in neighborhoods.

That’s what I was imagining as I trekked from the heart of the University’s campus to the Saint Paul Center, where we had set up an enormous tent for our Open House celebration. So many came, their hearts stirred by the good Word — people from every State of the union, from Canada, from Australia — converts and reverts and cradle Catholics — and we all had good reason to celebrate there at the tent.

Saint Paul urged us to persevere in prayer and to be watchful in thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for, and I thank you for all of it. You’ve made it possible, for me and for all those who’ve been trained in the Saint Paul Center Bible studies — and all those who will be trained by the people we’ve trained!

Please continue your support, especially your prayers, but also your contributions and your notes of encouragement. It all makes a difference. It all stirs hearts.

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For Your Life: Scott Hahn Reflects on the 

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Jeremiah 20:7-9

Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9

Romans 12:1-2

Matthew 16:21-27

Today’s First Reading catches the prophet Jeremiah in a moment of weakness. His intimate lamentation contains some of the strongest language of doubt found in the Bible. Following God’s call, he feels abandoned. Preaching His Word has brought him only derision and reproach.

But God does not deceive - and Jeremiah knows this. He tests the just (see Jeremiah 20:11-12), and disciplines His children through their sufferings and trials (see Hebrews 12:5-7).

What Jeremiah learns, Jesus states explicitly in today’s Gospel. To follow Him is to take up a cross, to deny yourself - your priorities, preferences, and comforts. It is to be willing to give it all up, even life itself, for the sake of His gospel. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we have to join ourselves to the passion of Christ, to offer our bodies - our whole beings - as living sacrifices to God.

By His cross, Jesus has shown us what Israel’s sacrifices of animals were meant to teach - that we owe to God all that we have.

God’s kindness is a greater good than life itself, as we sing in today’s Psalm. The only thanks we can offer is our spiritual worship - to give our lives to the service of His will (see Hebrews 10:3-11; Psalm 50:14,23). 

Peter doesn’t yet get this in today’s Gospel. As it was for Jeremiah, the cross is a stumbling block for Peter (see 1 Corinthians 1:23). This too is our natural temptation - to refuse to believe that our sufferings play a necessary part in God’s plan. 

That’s how people think, Jesus tells us today. But we are called to the renewal of our minds - to think as God thinks, to will what He wills.

In the Mass, we once again offer ourselves as perfect and pleasing sacrifices of praise (see Hebrews 13:15). We bless Him as we live, confident that we will find our lives in losing them, that with the riches of His banquet, our souls will be satisfied.

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BookNotes - St. Monica and the Power of Persistent Prayer

Do you have loved ones who have left the faith? Looking for inspiration to pray? Check out the newest edition of BookNotes from the St. Paul Center.

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Pray Thee Well!

About three weeks ago my summer peaked. And it had nothing to do with hiking a mountain with my kids. In fact, it happened right here in lil’ old Steubenville, Ohio. It was the St. Paul Center’s annual Applied Biblical Studies Conference which we co-sponsor with Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a special conference not only because of the world-class lineup of speakers (e.g. Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre, Michael Barber, Jeff Cavins, etc…), but also because the conference actually got underway with almost two hundred people arriving a day early to go through Journey Through Scripture (JTS).

Many of you know that JTS is our dynamic parish Bible study program that’s been rocking Catholics for a couple years shy of a decade. The program is exploding as regular lay people experience the life-changing truth of the Sacred Page. But we’re just getting started. This year we added the sixth study to the series called “The Bible and Prayer,” based around my new book Prayer Works! Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality (which you can purchase through the Center’s online bookstore). It was a perfect way to get the main conference started…and I’m not the only one who thought so.

Here are some of the comments from “The Bible and Prayer” participants:

“The best of all of the JTS studies!”

“This was a great seminar. It pulled so many concepts together – the Church, the liturgy, the goal of prayer – using both Old and New Testament sources!”

“As perfect as humanly possible!”

Another Journey Through Scripture veteran said he could hardly wait “to bring this back and share with others.” That’s probably my favorite comment because that’s what it’s all about. We want the good news of the gospel message to spread far and wide - even to “the ends of the earth!”

If you are interested in learning how to bring Journey Through Scripture to your diocese, parish, or group, just call the St. Paul Center at 740-264-9535. God bless!

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A Foreigner’s Faith: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Matthew 15:21-28

Most of us are the foreigners, the non-Israelites, about whom today’s First Reading prophesies. 

Coming to worship the God of Israel, we stand in the line of faith epitomized by the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel. Calling to Jesus as Lord and Son of David, this foreigner shows her great faith in God’s covenant with Israel.

Jesus tests her faith three times. He refuses to answer her cry. Then, He tells her His mission is only to Israelites. Finally, he uses “dog,” an epithet used to disparage non-Israelites (see Matthew 7:6). Yet she persists, believing that He alone offers salvation.

In this family drama, we see fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy and the promise we sing of in today’s Psalm. In Jesus, God makes known among all the nations His way and His salvation (see John 14:6). 

At the start of salvation history, God called Abraham (see Genesis 12:2). He chose his offspring, Israel, from all the nations on the face of the earth, to build His covenant kingdom (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Isaiah 41:8).

In God’s plan, Abraham was to be the father of many nations (see Romans 4:16-17). Israel was to be the firstborn of a worldwide family of God, made up of all who believe what the Canaanite professes - that Jesus is Lord (see Exodus 4:22-23; Romans 5:13-24).

Jesus came first to restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:6; 13:46). But His ultimate mission was the reconciliation of the world, as Paul declares in today’s Epistle.

In the Mass we join all peoples in doing Him homage. As Isaiah foretold, we come to His holy mountain, the heavenly Jerusalem, to offer sacrifice at His altar (see Hebrews 12:22-24,28). With the Canaanite, we take our place at the Master’s table, to be fed as His children.

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Introducing our Latest Scripture Study! “The Bible and Prayer”

It’s no exaggeration to say that prayer and its relationship to the Bible are among the most important topics we can examine. That’s because we come to know God through the Bible, and commune with him through prayer. They’re meant to go together.

The Bible and Prayer part of our Journey Through Scripture program explores the human quest for God, unveiling the true nature of prayer: what it is, how it works, and the bountiful blessings available to those who walk the path of intimacy with God. It looks at the prayer lives of the towering figures of salvation history in both the Old and New Testaments showing the different forms our communication with God can take. Decidedly practical, “The Bible and Prayer” also examines the ins and outs of the three types or modes of prayer every Catholic is called to engage in: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Lectio Divina, Liturgy of the Hours, and many essential characteristics of prayer are also covered. The study culminates in a study of the prayer life of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of how to commune with our Father.

This summer at the Applied Biblical Studies conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville we debuted our newest Journey Through Scripture study “The Bible and Prayer”. Here are some of the judgements from the evaluations of those who attended.

“This was a great seminar. It pulled so many concepts together – the Church, the liturgy, the goal of prayer – using both Old and New Testament sources!”

“As perfect as humanly possible!”
“Well done, good and faithful servants!”

Another JTS veteran said that “The Bible and Prayer” was “the most valuable” series of all and could hardly wait “to bring this back and share with others – the ripple effect – to encourage others to begin praying prayers no just saying prayers!”

Imagine the hearts that will be changed. Imagine the ripple effect — in parishes, in homes, in workplaces, and in neighborhoods when you present this study.

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Sinking Fear: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 

Psalm 85:9-14 

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

How do we find God in the storms and struggles of our lives, in the trials we encounter in trying to do His will?

God commands Elijah in today’s First Reading to stand on the mountain and await His passing by. And in the Gospel, Jesus makes the disciples set out across the waters to meet Him.

In each case, the Lord makes himself present amid frightening tumult - heavy winds and high waves, fire and earthquakes. 

Elijah hides his face. Perhaps he remembers Moses, who met God on the same mountain, also amid fire, thunder, and smoke (see Deuteronomy 4:10-15; Exodus 19:17-19). God told Moses no one could see His face and live, and He sheltered Moses in the hollow of a rock, as He shelters Elijah in a cave (see Exodus 33:18-23).

The disciples, likewise, are too terrified to look on the face of God. Today’s Gospel is a revelation of Jesus’ divine identity. Only God treads across the crest of the sea (see Job 9:8) and rules the raging waters (see Psalm 89:9-10). And the words of assurance that Jesus speaks - “It is I” - are those God used to identify himself to Moses (see Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 43:10).

Even Peter is too overcome by fear to imitate his Lord. His fears, Jesus tells him, are a sign of his lack of faith. And so it often is with us. Our fears make us doubt, make it hard to see His glory dwelling in our midst.

Yet, we should know, as we sing in today’s Psalm, that His salvation is near to those who hope in Him. By faith we should know, as Paul asserts in today’s Epistle, that we are heirs to the promises made to His children, Israel. 

We must trust that He whispers to us in the trials of our lives - that He who has called us to walk along the way of His steps, will save us whenever we begin to sink.

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Angels and Saints

As Catholics, we believe we are never alone; as we go about the business of our lives, we are covered in prayer by the angels and the saints. They are our constant companions in our journey to God. We also know that if we want to complete that journey, it’s not enough to just travel with the angels and saints; we must become like them. We must become saints. That’s the end to which God calls every man, woman, and child.

Yet, while we know that’s what God desires, actually attaining that end can seem, at times, impossible. How can we become anything like the great heroes of salvation history? How can we even come close to the holiness of her most beloved saints: Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, or Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

In his newest book, Angels and Saints, St. Paul Center President Dr. Scott Hahn answers those questions and more. In a series of engaging reflections and stories about the nature of angels and the lives of notable saints, Dr. Hahn demonstrates just how much we already have in common with our older brothers and sisters in the Faith, and how, with their help, we can follow more closely in their footsteps.

Here’s what others are saying about Angels and Saints.

“Dr. Hahn has a spiritual gift that lets us experience angels and saints in a way that they no longer appear to be far beyond us. His book is a passport into the spiritual realm of these special friends of God.”

—His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

“As an author, Scott Hahn is the master of two very different skills: expert scholarship and an easy, engaging style. This book is the proof. These pages are a wonderful explanation of what Catholics believe about angels and saints, and why—made even more absorbing by Hahn’s vivid portraits of individual women and men whom the Church now calls saints.”

—Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia

“…Dr. Scott Hahn has created not only a brilliant introduction but a masterful treatise on how the Church understands the angels and the saints as our friends and as God-given routes of access to life in Christ.”

—Very Reverend Robert Barron, Rector, Mundelein Seminary, and Founder, Word on Fire Catholic Ministries

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Food in Due Season: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Isaiah 55:1-3
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18
Romans 8:35,37-39
Matthew 14:13-21

In Jesus and the Church, Isaiah’s promises in today’s First Reading are fulfilled. All who are thirsty come to the living waters of baptism (see John 4:14). The hungry delight in rich fare - given bread to eat and wine to drink at the Eucharistic table.

This is the point, too, of today’s Gospel. The story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 brims with allusions to the Old Testament. Jesus is portrayed as a David-like shepherd who leads His flock to lie down on green grass as He spreads the table of the Messiah’s banquet before them (see Psalm 23).

Jesus is shown as a new Moses, who likewise feeds vast crowds in a deserted place. Finally, Jesus is shown doing what the prophet Elisha did - satisfying the hunger of the crowd with a few loaves and having some left over (see 2 Kings 4:42-44).

Matthew also wants us to see the feeding of the 5,000 as a sign of the Eucharist. Notice that Jesus performs the same actions in the same sequence as at the Last Supper - He takes bread, says a blessing, breaks it, and gives it (see Matthew 26:26).

Jesus instructed His apostles to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of Him. And the ministry of the Twelve is subtly stressed in today’s account. Before He performs the miracle, Jesus instructs the Twelve to give the crowd “some food yourselves.” Indeed, the apostles themselves distribute the bread blessed by Jesus (see Matthew 15:36).

And the leftovers are enough to fill precisely 12 baskets - corresponding to each of the apostles, the pillars of the Church (see Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14).

In the Church, as we sing in today’s Psalm, God gives us food in due season, opens His hands and satisfies the desires of every living thing. Now, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

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“Come, Receive Grain and Eat”

The Feeding of the Five Thousand, the Eucharist, and the Hope of Israel
(18th Sunday in Ordinary Time)


This Sunday the readings highlight the way the Kingdom of God is present sacramentally. Specifically, hopes for the restoration of Israel are linked to a miracle of Jesus, the feeding of the five thousand, which is clearly understood eucharistically

I’ll be speaking on this topic this weekend at the Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas. Hope to see some of you there!


Thus says the LORD: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.

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The Seventh Summer by Scott Hahn

In the Bible the seventh instance of anything is significant. Seven is the number signifying God’s covenant, and so it suggests a certain completion and perfection.

As we approached our seventh annual Letter and Spirit Summer Institute, it would have been natural to wonder whether our Institute has now become an institution.

Every year we approach it with high expectations, based on past successes, and yet every year it exceeds our expectations. This year, I thought, I could no longer be surprised by the special joy of this weeklong seminar for scholars.

But I was! Because, once again, the camaraderie, the discussions, and the spiritual striving rose to new heights.

The Letter and Spirit Summer Institute is an intensive weeklong seminar for doctoral candidates and future university and seminary faculty members — young scholars who intend to spend their lives in higher education: forming tomorrow’s Catholic leaders, training future clergy and teachers. If we want a better world tomorrow, this is where we need to begin, influencing those who will be influential. This, I believe, is an important, but hidden dimension of the New Evangelization.

Participants represent a wide variety of disciplines. This year we were pleased to host a large number of biblical scholars — almost half of the twenty who enrolled. They converged from all points of the compass and from many prestigious institutions: the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Saint

Andrew’s in Scotland, Yale University, Notre Dame University, Catholic University of America, Marquette University, Ave Maria University, the University of Dallas, and the University of Dayton. More universities were represented than ever before.

Daily we spent six hours in the classroom — and additional time in open discussion. We prayed together at intervals throughout the day, under the direction of the Conventual Friars of the Renewal, Father Benedict Groeschel’s order. The Friars have been with us from the beginning, and they add a dimension of spiritual retreat to the academic experience.

This year we tackled what scholars agree is one of the hardest passages in the Bible: Romans 9-11. These chapters are more densely packed with Old Testament quotations and allusions than any other in all of St. Paul’s writings, so we really ranged all over the Bible and all of salvation history.  (I am currently at work on a commentary on Romans for the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series, so it is very much on my mind).

The study and learning that we do in this intense week is important. But even more important for the future of the Church is the fellowship, the friendships, and the future partnerships that are formed. Attendees live together, sharing every meal. They pray together. They spend their free time together in truly dynamic interaction.

Our goal is to help build a movement of faithful Catholic scholars who read and teach the Bible from the heart of the Church — with academic rigor and apostolic zeal.

Once again, the experience exceeded my dreams, as well as the expectations of the participants. They thanked us for “the faithful ecclesial atmosphere,” the opportunity for networking and friendship, and “the huge support and encouragement.”

They thanked us, but I must thank you, because you helped to make the experience possible. I am deeply grateful for your prayers and contributions. I promise you my prayers and hard work in return.

I wonder if next year the Institute can surprise me.

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Treasures of the Kingdom: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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1 Kings 3:5,7-12  
Psalm 119:57,72,76-77,127-130
Romans 8:28-30  
Matthew 13:44-52

What is your new life in Christ worth to you?

Do you love His words more than gold and silver, as we sing in today’s Psalm? Would you, like the characters in the Gospel today, sell all that you have in order to possess the kingdom He promises to us? If God were to grant any wish, would you follow Solomon’s example in today’s First Reading—asking not for a long life or riches, but for wisdom to know God’s ways and to desire His will?

The background for today’s Gospel, as it has been for the past several weeks, is the rejection of Jesus’ preaching by Israel. The kingdom of heaven has come into their midst, yet many cannot see that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises, a gift of divine compassion given that they—and we, too—might live.

We too must ever discover the kingdom anew, to find it as a treasure - a pearl of great price. By comparison with the kingdom, we must count all else as rubbish (see Philippians 3:8). And we must be willing to give up all that we have—all our priorities and plans—in order to gain it.

Jesus’ Gospel discloses what Paul, in today’s Epistle, calls the purpose of God’s plan (see Ephesians 1:4). That purpose is that Jesus be the firstborn of many brothers.

His words give understanding to the simple, the childlike. As Solomon does today, we must humble ourselves before God, giving ourselves to His service. Let our prayer be for an understanding heart, one that desires only to do His will.

We are called to love God, to delight in His law, and to forsake every false way. And we are to conform ourselves daily ever more closely to the image of His Son.

If we do this, we can approach His altar as a pleasing sacrifice, confident that all things work for the good—that we whom He has justified, will also one day be glorified.

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Of Wheat and Weeds: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Wisdom 12:13,16-19  
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

Romans 8:26-27  
Matthew 13:24-43

God is always teaching His people, we hear in today’s First Reading.

And what does He want us to know? That He has care for all of us, that though He is a God of justice, even those who defy and disbelieve Him may hope for His mercy if they turn to Him in repentance.

This divine teaching continues in the three parables that Jesus tells in the Gospel today. Each describes the emergence of the kingdom of God from the seeds sown by His works and preaching. The kingdom’s growth is hidden - like the working of yeast in bread; it’s improbable, unexpected—as in the way the tall mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds.

Again this week’s readings sound a note of questioning: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does He permit some to reject the Word of His kingdom?

Because, as we sing in today’s Psalm, God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness. He is just, Jesus assures us - evildoers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace at the end of the age. But by His patience, God is teaching us—that above all He desires repentance, and the gathering of all nations to worship Him and to glorify His name.

Even though we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit will intercede for us, Paul promises in today’s Epistle. But first we must turn and call upon Him, we must commit ourselves to letting the good seed of His Word bear fruit in our lives.

So we should not be deceived or lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin.

For now, He makes His sun rise on the good and the bad (see Matthew 5:45). But the harvest draws near. Let’s work that we might be numbered among the righteous children—who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

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The Word’s Return: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Isaiah 55:10-11  
Psalm 65:10-14

Romans 8:18-23  
Matthew 13:1-23

Today’s readings, like last week’s, ask us to meditate on Israel’s response to God’s Word—and our own. Why do some hear the word of the kingdom, yet fail to accept it as a call to conversion and faith in Jesus? That question underlies today’s Gospel, especially.

Again we see, as we did last week, that the kingdom’s mysteries are unfolded to those who open their hearts, making of them a rich soil in the which the Word can grow and bear fruit.

As we sing in today’s Psalm, in Jesus, God’s Word has visited our land, to water the stony earth of our hearts with the living waters of the Spirit (see John 7:38; Revelation 22:1).

The firstfruit of the Word is the Spirit of love and adoption poured into our hearts in baptism, making us children of God, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle (see Romans 5:5; 8:15-16). In this, we are made a “new creation” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), the firstfruits of a new heaven and a new earth (see 2 Peter 3:13).

Since the first humans rejected God’s Word, creation has been enslaved to futility (see Genesis 3:17-19; 5:29). But God’s Word does not go forth only to return to Him void, as we hear in today’s First Reading.

His Word awaits our response. We must show ourselves to be children of that Word. We must allow that Word to accomplish God’s will in our lives. As Jesus warns today, we must take care lest the devil steal it away or lest it be choked by worldly concerns.

In the Eucharist, the Word gives himself to us as bread to eat. He does so that we might be made fertile, yielding fruits of holiness.

And we await the crowning of the year, the great harvest of the Lord’s Day (see Mark 4:29; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 1:10)—when His Word will have achieved the end for which it was sent.

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The Bible and the Fathers

It was the Bible that made me read the Fathers.
When I was studying for the Presbyterian ministry, I wanted to understand the world where Jesus lived and where the apostles preached. I wanted to defend the New Testament canon against its latest round of challenges, for example — against those who would place the newfound “Gnostic Gospels” on the same footing as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
My research into that world was my introduction to the Christians who lived in that world: the Fathers of the Church. I first turned to the writings of the men who appeared most often in the Bible commentaries I read, the men who knew the apostles — the so-called Apostolic Fathers. Clement of Rome knew Peter and Paul. Polycarp knew John. Ignatius lived in Antioch, the city where the disciples were first called Christians, and where the Church received the testimony of several of the apostles. Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius knew the apostles, and they quoted the New Testament books, and they rejected the works of heretics. They were eminently useful to me.
So I eagerly turned to the writers who were the spiritual heirs to these men — the authors of the next generation: Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Melito. And again I found Christians who witnessed to the Bible, preached the Bible, interpreted the Bible. Indeed, they talked about little more than the Bible.
Yet I began to notice that they read the Bible differently from the way I did as an evangelical Protestant. They read the Old Testament in light of the New, the New in light of the Old, and always with the liturgy in mind. They saw the sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, as the ordinary yet mysterious way that Christians entered the drama of the Bible. In the liturgy, they not only heard the story, they lived it. They received salvation in the way Jesus had provided for them, when he commanded his Apostles to “Do this in memory of me” and “Baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The Fathers spoke constantly about the Scriptures. They had none of the study aids we have today in libraries, software, and seminaries. Nor could most of them have owned complete editions of the Bible. To have all the books of the Bible copied out would have been terrifically expensive, and would have required months of labor by a skilled scribe.
The Fathers possessed none of the advantages I possessed. Yet they knew the Bible as well as any professor or pastor I had ever met, and they exceeded everyone in their insights. From them — especially the earliest Fathers — I learned a covenant theology that was biblical and Catholic.
Having studied these early Christian texts, I never understood how some of my friends could place the Scriptures in opposition to the Fathers, as if the Fathers were actually opposed to anything in the Bible, as if we should have to choose one or another.
The Fathers preached biblical religion and they lived it, and they led me to find it in its fullness, in the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not the only… who’s followed the Fathers down that road to glory. I’ve encountered countless cradle Catholics who have “rediscovered their roots,” and I’ve been accompanied by countless converts as well.
It was the Fathers who received the Scriptures on our behalf — on behalf of the Church. It was the Fathers who faithfully preserved the Scriptures — copying them out by hand over and over again, since there were no printing presses or electronic media. It was the Fathers who put their lives at risk by using their homes as a refuge for the Scriptures, when to do so was a capital offense.
In the coming months, we at the St. Paul Center will have many opportunities to celebrate these works of the Fathers. The last weekend in October, I’ll be speaking with my colleague Mike Aquilina (author of The Fathers of the Church) at a conference on “The Fathers and the Bible” at St. Lambert Parish in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. And the upcoming issue of our journal, Letter and Spirit, will examine the same theme of the Bible and the Fathers, with contributions by many renowned scholars.
You make this work possible — and so much more. You ensure that the “Faith of Our Fathers” is “living still,” in spite of all the obstacles our culture places in the way. I know these times are challenging for you, as they are for everyone (especially nonprofits!), so I am even more grateful for the support you give us: your prayers, your encouragement, your contributions.
If I don’t see you in Skokie this month, I’ll meet you — and the Fathers of the Church — in the pages of Letter and Spirit.

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A Yoke for the Childlike: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Zechariah 9:9-10 
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14

Romans 8:9, 11-13  
Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus is portrayed in today’s Gospel as a new and greater Moses.

Moses, the meekest man on earth (see Numbers 12:3), was God’s friend (see Exodus 34:12,17). Only he knew God “face to face” (see Deuteronomy 34:10). And Moses gave Israel the yoke of the Law, through which God first revealed himself and how we are to live (see Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5).

Jesus too is meek and humble. But He is more than God’s friend. He is the Son who alone knows the Father. He is more also than a law-giver, presenting himself today as the yoke of a new Law, and as the revealed Wisdom of God.

As Wisdom, Jesus was present before creation as the firstborn of God, the Father and Lord of heaven and earth (see Proverbs 8:22; Wisdom 9:9). And He gives knowledge of the holy things of the kingdom of God (see Wisdom 10:10).

In the gracious will of the Father, Jesus reveals these things only to the “childlike”—those who humble themselves before Him as little children (see Sirach 2:17). These alone can recognize and receive Jesus as the just savior and meek king promised to daughter Zion, Israel, in today’s First Reading.

We too are called to childlike faith in the Father’s goodness, as sons and daughters of the new kingdom, the Church.

We are to live by the Spirit we received in baptism (see Galatians 5:16), putting to death our old ways of thinking and acting, as Paul exhorts in today’s Epistle. Our “yoke” is to be His new law of love (see John 13:34), by which we enter into the “rest” of His kingdom.

As we sing in today’s Psalm, we joyously await the day when we will praise His name forever in the kingdom that lasts for all ages. This is the sabbath rest promised by Jesus—first anticipated by Moses (see Exodus 20:8-11), but which still awaits the people of God (see Hebrews 4:9).

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Blessed Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, the Apostle of India.

Most people know him from the single episode in the upper room after Our Lord’s resurrection (John 20) when he at first refused to believe without seeing.  And if you refer to “Doubting Thomas” everyone will know whom you mean.  But when you take a look at his whole life and his martyr’s death, it would be more accurate if we called him “Trusting Thomas.”  Sent out with all of the Apostles to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, Thomas evangelized in Syria and Persia before making his way down the ancient trade route to India, where he was eventually martyred.

Thomas is a saint for our times.  As Pope Benedict XVI put it, his case “is important to us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any insecurity; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with doubt, get to know Thomas.  The easiest way I can think of is with Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey’s great little book The Doubter’s Novena: Nine Steps to Trust with the Apostle Thomas.

The church that St. Thomas planted in India survives to this day.  When the missionaries followed in the wake of explorers from Europe 1500 years later, they found Christians already there.  They also preached to many who were the descendants of those Thomas Christians and led them back to the faith of their fathers.  But work remains to be done there as everywhere.  Earlier this week, I received the following note at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology from a friend of in Tamil Nadu at the southern tip of India.  We are sending them materials and prayers;  Please join us.

I am an Indian and live in the city where St. Thomas the Apostle was
martyerd and I also come from the community who were recoverted to
Christianity by St. Francis Xavier. But the worst part of it is that the
community which as sheparded by St, Francis Xavier are moving away from
Catholisim and to the Protestantism. Even my own brother in law (his father
was the founder of Mary’s Prayer Group in UAE !!) and his family has moved
from Catholicisim !!!! Even I could not do much. The reason, the lack of
scripture knowledge amongst Catholics. I know my limitation hence I
heartily appreciate this initiative of yours.

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Word of the ‘Living Father’: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

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Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16
Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
John 6:51-58

The Eucharist is given to us as a challenge and a promise. That’s how Jesus presents it in today’s Gospel.

He doesn’t make it easy for those who hear Him. They are repulsed and offended at His words. Even when they begin to quarrel, He insists on describing the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood in starkly literal terms.

Four times in today’s reading, Jesus uses a Greek word - trogein - that refers to a crude kind of eating, almost a gnawing or chewing (see John 6:54,56,57,58).

He is testing their faith in His Word, as today’s First Reading describes God testing Israel in the desert.

The heavenly manna was not given to satisfy the Israelites’ hunger, as Moses explains. It was given to show them that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

In today’s Psalm, too, we see a connection between God’s Word and the bread of life. We sing of God filling us with “finest wheat” and proclaiming his Word to the world.

In Jesus, “the living Father” has given us His Word come down from heaven, made flesh for the life of the world.

Yet as the Israelites grumbled in the desert, many in today’s Gospel cannot accept that Word. Even many of Jesus’ own followers abandon Him after this discourse (see John 6:66). But His words are Spirit and life, the words of eternal life (see John 6:63,67).

In the Eucharist we are made one flesh with Christ. We have His life in us and have our life because of Him. This is what Paul means in today’s Epistle when He calls the Eucharist a “participation” in Christ’s body and blood. We become in this sacrament partakers of the divine nature (see 1 Peter 2:4).

This is the mystery of the faith that Jesus asks us believe. And He gives us His promise: that sharing in His flesh and blood that was raised from the dead, we too will be raised up on the last day.

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How God Loves: Scott Hahn Reflects on The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

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Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9
Daniel 3:52-56
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
John 3:16-18

We often begin Mass with the prayer from today’s Epistle: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” We praise the God who has revealed himself as a Trinity, a communion of persons.

Communion with the Trinity is the goal of our worship - and the purpose of the salvation history that begins in the Bible and continues in the Eucharist and sacraments of the Church.

We see the beginnings of God’s self-revelation in today’s First Reading, as He passes before Moses and cries out His holy name.

Israel had sinned in worshipping the golden calf (see Exodus 32). But God does not condemn them to perish. Instead He proclaims His mercy and faithfulness to His covenant.

God loved Israel as His firstborn son among the nations (see Exodus 4:22). Through Israel - heirs of His covenant with Abraham - God planned to reveal himself as the Father of all nations (see Genesis 22:18).

The memory of God’s covenant testing of Abraham - and Abraham’s faithful obedience - lies behind today’s Gospel.

In commanding Abraham to offer his only beloved son (see Genesis 22:2,12,16), God was preparing us for the fullest possible revelation of His love for the world.

As Abraham was willing to offer Isaac, God did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all (see Romans 8:32).

In this, He revealed what was only disclosed partially to Moses - that His kindness continues for a thousand generations, that He forgives our sin, and takes us back as His very own people (see Deuteronomy 4:20; 9:29).

Jesus humbled himself to die in obedience to God’s will. And for this, the Spirit of God raised Him from the dead (see Romans 8:11), and gave Him a name above every name (see Philippians 2:8-10).

This is the name we glorify in today’s Responsorial - the name of our Lord, the God who is Love (see 1 John 4;8,16).

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A Mighty Wind: Scott Hahn Reflects on Pentecost Sunday

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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 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.

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The Ascension: The Underrated Mystery

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:8-9)

Watch this short video as Dr. Hahn reflects on the completion of the Paschal Mystery the Ascension of Our Lord.

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Exodus and Easter

Israel’s exodus from Egypt forms the background for many of the readings we hear in Easter.

On the Third Sunday, both the Gospel and Epistle describe Jesus “redeeming” or “ransoming” Israel (see Luke 24:21; 1 Peter 1:18). The Greek word in both is only used elsewhere to refer to Israel’s redemption from Egypt (see Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 7:8). In the First Reading, Jesus is said to work “mighty deeds, wonders and signs” (see Acts 2:22) - the same words used to describe Moses’ work (see Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 34:10-12).

Moses told the Israelites not to fear but to trust that God would go before and find them a place in the promised land (see Deuteronomy 1:29-32). Jesus uses the same words in the Fifth Sunday’s Gospel. He also quotes Moses to claim that His words are God’s words and His works are God’s works (see Deuteronomy 18:18; 34:10-12).

There is much more exodus imagery in this month’s readings. The point is to show us that Jesus’ death and resurrection marked a new exodus (see Luke 9:31). The Christian life is like the sojourning of the Israelites in the wilderness. We have passed through the waters of Baptism and are now fed with bread from heaven as we make our way to the promised land of eternal life (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; 1 Peter 1:4).

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An Invitation to Evangelization

2014 Fullness of Truth Conference
“Evangelizing Catholics:
Sharing the Joy of the Gospel.”
Houston, Texas | June 6-7, 2014

They were Jesus’ final words during his time on earth, his parting salvo to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Mt 28:19).

History remembers those words as “The Great Commission”—a commission entrusted by Christ not just to Peter, John, and the other apostles present on Mount Olivet, but to the entire Church, including each one of us. The work of evangelization, of calling people to Christ, isn’t just the work of priests and bishops. It is the work of all who call Jesus “Lord.” We’re all called to proclaim who he is and how he loves us. That’s not a burden. It’s a gift. It’s a joy. At least, it’s supposed to be. Click Here to Register

From June 6-7, 2014, join the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Houston, Texas, as we explore the basics and beyond of evangelization at the 2014 Fullness of Truth Conference, “Evangelizing Catholics: Sharing the Joy of the Gospel.”

Co-sponsored by Fullness of Truth, this year’s conference will help you grow in your understanding of Christ’s call to evangelize, as well as learn more about the message we share when we evangelize and how we can more fruitfully engage in evangelization.

This year’s conference will feature two talks by St. Paul Center President, Dr. Scott Hahn—the first on what it means to evangelize Catholics and be an evangelizing Catholic titled Evangelizing Catholics: The Joy of the Gospel, the second on how the angels and saints assist us in the mission of evangelization titled Angels and Saints: Helpers From on High for the New Evangelization.

Other speakers include St Paul Center Fellows Dr. Michael Barber (speaking on “Legend, Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?: Do the Gospels Tell Us the Honest Truth about Jesus?” and “Redemption, Almsgiving, and the Eucharist: Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is”) and Dr. John Bergsma (addressing “Evangelism is a Call for Everyone! The Why’s and How’s of Evangelizing” and “How to be a Joy-Full Christian: Lessons from Philippians”).

This year’s Fullness of Truth Conference will take place Friday evening, June 6, and all day Saturday, June 7, at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Houston.

Click Here to Register

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Building His House: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fifth Sunday of Easter

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Acts 6:1-7
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

By His death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house.

His Father’s house is no longer a temple made by human hands. It is the spiritual house of the Church, built on the living stone of Christ’s body.

As Peter interprets the Scriptures in today’s Epistle, Jesus is the “stone” destined to be rejected by men but made the precious cornerstone of God’s dwelling on earth (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).

Each of us is called to be a living stone in God’s building (see 1 Corinthians 3:9,16). In this edifice of the Spirit, we are to be “holy priests” offering up “spiritual sacrifices” - all our prayer, work and intentions - to God.

This is our lofty calling as Christians. This is why Christ led us out of the darkness of sin and death as Moses led the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

God’s covenant with Israel made them a royal and priestly people who were to announce His praises (see Exodus 19:6). By our faith in Christ’s new covenant, we have been made heirs of this chosen race, called to glorify the Father in the temple of our bodies (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 12:1).

In today’s First Reading, we see the spiritual house of the Church being built up, as the Apostles consecrate seven deacons so they can devote themselves more fully to the “ministry of the Word.”

The Lord’s Word is upright and all His works trustworthy, we sing in today’s Psalm. So we can trust Jesus when He tells us never to be troubled, but to believe that His Word and works come from the Father.

His Word continues its work in the world through the Church. We see its beginnings today in Jerusalem. It is destined to spread with influence and power (see Acts 19:20), and to become the imperishable seed by which every heart is born anew (see 1 Peter 1:23).

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Building the Temple of God: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Since the beginning of time, human beings have sought to construct buildings that would bridge the gap between the temporal and eternal, earthly and heavenly planes of existence.  These temples have taken widely differing forms in many cultures.  One of the greatest was the Jerusalem temple begun by Herod the Great (73–4 BC), an architectural marvel of the ancient world while it stood.

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What Are We to Do? Scott Hahn Reflects on the Fourth Sunday of Easter

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Acts 2:14, 36-41
Psalm 23:1-6
1 Peter 2:20-25
John 10:1-10

Easter’s empty tomb is a call to conversion.

By this tomb, we should know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah, as Peter preaches in today’s First Reading.

He is the “Lord,” the divine Son that David foresaw at God’s right hand (see Psalms 110:1,3; 132:10-11;Acts 2:34). And He is the Messiah that God had promised to shepherd the scattered flock of the house of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:11-14, 23; 37:24).

As we hear in today’s Gospel, Jesus is that Good Shepherd, sent to a people who were like sheep without a shepherd (see Mark 6:34; Numbers 27:16-17). He calls not only to the children of Israel, but to all those far off from Him - to whomever the Lord wishes to hear His voice.

The call of the Good Shepherd leads to the restful waters of Baptism, to the anointing oil of Confirmation, and to the table and overflowing cup of the Eucharist, as we sing in today’s Psalm.

Again on this Sunday in Easter, we hear His voice calling us His own. He should awaken in us the response of those who heard Peter’s preaching. “What are we to do?” they cried.

We have been baptized. But each of us goes astray like sheep, as we hear in today’s Epistle. We still need daily to repent, to seek forgiveness of our sins, to separate ourselves further from this corrupt generation.

We are called to follow in the footsteps of the Shepherd of our souls. By His suffering He bore our sins in His body to free us from sin. But His suffering is also an example for us. From Him we should learn patience in our afflictions, to hand ourselves over to the will of God.

Jesus has gone ahead, driven us through the dark valley of evil and death. His Cross has become the narrow gate through which we must pass to reach His empty tomb - the verdant pastures of life abundant.

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