Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Wednesday, 2nd Week of Advent

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.   
Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism, paragraphs 459, 1615 and 1658.
Commentary:
18:11–14. 11:28–30. Our Lord calls everyone to come to him. We all find things difficult in one way or another. The history of souls bears out the truth of these words of Jesus. Only the Gospel can fully satisfy the thirst for truth and justice that sincere people feel. Only our Lord, our Master—and those to whom he passes on his power—can sooth the sinner by telling him, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:2). In this connexion Pope Paul VI teaches: “Jesus says now and always, ‘come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ His attitude towards us is one of invitation, knowledge and compassion; indeed, it is one of offering, promise, friendship, goodness, remedy of our ailments; he is our comforter; indeed, our nourishment, our bread, giving us energy and life” (Homily on Corpus Christi, 13 June 1974).
“Come to me”: the Master is addressing the crowds who are following him, “harassed and helpless, like sheep  without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). The Pharisees weighed them down with an endless series of petty regulations (cf. Acts 15:10), yet they brought no peace to their souls. Jesus tells these people, and us, about the kind of burden he imposes: “Any other burden oppresses and crushes you, but Christ’s actually takes weight off you. Any other burden weighs down, but Christ’s gives you wings. If you take a bird’s wings away, you might seem to be taking weight off it, but the more weight you take off, the more you tie it down to the earth.   The off, the more you tie it down There it is on the ground, and you wanted to relieve it of a weight; give it back the weight of its wings and you will see how it flies” (St Augustine, Sermons, 126). “All you who go about tormented, afflicted and burdened with the burden of your cares and desires, go forth from them, come to me, and I will refresh you and you shall find for your souls the rest which your desires take from you” (St John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, book 1, chap. 7, 4).
Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.


Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Immaculate Conception, Diego Velazquez
Luke 1:26–38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.   

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in several paragraphs of the Catechism.
Commentary:
The annunciation and incarnation of the Son of God
1:26–38. Here we contemplate our Lady who was “enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendour of an entirely unique holiness; […] the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as ‘full of grace’ (cf. Lk 1:28), and to the heavenly messenger she replies, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word’ (Lk 1:38). Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly to God’s saving will and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of Redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience” (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 56).
The annunciation to Mary and incarnation of the Word constitute the deepest mystery of the relationship between God and men and the most important event in the history of mankind: God becomes man, and will remain so forever, such is the extent of his goodness and mercy and love for all of us. And yet on the day when the second person of the Blessed Trinity assumed frail human nature in the pure womb of the Blessed Virgin, it all happened quietly, without fanfare of any kind. St Luke tells the story in a very simple way. We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, practising the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five joyful mysteries of the Rosary.
1:27. God chose to be born of a virgin; centuries earlier he disclosed this through the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 7:14; Mt 1:22–23). God “before all ages made choice of, and set in her proper place, a mother for his only-begotten Son from whom he, after being made flesh, should be born in the blessed fulness of time: and he continued his persevering regard for her in preference to all other creatures, to such a degree that for her alone he had singular regard” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 2). This privilege granted to our Lady of being a virgin and a mother at the same time is a unique gift of God. This was the work of the Holy Spirit “who at the conception and the birth of the Son so favoured the Virgin Mother as to impart fruitfulness to her while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity” (St Pius V, Catechism, 1, 4, 8). Paul VI reminds us of this truth of faith: “We believe that the Blessed Mary, who ever enjoys the dignity of virginity, was the Mother of the incarnate Word, of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Creed of the People of God, 14).
Although many suggestions have been made as to what the name Mary means, most of the best scholars seem to agree that Mary means “lady”. However, no single meaning fully conveys the richness of the name.
1:28. “Hail, full of grace”: literally the Greek reads “Rejoice!”, obviously referring to a unique joy over the news which the angel is about to communicate.
“Full of grace”: by this unusual form of greeting the archangel reveals Mary’s special dignity and honour. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church “taught that this singular, solemn and unheard-of greeting showed that all the divine graces reposed in the Mother of God and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit”, which meant that she “was never subject to the curse”, that is, was preserved from all sin. These words of the archangel in this text constitute one of the sources which reveal the dogma of Mary’s immaculate conception (cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus; Paul VI, Creed of the People of God).
“The Lord is with you!”: these words are not simply a greeting (“the Lord be with you”) but an affirmation (“the Lord is with you”), and they are closely connected with the Incarnation. St Augustine comments by putting these words on the archangel’s lips: “He is more with you than he is with me: he is in your heart, he takes shape within you, he fills your soul, he is in your womb” (Sermo de Nativitate Domini, 4).
Some important Greek manuscripts and early translations add at the end of the verse: “Blessed are you among women!”, meaning that God will exalt Mary over all women. She is more excellent than Sarah, Hannah, Deborah, Rachel, Judith, etc., for only she has the supreme honour of being chosen to be the Mother of God.
1:29–30. Our Lady is troubled by the presence of the archangel and by the confusion truly humble people experience when they receive praise.
1:30. The Annunciation is the moment when our Lady is given to know the vocation which God planned for her from eternity. When the archangel sets her mind at ease by saying “Do not be afraid, Mary,” he is helping her to overcome that initial fear which a person normally experiences when God gives him or her a special calling. The fact that Mary felt this fear does not imply the least trace of imperfection in her: hers is a perfectly natural reaction in the face of the supernatural. Imperfection would arise if one did not overcome this fear or rejected the advice of those in a position to help—as St Gabriel helped Mary.
1:31–33. The archangel Gabriel tells the Blessed Virgin that she is to be the Mother of God by reminding her of the words of Isaiah which announced that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, a prophecy which will find its fulfilment in Mary (cf. Mt 1:22–23; Is 7:14).
He reveals that the Child will be “great”: his greatness comes from his being God, a greatness he does not lose when he takes on the lowliness of human nature. He also reveals that Jesus will be the king of the Davidic dynasty sent by God in keeping with his promise of salvation; that his Kingdom will last forever, for his humanity will remain forever joined to his divinity; that “he will be called Son of the Most High”, that is, he really will be the Son of the Most High and will be publicly recognized as such; in other words, the Child will be the Son of God.
The archangel’s announcement evokes the ancient prophecies which foretold these prerogatives. Mary, who was well-versed in Holy Scripture, clearly realized that she was to be the Mother of God.
1:34–38. Commenting on this passage John Paul II said: “Virgo fidelis, the faithful Virgin. What does this faithfulness of Mary’s mean? What are the dimensions of this faithfulness? The first dimension is called search. Mary was faithful first of all when she began, lovingly, to seek the deep sense of God’s plan in her and for the world. Quomodo fiet? How shall this be?, she asked the Angel of the Annunciation […].
“The second dimension of faithfulness is called reception, acceptance. The quomodo fiet? is changed, on Mary’s lips, to a fiat: Let it be done, I am ready, I accept. This is the crucial moment of faithfulness, the moment in which man perceives that he will never completely understand the ‘how’; that there are in God’s plan more areas of mystery than of clarity; that, however he may try, he will never succeed in understanding it completely […].
“The third dimension of faithfulness is consistency to live in accordance with what one believes; to adapt one’s own life to the object of one’s adherence. To accept misunderstanding, persecutions, rather than a break between what one practises and what one believes: this is consistency […].
“But all faithfulness must pass the most exacting test, that of duration.
“Therefore, the fourth dimension of faithfulness is constancy. It is easy to be consistent for a day or two. It is difficult and important to be consistent for one’s whole life. It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm, it is difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that lasts throughout the whole of life can be called faithfulness. Mary’s ‘fiat’ in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent ‘fiat’ that she repeats at the foot of the Cross” (Homily in Mexico City Cathedral, 26 January 1979).
1:34. Mary believed the archangel’s words absolutely; she did not doubt as Zechariah had done (cf. Lk 1:18). Her question, “How can this be?”, expresses her readiness to obey the will of God even though at first sight it implied a contradiction: on the one hand, she was convinced that God wished her to remain a virgin; on the other, here was God also announcing that she would become a mother. The archangel announces God’s mysterious design, and what had seemed impossible, according to the laws of nature, is explained by a unique intervention on the part of God.
Mary’s resolution to remain a virgin was certainly something very unusual, not in line with the practice of righteous people under the Old Covenant, for, as St Augustine explains, “particularly attentive to the propagation and growth of the people of God, through whom the Prince and Saviour of the world might be prophesied and be born, the saints were obliged to make use of the good of matrimony” (De bono matrimonii, 9, 9). However, in the Old Testament there were some who, in keeping with God’s plan, did remain celibate—for example, Jeremiah, Elijah, Eliseus and John the Baptist. The Blessed Virgin, who received a very special inspiration of the Holy Spirit to practise virginity, is a first-fruit of the New Testament, which will establish the excellence of virginity over marriage while not taking from the holiness of the married state, which it raises to the level of a sacrament (cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 48).
1:35. The “shadow” is a symbol of the presence of God. When Israel was journeying through the wilderness, the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and a cloud covered the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 40:34–36). And when God gave Moses the tablets of the Law, a cloud covered Mount Sinai (Ex 24:15–16); and also, at the transfiguration of Jesus, the voice of God the Father was heard coming out of a cloud (Lk 9:35).
At the moment of the incarnation the power of God envelopes our Lady—an expression of God’s omnipotence. The Spirit of God—which, according to the account in Genesis (1:2), moved over the face of the waters, bringing things to life—now comes down on Mary. And the fruit of her womb will be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Mary, who herself was conceived without any stain of sin (cf. Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus) becomes, after the incarnation, a new tabernacle of God. This is the mystery we recall every day when saying the Angelus.
1:38. Once she learns of God’s plan, our Lady yields to God’s will with prompt obedience, unreservedly. She realizes the disproportion between what she is going to become—the Mother of God—and what she is—a woman. However, this is what God wants to happen and for him nothing is impossible; therefore no one should stand in his way. So Mary, combining humility and obedience, responds perfectly to God’s call: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
“At the enchantment of this virginal phrase, the Word became flesh” (St J. Escrivá, Holy Rosary, first joyful mystery). From the pure body of Mary, God shaped a new body, he created a soul out of nothing, and the Son of God united himself with this body and soul: prior to this he was only God; now he is still God but also man. Mary is now the Mother of God. This truth is a dogma of faith, first defined by the Council of Ephesus (431). At this point she also begins to be the spiritual Mother of all mankind. What Christ says when he is dying—“Behold, your son …, Behold, your mother” (Jn 19:26–27)—simply promulgates what came about silently at Nazareth. “With her generous ‘fiat’ (Mary) became, through the working of the Spirit, the Mother of God, but also the Mother of the living, and, by receiving into her womb the one Mediator, she became the true Ark of the Covenant and true Temple of God” (Paul VI, Marialis cultus, 6).
The Gospel shows us the Blessed Virgin as a perfect model of purity (the RSV “I have no husband” is a euphemism); of humility (“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”); of candour and simplicity (“How can this be?”); of obedience and lively faith (“Let it be done to me according to your word”). “Following her example of obedience to God, we can learn to serve delicately without being slavish. In Mary we don’t find the slightest trace of the attitude of the foolish virgins, who obey, but thoughtlessly. Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn’t fully understand and asks about what she doesn’t know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word’. Isn’t that marvellous? The Blessed Virgin, our teacher in all we do, shows us here that obedience to God is not servile, does not bypass our conscience. We should be inwardly moved to discover the ‘freedom of the children of God’ (cf. Rom 8:21)” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 173).
Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Wednesday, 1st Week of Advent

Matthew 15:29–37
And Jesus went on from there and passed along the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain, and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism, paragraphs 579, 1329 and 1335.
Commentary:
Curing of many sick people
15:29–31. Here St Matthew summarizes Jesus’ activity in this border area where Jews and pagans were living side by side. As usual he teaches and heals the sick; the Gospel account clearly echoes the prophecy of Isaiah which Christ himself used to prove that he was the Messiah (Lk 7:22): “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped …” (Is 35:5). “They glorified the God of Israel”: this clearly refers to the Gentiles, who thought that God could give the power to work miracles to Jews only. Once again the Gentiles are seen to have more faith than the Jews.
Second miracle of the loaves and fish
15:32. The Gospels speak of our Lord’s mercy and compassion towards people’s needs: here he is concerned about the crowds who are following him and who have no food. He always has a word of consolation, encouragement and forgiveness: he is never indifferent. However, what hurts him most are sinners who go through life without experiencing light and truth: he waits for them in the sacraments of Baptism and Penance.
15:33–38. As in the case of the first multiplication (14:13–20), the apostles provide our Lord with the loaves and the fish. It was all they had. He also avails of the apostles to distribute the food—the result of the miracle—to the people. In distributing the graces of salvation God chooses to rely on the faithfulness and generosity of men. “Many great things depend—don’t forget it—on whether you and I live our lives as God wants” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 755).
It is interesting to note that in both miracles of multiplication of loaves and fish Jesus provides food in abundance but does not allow anything to go to waste. All Jesus’ miracles, in addition to being concrete historical events, are also symbols of supernatural realities. Here abundance of material food also signifies abundance of divine gifts on the level of grace and glory: it refers to spiritual resources and eternal rewards; God gives people more graces than are strictly necessary. This is borne out by Christian experience throughout history. St Paul tells us that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20); he speaks of “the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us” (Eph 1:8) and tells his disciple Timothy that “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 1:14).
Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Monday, First Week of Advent

Matthew 8:5–11
As he entered Caperna-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism, paragraphs 543, 1386 and 2610.
Commentary:
The centurion’s faith
8:5–13. “Centurion”: an officer of the Roman army in control of one hundred men. This man’s faith is still an example to us. At the solemn moment when a Christian is about to receive Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist, the Church’s liturgy places on his lips and in his heart these words of the centurion, to enliven his faith: “Lord, I am not worthy …”.
The Jews of this time regarded any Jew who entered a Gentile’s house as contracting legal impurity (cf. Jn 19:28; Acts 11:2–3). This centurion has the deference not to place Jesus in an embarrassing position in the eyes of his fellow Israelites. He shows that he is convinced that Jesus has power over disease and illness; he suggests that if Jesus just says the word, he will do what is needed without having actually to visit the house; he is reasoning, in a simple, logical way, on the basis of his own professional experience. Jesus avails of this meeting with a Gentile believer to make a solemn prophecy to the effect that his Gospel is addressed to the world at large; all men, of every nation and race, of every age and condition, are called to follow Christ.
Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome