Catholic Theological Union Learn@CTUCatholics on CallCatholic Common Ground Initiative
Follow CTU on Facebook
CTU Twitter feed
CTU on Google+
March 20, 2016
Obedient Unto Death. "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me" (Luke 22:19) I remember as a child looking at gruesome pictures of the crucified Jesus in our family Bible. I was very disturbed by them, but I found comfort in thinking that since Jesus was God he didn't feel the suffering in the same way we would. I also knew that he was unique and thought that what happened to him would not happen to anybody else. The gospel, however, makes very clear that what Jesus underwent as a rejected prophet can, indeed, be asked of any of his disciples. In addition, it portrays for us how to prepare for and how to endure suffering that comes from following in his footsteps.
March 13, 2016
Our Scripture readings for this week focus on three interrelated themes: a new beginning, transformation and forgiveness/mercy. In the gospel reading from John we might say that Jesus is acting here in the key of Pope Francis. Jesus is clearly showing the woman the mercy that Pope Francis has identified as a core element of the Scriptures. Both Isaiah and the Pauline-inspired reading from Philippians look to a transformed future arising in part from the impact of Jesus' suffering on our behalf and our willingness to join with him in these sufferings.
March 6, 2016
What's wrong with this picture? That's the first question I urge my students to ask of a parable like the one we find in today's Gospel. Parables are the biblical version of a bait and switch. They introduce you to a scene that seems familiar enough. In this case, a dissolute younger sibling, a jealous older sibling, and a ridiculously generous parent. They invite you into the narrative, so that you begin to identify with the characters, and you think you know where the story is going. As Luke presents this parable, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes who are grumbling about whom Jesus eats with-in this case, tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-2). We have to hear the parable through the first century ears of the narrative audience (these Pharisees and Scribes) and Luke's authorial audience (those he expected would hear his gospel). What's wrong with this picture for them? First, for the son to ask his father for his inheritance is tantamount to saying, "I wish you were already dead." Sirach 33:20-24 warns against such action, which could lead to financial ruin. Not to mention the shame brought upon the family! Children were expected to honor and obey their parents (Exod 20:12). In Roman society, the father had patria potestas-life and death over his children. So the first surprise is not only that the son is so very disrespectful, but that the father gives in to his request!
February 28, 2016

Those of us, who were raised on some kind of catechism, whether it was the pre-Vatican Baltimore Catechism, the Dutch Catechism that was popular during the 60's and 70's, or today's Catechism of the Catholic Church, were taught a list of the attributes of God. This included traits such as: all-present; all-knowing; all-loving, etc. We might know what such characteristics mean, but when it comes right down to it, we must admit that we really have very little understanding of the nature of God. Today's readings confirm this. Each reading in its own way reminds us that God and the ways of God are truly mysterious.

February 21, 2016
Not long after I joined the Franciscans, I went through a difficult time and needed to get some help. One of my Franciscan brothers, whom I hadn't known very well before, began to visit me regularly and prayed especially for me every day. One morning when he was sitting with me, I told him how much I appreciated his extraordinary kindness and compassion in all the ways he supported me in a time of great vulnerability. His response: "What I am doing, you experience as kindness and compassion, and I'm glad for that. But I think of it as my duty to you, my brother. On the day you made your solemn profession in the Order, you promised to be faithful to your vows. That same day, we your brothers promised to be faithful to you. This is what it means to be a brother. This is what we do." I hope that you, too, have had the experience of commitment and care that I received from my Franciscan brother.
February 14, 2016
On this First Sunday of Lent, we are invited to look to Jesus for directions in life. After forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert, Jesus was confronted by a number of strong temptations, similar to those we face on a daily basis. First, Jesus was tempted to change stones into bread, to be overly concerned with satisfying his desire for personal comfort. Second, he had to deny the temptation to use power for his own purposes. Third, Jesus was enticed to use his gifts to advance his personal reputation. In response to all of this, Jesus said, "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test" (Dt 6:16 in Lk 4:12b). In other words, Jesus kept his life centered on God and God's plan/mission, and we are to do the same as Jesus' disciples. OUCH! Just the thought of an ember being touched to my lips makes me shudder. I know, I know. This is a vision that Isaiah is describing. He is not reporting it as a physical event. Nonetheless, this image of the six-winged seraph racing full-throttle at Isaiah and then scorching his lips feels "real" enough. I react to it internally in the same way as when I see something painful on TV. I can't help it. The squeamish, like me, could easily tune out at this point and miss the rest of the story. And it's a doozy.
February 7, 2016
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, "See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." (Isaiah 6: 6-7) OUCH! Just the thought of an ember being touched to my lips makes me shudder. I know, I know. This is a vision that Isaiah is describing. He is not reporting it as a physical event. Nonetheless, this image of the six-winged seraph racing full-throttle at Isaiah and then scorching his lips feels "real" enough. I react to it internally in the same way as when I see something painful on TV. I can't help it. The squeamish, like me, could easily tune out at this point and miss the rest of the story. And it's a doozy.
January 31, 2016
Although we are now in Ordinary Time of the liturgical year, the readings we are given to hear on this Sunday are anything but ordinary! These readings are a fine example of "Biblical Foundations of Spirituality"- a course I teach at CTU. The dynamic in both Nehemiah and Luke is one of listening and responding; and Paul's letter reflects on the community of faith.
January 24, 2016
Although we are now in Ordinary Time of the liturgical year, the readings we are given to hear on this Sunday are anything but ordinary! These readings are a fine example of "Biblical Foundations of Spirituality"- a course I teach at CTU. The dynamic in both Nehemiah and Luke is one of listening and responding; and Paul's letter reflects on the community of faith.
January 17, 2016
Each of the three lectionary cycles begins the Sundays of Ordinary Time with passages from the gospel of John. They are taken from the beginning of what has often been referred to as "The Book of Signs," and serve as an introduction of Jesus to the world. John presents Jesus to the world in the Prologue as the eternal Word now made flesh. The Book of Signs presents him with the Christological titles that were known to the early Church: The Lamb of God (Jn 1.29 and 1.36), Son of God (1.34), Rabbi (1.38), the Messiah (1.41), the Anointed (1.41), the King of Israel (1.49), and the Son of Man (1.51). In the story of the Wedding at Cana, John introduces us to Jesus, the Sign-Worker in the first of the signs that Jesus will perform in the first twelve chapters of John's gospel. As with all the sign-stories, this first of Jesus' signs is filled with meanings beyond the recitation of the facts.