Sunday Bible Reflections
The first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem we hear about in today’s First Reading, decided the shape of the Church as we know it.
Some Jewish Christians had wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised and obey all the complex ritual and purity laws of the Jews.
The council called this a heresy, again showing us that the Church in the divine plan is meant to be a worldwide family of God, no longer a covenant with just one nation.
The story of David and Saul in today’s First Reading functions almost like a parable. Showing mercy to his deadly foe, David gives a concrete example of what Jesus expects to become a way of life for His disciples.
The new law Jesus gives in today’s Gospel would have us all become “Davids”—loving our enemies, doing good to those who would harm us, extending a line of credit to those who won’t ever repay us.
The blessings and woes we hear in today’s Gospel mark the perfection of all the wisdom of the Old Testament.
That wisdom is summed up with marvelous symmetry in today’s First Reading and Psalm: Each declares that the righteous—those who hope in the Lord and delight in His Law—will prosper like a tree planted near living waters. The wicked, who put their “trust in human beings,” are cursed to wither and die.
Simon Peter, the fisherman, is the first to be called personally by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.
His calling resembles Isaiah’s commissioning in the First Reading: Confronted with the holiness of the Lord, both Peter and Isaiah are overwhelmed by a sense of their own sinfulness and inadequacy. Yet each experiences the Lord’s forgiveness and is sent to preach the good news of His mercy to the world.
God’s words in today’s First Reading point us beyond Jeremiah to Jesus. Like Jeremiah, Jesus was consecrated in the womb and sent as a “prophet to the nations” (see Luke 1:31–33).
Like the prophets before Him, Jesus too faces hostility. In today’s Gospel, the crowd in His hometown synagogue quickly turns on Him, apparently demanding a sign, some proof of divine origins—that He’s more than just “the son of Joseph.”
The meaning of today’s liturgy is subtle and many-layered.
We need background to understand what’s happening in today’s First Reading.
Babylon having been defeated, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews could return home to Jerusalem. They rebuilt their ruined temple (see Ezra 6:15–17) and under Nehemiah finished rebuilding the city walls (see Nehemiah 6:15).
Think of these first weeks after Christmas as a season of “epiphanies.” The liturgy is showing us who Jesus is and what He has revealed about our relationship with God.
Last week and the week before, the imagery was royal and filial—Jesus is the newborn king of the Jews who makes us coheirs of Israel’s promise, beloved children of God. Last week in the liturgy we went to a baptism.
This week we’re at a wedding.