The Beatitudes: A Spiritual Program
by Bishop Robert Barron . January 30, 2005 .
In the great opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out, in short order, his ethical and spiritual program. It turns all of our customary expectations and prejudices upside down. To be "happy," fulfilled, we must empty the self, become meek, learn how to sorrow, hunger not for egotistic satisfaction but for justice, work for peace, and become the objects of persecution. Strange, puzzling, unnerving, counter-intuitive--and the key to joy.
The Blooming Desert
by Bishop Robert Barron . December 12, 2004 .
We have another great image from the prophet Isaiah this weekend: the blooming desert. So many of the Biblical heroes--Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Paul, Jesus himself--have to pass through the desert before they undertake their missions. It is only through this period of dryness, austerity, simplification, and spiritual prioritization that the blossoming of grace comes. Good Advent lesson for us.
There is No Chaining the Word of God!
by Bishop Robert Barron . October 10, 2004 .
This week we once more hear from Paul's second letter to Timothy. He writes to his young friend from prison, chained in place by the Roman authorities. But he boldly tells Timothy that there is no chaining the Word of God. This confidence in the power of God's word is shared by all of the great saints up and down the centuries. John Paul II had it when he preached in his native Poland in the 1980's, effectively unchaining an oppressed people.
No Cowardly Spirit
by Bishop Robert Barron . October 3, 2004 .
We hear this week from St. Paul's second letter to Timothy. Paul, the old warrior, is passing on to his young disciple words of advice and encouragement. He tells Timothy that he has received "no cowardly spirit," but rather a spirit of boldness and confidence. Throughout the ages, in the saints and the martyrs, we have seen evidence of this courageous spirit that comes from the risen Christ. Did you know that the 20th century had more Christian martyrs than any other century? We can all still benefit from Paul's words.
by Bishop Robert Barron . September 26, 2004 .
We hear from the prophet Amos in our first reading for this Sunday. Amos stands at the very beginning of the great prophetic tradition of social justice. He sees that the very heart of the law is our collective concern for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, and the needy. This emphasis is continued in the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and it comes to particularly rich expression in the words of Jesus the prophet. We must listen with attention to Amos and allow ourselves to be deeply challenged by him.
Spiritual Shock Therapy
by Bishop Robert Barron . September 5, 2004 .
The world of grasping, competition, violence, and egotism is the "real" world, right? And if I were to suggest that we can live in radical non-violence, love, compassion, and forgiveness, you would probably suggest that I am a utopian dreamer. But what Jesus shows is precisely the illusory, phony quality of the supposedly "real" world that we inhabit, and what he calls for is an immersion in the new universe that he calls "the Kingdom of God." His strategy: spiritual shock therapy. "Hate your mother and father, your children, your wife, your very self," he says to the uncomprehending crowds--and to us. His purpose is to shake us out of our complacency and into a whole new way of thinking, acting, and being.
Training in the Divine School
by Bishop Robert Barron . August 22, 2004 .
In the years following the Second Vatican Council, we became very hesitant ever to invoke the category of the divine punishment. Yet, this motif can be found throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New. How do we properly understand it? Our second reading from Mass, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, gives us some important guidance. It places God's punishment in the context of love and discipline. God punishes us, not capriciously and arbitrarily, but out of a desire to bring us to deeper life, much as a parent will, from time to time, punish a child. I'm eager to hear your reaction to these reflections on a tricky but important theme in Biblical theology.
They Shall Look on Him Whom They Have Pierced
by Bishop Robert Barron . June 20, 2004 .
The book of the prophet Zechariah provides a sort of interpretive key for the life and ministry of Jesus. It tells us what the Messiah would do and what kind of figure he would be. The passage that we read from Zechariah for Mass this week emphasizes that the Messiah, curiously enough, would be "pierced." In our Gospel, Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the Messiah, but then he (and we) are given a lesson in what that means: the Son of Man must be rejected, persecuted and put to death. Jesus the Messiah saves the world precisely by being killed. To understand that is to understand everything about Christian faith.
Paul the Apostle
by Bishop Robert Barron . May 2, 2004 .
During the Easter season, we are reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Though John, Philip, Peter, and James are all featured in Acts, the "star" of the text is clearly Paul, missionary and evangelist. Who was this extraordinarily important figure, the man that many say, after Jesus himself, was most influential on the development of Christianity? For the next three weeks, I will be exploring the life, thought, and work of Paul the Apostle.
by Bishop Robert Barron . February 15, 2004 .
Detachment is a key theme in the spiritual masters. It means that we must detach ourselves from all of those created goods--sex, money, power, pleasure--that are not our ultimate good. When we do this, we experience a spiritual freedom that actually enables us to enjoy those things more. Luke's version of the Beatitudes is, I submit, all about this detachment.