Brian Pizzalato

Brian Pizzalato

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

Articles by Brian Pizzalato

The Ascension of the Lord

May 12, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Acts 1:1-11 Responsorial Psalm – Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 Second Reading – Eph 1:17-23 or Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23 Gospel Reading – Lk 24:46-53

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Apr 28, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Acts 14:21-27
Responsorial Psalm – Ps 145:8-13
Second Reading – Rev 21:1-5a
Gospel Reading – Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35 In this Sunday’s Gospel reading from St. John, Jesus gives the Apostles a radical new command “Love one another; even as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). Not much earlier in his ministry, some Pharisees came to Jesus with the intention of testing him, and asked, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” (Mt 22:36). Jesus responded by giving what is normally referred to as the two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37). There is nothing particularly new in the commandments that Jesus recites. These are commandments that are found in the Old Testament. In fact, they are a summary of the entire law, the Ten Commandments in particular. The great and first commandment summarizes the first three of the Ten Commandments, and the second summarizes the last seven of the Ten Commandments. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (6:5). Then, in Leviticus, we read: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (19:18). So, what is new about the command Jesus gives to the Apostles in this Sunday’s reading? The second command is no longer to love others as you love yourself, but to love others “even as I have loved you.” There is an extraordinary difference between these two commandments. How has Jesus loved us? Earlier in John’s Gospel we read: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1). Later, Jesus repeats this new command, and says more about what it means. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:12-13). Of course this is exactly what Jesus will go on to do on Calvary. He loves us “to the end.” He loves through his agony in the Garden, his scourging, being crowned with thorns, walking the via dolorosa, and through his crucifixion. However, we must understand that he doesn’t just love with a general love for humanity. He loves each person individually. “Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and his Passion and gave himself for each one of us” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 478). St. Paul realizes this very fact when he says, “The Son of God…loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). St. John also writes in one of his letters: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:7-11). St. John’s words give us insight into how it is possible to love one another as Jesus loved us. On a natural level, it would seem that this is impossible. However, as Christians, we are “born of God” through the Sacrament of Baptism. And in Baptism, we become partakers of the divine nature, sharers in God’s own life. Jesus gives us his life so that we might live like he lived, die like he died, and love like he loved. Jesus also gives us the ability to love as he loved through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which he instituted on the very same evening that he gave the Apostles this new commandment. Pope Benedict XVI tells us that Jesus gave this act of love, his death, “an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna” (Deus Caritas Est, 13). The Catechism teaches: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (1367). We might also say that the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single act of love by which the Blessed Trinity gives us the ability to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Apr 21, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Acts 13:14, 43-52Responsorial Psalm – Ps 100:1-3, 5Second Reading – Rev 7:9, 14b-17Gospel Reading – Jn 10:11-18

Third Sunday of Easter

Apr 14, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Acts 5:27-32Responsorial Psalm – Ps 30:2, 4-6, 11-13Second Reading – Rev 5:11-14Gospel Reading – Jn 21:1-19

Second Sunday of Easter

Apr 7, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Acts 5:12-16Responsorial Psalm – Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24Second Reading – Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19Gospel Reading – Jn 20:19-31 John’s Gospel on the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Mercy Sunday, truly shows us the mercy of God.  On the evening of the very day of Jesus’ Resurrection, all of the Apostles except Thomas have locked themselves up because they fear the Jews (cf. Jn 20:19). They unquestionably think that what happened to Jesus might still happen to them.  However, Jesus comes into the locked room where they are and says, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19). The Hebrew words Jesus uses are the standard Hebrew greeting, “shalom aleichem.” However, “shalom” has a much deeper meaning than the English word “peace.”  In English, peace typically means an absence of war or conflict. Shalom, however, is more involved than that. One can have shalom even in the midst of conflict.  To gain a deeper understanding, we must recognize the meaning of what God says through the prophet Isaiah: “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my mercy shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you” (54:10).  First, we see a confirmation of what has already been said. There can be peace in the midst of conflict. The language of mountains departing and hills being removed indicates conflict. Nevertheless, peace will not be removed.  Second, there is a connection between mercy and peace, racham and shalom. The word racham can be translated as mercy or compassion. As you may already know, compassion means “to suffer with another.” In the context of the Gospel reading, Jesus is having mercy, or compassion, on those who are locked up for fear, by greeting them with, and giving them, shalom.   Third, in the quotation from Isaiah we hear the language of a “covenant of peace” which helps us understand more fully what shalom is. To be in a covenant with someone is to have a God-given familial bond with them. Covenant makes family. In this case, Jesus has established the new and everlasting covenant with the Apostles at the Last Supper. They are in a covenant of peace, so he says, “Peace be with you.”  Shalom also means “to be complete or fulfilled.” Jesus gives his apostles this peace or fulfillment by breathing the Holy Spirit upon them, thus giving them a taste of what is coming at Pentecost. Therefore, to have true peace is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.  After repeating “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21), Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn. 20:21). At that time, “he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23).  Jesus has been sent by the Father to confer mercy, compassion, peace and fulfillment. So, too, Jesus sends the Apostles to confer mercy, compassion, peace and fulfillment. They are to do this through the forgiveness of sins by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that, implicit in all of this is Jesus’ forgiveness of his apostles for abandoning him during his time of suffering and death. The Father sent the Son for the forgiveness of sins. The angel told Joseph, “He will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). Now, in precisely the same way the Father sent him, the Son sends the Apostles for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit, who overshadowed Mary at the Incarnation, is now breathed upon the Apostle as a foretaste of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit that will come upon them at Pentecost.  Jesus conferred mercy and peace upon the Apostles as they are gathered together in fear. Thiers is to confer mercy and peace to all who come to them with humble and contrite hearts, confessing their sins.  Jesus’ actions, and the mandate of the Apostles brings to mind the prayer of absolution said by the priest in the sacrament of Confession, “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Truly, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of mercy, compassion, peace and fulfillment: a ministry of the apostles and their successors as they live Jesus’ plan for salvation.

Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of the Lord

Mar 31, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Acts 10:34a, 37-43Responsorial Psalm – Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23Second Reading – Col 3:1-4 Gospel Reading – Jn 20:1-9

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

Mar 24, 2010 / 00:00 am

Gospel at the Procession with Palms – Lk 19:28-40First Reading – Is50:4-7Responsorial Psalm –Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24Second Reading –Phil 2:6-11Gospel Reading – Lk 22:14-23:56 Focusing on today’s Gospel readings, an important aspect of the events is that they take place within the context of Passover. There would have been thousands and thousands of pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for this feast. Jesus, too, was entering Jerusalem.The fact that it was five days before Passover is also significant. In the first century there was a sacrificial flock raised outside of Jerusalem so when pilgrims arrived, they could purchase a lamb for sacrifice. In Exodus 12, where the institution of the Passover is recounted, the people were to take a one year old male lamb, and on the tenth day of the month begin to inspect the lamb for blemishes until the fourteenth day of the month, which was the day of Passover. In the first century, the sacrificial flock was brought in to Jerusalem on the tenth day of that month.It is not a coincidence that Jesus comes into Jerusalem on the tenth day and undergoes inspection by Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate during the subsequent days. John the Baptist had already pointed out that Jesus is, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1:29). It is also no coincidence that while being inspected by Pilate he is declared to be without fault (cf. Jn 18:38; 19:4, 6).Interestingly, scholars have noticed a conspicuous absence from the retelling of the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal, namely there is no mention of a lamb. On the contrary, there is in fact mention of a lamb. Jesus is the lamb. There doesn’t need to be any other lamb.Also, just as the account of the institution of the Passover in the book of Exodus makes abundantly clear, those celebrating the Passover must eat the lamb in order to be saved. Jesus, through his words of consecration, gives the apostles the true lamb that must be eaten, his very own body, blood, soul and divinity. He does this so they might be saved and attain eternal life (cf. Jn 6:53-56).The sacrifice of the Lamb begins in the upper room and continues all the way to Calvary. John, who was at the foot of the cross, makes sure that we do not miss the fact that Jesus is the new and eternal Lamb of God. He wants us to know that a hyssop branch was used to raise wine to Jesus’ lips. Hyssop was used in the first Passover to put the blood of the lamb on the door posts and lintels of the Isrealites homes (cf. Ex 12:22). He also wants us to know that Jesus did not have his bones broken. This fulfills what is written in Exodus 12:46, "not a bone of him shall be broken" (Jn 19:36).As we begin the celebration of Holy Week, let us keep in mind the fact that the same people who cried out "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" also cried out "Crucify him!" (Mk 11:9; 15:13). The same people who greeted him upon his triumphal entry also chose the notorious Barabbas to be released. Fascinatingly the name Barabbas means "son of the father." Of course we know that Jesus is the true Son of the Father. However, each and every moment of every day we can turn against him through our sins, which are in effect crying out "crucify him!"Let us pray to the Lord that we be freed from the slavery to the sins we commit so that we might live in true freedom as sons and daughters of God the Father, in union with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Mar 17, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Is 43:16-21Responsorial Psalm – Ps 126:1-6Second Reading – Phil 3:8-14Gospel Reading – Jn 8:1-11

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Mar 10, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Js 5:9a, 10-12Responsorial Psalm – Ps 34:2-7Second Reading – 2 Cor 5:17-21Gospel Reading – Lk 15:1-3, 11-32The Gospel reading for this Sunday is filled with everything that makes for a good story. It features a vivid portrayal of the characters and their relationships. We also see the themes of betrayal, intrigue, redemption, forgiveness, and love. In this week’s Gospel, Luke narrates what is typically called the parable of the prodigal son for us. However, we could alternatively call it the parable of a loving father and his two sons. Let’s take a look at each character in turn.First, we have the younger son who asks his father for the inheritance that would normally only come to him after his dad had died. The fact that the younger son demanded his inheritance is comparable to him saying he wished his father were dead. As the story goes, the son then squanders his inheritance and is forced to take a job feeding pigs. When famine hit that distant country, the younger son found himself so hungry he was willing to eat the food the food the pigs ate. For a practicing Jew, eating the food of pigs would be the lowest of lows as swine were ritually unclean animals according to the Torah. However, hitting rock bottom leads to repentance, and he returned to his father, willing to do so even if it meant he must work for him as a servant.Next, we have older son who stayed by his father’s side the whole time. When his brother returns, and is welcomed by their father with open arms, the older son become angry at his father. In his anger, he refuses to join the celebration held in honor of his brother’s return. His father reaches out to him, but his heart is hardened. He claims that he has not just worked for his father, but that he has slaved for him. This characterizes his mindset. He sees himself, not as a son but as a slave to his father. He is bitter at having not even received a little goat to celebrate, not with his father, but with his friends. He then refers to the younger son not as his brother, but as “your son.”  Finally, he accuses his brother of sins he cannot even be sure he committed, namely “swallowing up your property with prostitutes.” In this parable, we have the example of two children who are both far away from their father. While the one distanced himself physically and through his sinfulness, the other though was spiritually distant from his father, though physically near. Ultimately, the younger son comes back to the Father in a meaningful manner, while the older son remained distant. The third important character is the father himself. Much can be learned through observing his reaction to his two sons. Interestingly, the father comes out to meet both sons. It seems as though the father has been watching, waiting, and hoping that his younger son will return. He sees his son coming even though “he was still a long way off.” He doesn’t wait for his son to come near. Rather, he runs out to meet him, embraces him, and kisses him. As soon as his son utters the words of repentance, the father calls for a celebration and slaughters the fattened calf. Through this action and celebration, the “prodigal son” is thus reestablished as a son in the family. Though he was hoping to be nothing more than a servant, he is welcomed back as a son.The father also comes out to meet his older son who is sulking outside and pleads with him. However, as we have seen, the older son with have nothing to do with reconciliation. Sin had caused the younger son’s spiritual death. But he repented. However, through reconciliation with his loving and merciful father he has been raised from that spiritual death.  On the other hand, the older son chooses to remain in slavery, through his own sin against his father. He remains is as spiritually dead as his brother once was because he doesn’t see his father as loving and merciful, but instead as a slave driver. What we should walk away from after hearing the Gospel is that God is the loving and merciful Father who awaits our return. He will run out to meet us, embrace us, kiss us, and restore us to his family through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Third Sunday of Lent

Mar 3, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15Responsorial Psalm – Ps 103:1-4, 6-8, 11Second Reading – 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12Gospel Reading – Lk 13:1-9On the Third Sunday of Lent, the Church provides us with some amazing readings. When we look at them together, they lead us towards repentance. The first reading, taken from the book of Exodus, recounts Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. God call Moses while he is shepherding in the land of Midian and tells him to go back to Egypt in order to set God’s people free. God then reveals to Moses his most holy name, “I AM.” God goes on to command Moses to tell the people that He is the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, Moses must remind the people that He is the God who has remained, and who will continue to remain, faithful to the covenants He swore to those three patriarchs. In the second reading from his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds his readers what happened after Moses responded to God’s call. They “all passed through the sea,” and, while in the desert, drank from the spiritual rock. They were delivered from bondage and given provision for their journey. Paul emphasizes that God remained faithful to his covenant. However, St. Paul also reminds his readers of the people’s response to the Lord. They grumbled because of their slavery to the Egyptians. But they also grumbled against the Lord, as though he were also trying to enslave and kill them. Because they did not repent, they were “struck down in the desert.” In the Gospel reading, taken from St. Luke, the theme of repentance is continued. Luke Timothy John notes in his commentary, The Gospel of Luke: “Luke has Jesus respond to these reports of death in the city in classic prophetic style; they are turned to warning examples for his listeners. The people who died were not more deserving of death than others. One cannot argue from sudden and violent death to the enormity of sin. Indeed, Jesus himself will suffer a death that appears to be as much a punishment for sin. But the prophet’s point is that death itself, with the judgment of God, is always so close. It can happen when engaged in ritual. It can happen standing under a wall. And when it happens so suddenly, there is no time to repent. Rabbi Eliezer had declared that a person should repent the day before death. But his disciples said that a person could die any day, therefore all of life should be one of repentance. The repentance called for by the prophet Jesus, of course, is not simply a turning from sin but an acceptance of the visitation of God in the proclamation of God’s kingdom” (p. 213). During this Lenten season we are called to repent with a contrite heart. Let us seek out the sacrament of mercy. Thus, we will be able to hear the glorious words of Christ on the lips of a priest, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Second Sunday of Lent

Feb 24, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Gn. 15:5-12,17-18Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 27:1,7-9,13-14Second Reading – Phil. 3:17-4:1Gospel Reading – Lk. 9:28b-36In this Sunday’s Gospel reading Luke recounts the Transfiguration of Jesus, an event that is absolutely packed with meaning.The new MosesIn the gospel reading, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and he is transfigured. In the midst of this, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus and "were conversing with him" (Lk 9:30).Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets. Their appearance is a way of showing us that Jesus is indeed the complete fulfillment of the law and the words of the prophets. "Moses and Elijah had seen God’s glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 555). These two prophets were also the only ones in the Old Testament to hear God’s voice atop Mount Sinai. Jesus is the focus of the event, something made abundantly clear near the end of the passage by the phrase, "After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone" (Lk 9:36). This scene almost foreshadows what will take place after the Resurrection when Jesus breaks bread in Emmaus with the two disciples. After celebrating the Eucharist with them, Jesus "vanished out of their sight" (Lk 24:31b). Here too, Jesus is the focus of the event; though it is his Eucharistic presence which takes precedence in the scene. Jesus himself puts this spotlight on this, helping us us to understand by vanishing out of their sight.Luke continues to show us that the promise of a new and greater exodus is being fulfilled in Jesus, the new Moses. This is demonstrated by the many parallels between Moses and Jesus, as well as an event in Exodus 24, and in Jesus’ Transfiguration. For example:1. Moses himself is present in both events (Ex 24; Lk 9).2. Both events take place on a mountain (Ex 24:13, 15).3. Moses and Jesus both take three companions (Ex 24:1).4. Both of their faces shine with God’s glory (Ex 34:29).5. In both events there is the glory cloud of God’s presence, the shekinah (Ex 24:15-16).6. God speaks through a heavenly voice (Ex 24:12).Have you ever wondered what exactly Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about? Luke tells us that they "spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem" (9:30). Also fascinating is the fact that the Book of Revelation speaks of Jerusalem as the new Egypt (cf. 11:7-8). In this same context, Revelation also speaks of two witnesses. "They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying" (Rv 11:6a). This is exactly what Elijah did in 1 Kings 17:1. They also "have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to afflict the earth with every plague, as often as they desire" (Rv 11:6b). This is exactly what Moses did in Exodus 7:17.The next thing Luke shows us which confirms Jesus as the new Moses is a connection with an Old Testament feast inaugurated under Moses. Peter requests that he be able to make three tents, which can also be translated "booths" or "tabernacles." In Leviticus 23:33-43 we are told of the institution of the Feast of Booths which celebrates God’s bringing Israel out of the land of Egypt and also commemorates the giving of the law. In the reading, we hear the voice of the Father say, "This is my chosen Son; listen to him" (Lk 9:35). This is a reference back to a prophecy of Moses himself when he said, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren – him shall you heed…" (Dt 18:15). Jesus is in fact the new and greater Moses, the eternal Son of the Father. More beautiful truthsThere are, of course, other aspects of the Transfiguration which are significant.One thing which must be mentioned is that this event takes place right after Jesus has predicted his suffering, death and resurrection. The Apostles have a difficult time with this bit of important information (cf. Lk 9:22). Jesus then proceeds to give Peter, James and John a special glimpse of his glory. The Transfiguration is a brief foretaste of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. The Apostles, given their frail human nature, needed this after hearing the prediction of Jesus’ forthcoming death. We also get a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity, of the fact that he is God. This is done through the Transfiguration itself and the words which hearken back to Jesus’ baptism. Just as at his baptism, we find the presence, and thus revelation, of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit during the Transfiguration. We also hear the Father speaking to the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. In her wisdom, the Church gives us this reading during our arduous journey through Lent. Like the disciples, we need to be bolstered with hope as we traverse the wilderness of the Lenten season. We too get a glimpse of what is to come when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ at Easter. But more importantly we are preparing for our final exodus from this life. We prepare with the joyful hope of seeing the Lord face to face in all his glory, for all eternity.

First Sunday of Lent

Feb 17, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Dt. 26:4-10Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 91:1-2, 10-14Second Reading – Rom. 10:8-13Gospel Reading – Lk. 4:1-13

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Feb 10, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Jer. 17:5-8 Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 1:1-4, 6 Second Reading – 1 Cor. 15:12, 16-20 Gospel Reading – Lk. 6:17, 20-26

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jan 20, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Neh. 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 19:8, 9, 10, 15

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jan 13, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Is. 62:1-5

Baptism of the Lord

Jan 6, 2010 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Is 42:1-4, 6-7 Responsorial Psalm – Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

Epiphany of the Lord

Dec 28, 2009 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Is. 60:1-6Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13Second Reading – Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6Gospel Reading – Mt. 2:1-12 The Gospel reading for the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord has the familiar story about the visit of the Magi. There are two emphases in the account: the inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation; and Christ’s humanity and divinity.  The first emphasis is the fulfillment of God’s plan for the salvation of the Gentiles. Here the appearance of the Magi is significant. God always intended to be the Father of all nations. It’s only as a result of sin that there begins to be a particular emphasis on a particular people. Beginning with Adam, God’s first human son, God wanted a special relationship with all of Adam’s progeny.  This is also the case with Abram/Abraham. God’s plan is for all nations to come into his covenant family. God even changes Abram’s name to Abraham, which means exalted father, “For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you…” Gn 17:5b-6). The Lord also says, “I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply you descendents as stars of heaven…and by your descendents shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves…” (Gn 22:16a, 17, 18).  As well, God, through the prophets, promises to gather the nations into the covenant family of God. The Old Testament reading for this Sunday tells us as much.  Isaiah tells us that the splendor of Jerusalem will be that “nations shall walk by your light…all those from Sheba will come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (60:3, 6b). We see the fulfillment of this beginning with the visit of the Magi. Some of the first visitors and worshipers of Christ are Gentiles.  We are told that the Magi are from the east. More than likely they were from Persia. The fact that they are from the east is significant. Typically in the Old Testament, the east is associated with being away from the presence of the Lord. For example, after Cain kills Abel “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gn 4:16). Therefore, the Gentiles who are far from God are brought into the presence of the Lord through the guidance of the star.  The significance of the star can also not be underestimated. It also helps explain the murderous reaction of Herod when he decrees the slaughter of all the male children (two years old and younger) in the region of Bethlehem (cf. 2:16-18).  As far back as the book of Numbers we have King Balak of Moab commanding the gentile prophet Balaam to curse the people of God before they enter the Promised Land. On three occasions Balaam goes out to curse them, but can only pronounce a blessing. He goes out a fourth time and prophecies about what will happen in latter days. He says, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Nm 24:17a). A king will arise to rule.  We might ask why such a negative reaction from Herod? First of all, Herod is not an Israelite. He is an Edomite appointed by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. to be king over the Jews. And if we listen to more of the prophecy of Balaam we realize why he reacts in such a way. Balaam goes on to say that the one with the scepter “shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed…” (Nm 24:17b-18a). Herod clearly does not wish to be dispossessed.

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Dec 23, 2009 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14 or 1 Sam. 1:20-22, 24-28 Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 128:1-2, 3, 4-5 or Ps. 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Dec 16, 2009 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Mic. 5:1-4aResponsorial Psalm – Ps. 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19Second Reading – Heb. 10:5-10Gospel Reading – Lk. 1:39-45“Thus says the Lord: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah…from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from old, from ancient times” (Mi 5:1). Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, a shepherd, who would later become King of Israel. Micah prophesies that the future Messiah-King will also be born in Bethlehem. In 1 Samuel God calls Samuel to “fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons” (16:1b). Samuel then goes to the house of Jesse and privately anoints David as the future king.  In 2 Samuel 2 David is publically anointed king of Judah, one of the twelve tribes, over which he would reign for seven and half years. After this time, in 2 Samuel 5, David is publically anointed king over all twelve tribes of Israel. He immediately goes on to make Jerusalem the capital city, and bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (cf. 2 Sm 5-6). In 2 Samuel 7 God swears a covenant oath with David regarding his royal dynasty.  Samuel tells David, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever” (1 Sm 7:11c-16).  We hear about the future Messiah-King when the archangel Gabriel appears to “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David…” (Lk 1:27). Gabriel will go on to proclaim that “…you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:31a, 32b-33).   The Messiah-King Jesus, in the womb of his mother, goes to the hill country of Judea. The Visitation, which we hear about in the Sunday’s Gospel reading, has many parallels with 2 Samuel 6, when King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Luke, in this narrative, is depicting Mary as the Ark of the new and everlasting covenant. Here are the parallels: “David arose and went” to bring up the ark, and “Mary arose and went” to visit Elizabeth (2 Sm 6:2; Lk 1:39); the ark is brought up with shouting, and when Mary comes into her house, Elizabeth “exclaims with a loud cry” (2 Sm 6:15; Lk 1:42); the house of Obed-edom is blessed, and Elizabeth speaks about Mary’s being blessed (2 Sm 6:12; Lk 1:42, 45); David said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me,” and Elizabeth said, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Sm 6:16; Lk 1:43); David brings the Ark to Jerusalem with rejoicing, and John the Baptist leaps with rejoicing (2 Sm 6:16; Lk 1:41, 44); David was, “leaping and dancing before the Lord,” and Elizabeth says, “The babe in my womb leapt for joy.” (2 Sm 6:16; Lk 1:44); “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months,” and “And Mary remained with her about three months” (2 Sm 6:11; Lk 1:56). Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant and Jesus is the new and eternal Davidic King who will be born in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 2:4). As David was a shepherd so too will Jesus, “…stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord…” (Mi 5:3). Jesus will later say of himself, “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11. 14). Another important truth we learn comes from the lips of Elizabeth. Jesus is the Lord himself. Elizabeth calls Mary, “The mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). As Scott Hahn notes, “This title [mother of the Lord] reveals the twin mysteries of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s divine maternity. Note that every occurrence of the word Lord in the immediate (1:45) and surrounding context refers to God (1:28, 32, 38, 46, 58, 68)” (The Gospel of Luke, p. 20). Jesus is God. God is the one who will be born in Bethlehem. God is the one whom will find no room at the inn. God is the one who will be laid in a manger. God is the one who will be wrapped in swaddling clothes. God is the one whom the shepherds will come to visit. May we sing joyfully to the Lord in the way the angels did by proclaiming, “Glória in excélsis Deo.”

Third Sunday of Advent

Dec 9, 2009 / 00:00 am

First Reading – Zeph. 3:14-18a Responsorial Psalm – Is. 12:2-3, 4, 5-6