Magi from the East

Since today is actually the great Feast of Epiphany – despite what the bishops say! – I thought I would celebrate it by posting a short essay I wrote several years ago on the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel – especially the Visit of the magi, which forms the central mode of our celebration of this feast in the Latin world. Jesus’ genealogy is a little dicey, and Matthew makes an obvious point of it, recognizing among his ancestors the Canaanite Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law Judah into impregnating her while she posed as a prostitute; Rahab,...

Celebrating Christ’s Redemption and Immortality?

Quote of the Day for Saturday, December 4th, 2010: Handel and Haydn Society Artistic Director Harry Christophers, from the Conductor’s Notes in the program for this season’s performance of Handel’s Messiah: When listening to our performance, take note of [librettist Charles] Jennens’ amazing contribution. We need only look back to mediaeval carols where texts take us from Christ’s nativity through to his crucifixion and resurrection but Jennens takes us further – his is a unique journey which takes us from prophecies of Christ’s coming through the Nativ...

Magi From the East

Being Epiphany, it’s time for my annual consideration of the story of the Magi. About 15 years ago, I was engaged in a series of discussions on various Biblical readings, and I came to see this story in a somewhat unusual light. Tradition takes this story as a harbinger of the universality of the salvation offered in Christ, seeing the magi as the first gentiles to come to Christ. It’s a powerful interpretation, and I certainly accept that it is how the Church reads the story, but I haven’t always been convinced that was Matthew’s original i...

Watchman for the House of Israel

There is a common thread of real, and very serious, responsibility for neighbor running across all three of this week’s readings. 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A Ezek 33:7-9; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20 It’s not that common for the second reading to dovetail this nicely with the first reading and the Gospel reading. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but perhaps it bears repeating (even in somewhat oversimplified form). . . The lectionary cycle for Sunday readings consists of two independent threads of content: the primary thread be...

Upon This Rock: Royal Authority & Stewardship

A few observations on the Gospel reading for this week… 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 19 I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. 20 On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. 23 I w...

Motherhood and Salvation

I think the Gospel reading for this week – Mt 15:21-28, The Healing of the Canaanite Woman’s Daughter – is pregnant with eschatological meaning. 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year AIsa 56:1, 6-7Ro 11:13-15, 29-32Mt 15:21-28“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. (Mt 15:28) The woman, who calls Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David,” asks for mercy on herself, but in doing so is actually referring to her daughter’s ailment. She is, ...

Walking on Water

I love the readings for this week. The Gospel reading is one of those stories that even unbelievers are familiar with – Jesus walking on the water. It has become a cultural reference, and the phrase “he walks on water” has come to have an immediately identifiable meaning. The Gospel story, for its part, is taken as evidence of (or at least a claim for) the Divinity of Christ. But, interestingly, in this Matthean version, unlike the parallel in Mark, Peter also walks on water, if only briefly. This suggests some magnificent things about...

God’s Treasure

A few years ago, I started teaching a unit called "Biblical Themes" in the parish Confirmation Prep program. I was given six 90-minute sessions to work with, and no curricula whatsoever. Since I was recruited for the task a mere week before classes were to begin, I didn’t have a lot of time to plan out the program, but I relished the idea of having such free reign to come up with six Biblical lessons for the high school kids. I quickly sketched out a plan of study that I can only describe now as grossly optimistic. It involved touching ea...

“Terror All Around!”

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33 “Terror All Around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” (Jer 20:10) ◊ It would seem that Jeremiah had come to be known among his “friends” and co-religionists as “Terror All Around.” Perhaps they had grown weary of hearing him repeat the phrase. Nobody likes a whiner, and particularly odious is anyone who dares to suggest that the “good guys” might not be square with God. There is something at once disarming yet alarming about Jeremiah: J...

Turning Aside from the Way Ordained

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Matt 7:21 (NAB) 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A Deut 11.18, 26-28, 32 Rom 3.21-25, 28 Matt 7.21-27 (view the readings at the USCCB site) Very interesting how the two reading cycles converge in today’s liturgy – which they certainly don’t always do. The first reading is not on a cycle, but is usually an Old Testament reading that somehow typifies, or at least contextualizes, the reading ...