OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave
Reading II: Philippians 2:6-11
- The second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is a quotation from an early Christian hymn that proclaims the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Even though Jesus was God, he obediently accepted the humiliation of the cross, and God raised him in glory.
- Paul’s challenge is to make Jesus’ attitude our own.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
Feasting on the Word
Significance of the hymns medium
This text famously incorporates a piece of what is believed to be one of the earliest Christian hymns. Reflection on its meaning should include not only the hymn’s message but also its medium. Why did Paul, never at a loss for his own words, let a hymn speak for him at this point? Perhaps because the act of singing is, itself, a way of supplanting fear with audacity. The act of singing together is a form of conspiracy, a breathing together that gives words of faith and confidence their wings.Paul’s own singing in prison (Acts 16:25) recalls Fanny Lou Hamer and Bill Coffin singing in their Mississippi jail cells during Freedom Summer, and the actress Geraldine Paige singing herself “Softly and Tenderly” to sleep on the bus that took her on The Trip to Bountiful, and Bishop Tutu lapsing into a Xhosa hymn during the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, when the agony of the stories overpowered all other words. The church’s habit of singing is one of its oldest ways of reaching down into the depths of its honesty to tap the wellspring of its abundance. Even on the cross, the words that rode upon Jesus’ final breaths came from the Psalms.
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
The imitation theme in Philippians
Later in the chapter, Paul holds Timothy and Epaphroditus up as examples worthy of honor and emulation (2:19-30, esp. 20-21,30). In chapter 3 Paul tells the church to follow his example and to “observe those who live according to the example you have in us” (3:17). While we may emulate many role models in life, we must remember that Jesus is the example par excellence.
SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
God's Justice Bible
God's strange justice!
Phil 2:6–11 This passage illustrates God’s strange kind of justice. He brings to fulfillment his plan to put the world right but in a different way: by the self-giving of God, in Christ, for his enemies! By the obedience, suffering and death of Christ! Christ gave up his prerogatives in order that human beings might benefit. Redemption is accomplished not by force but via obedience, suffering and death. Through the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, God’s justice is finally accomplished (vv. 10–11).
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
Our ideal model for humility
Phil 2:5-11 Jesus Christ is our ideal model for humility in obedience and service. Our thoughts, attitudes, and actions are to be patterned after Christ. His willingness to humbly obey his Father is a great example for us. As we take an honest moral inventory of our life, we must humbly admit our faults so we can begin to change our destructive patterns. If we follow Jesus Christ in humility, learning to admit our failures without hesitation, nothing will be able to stop our recovery.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Life Application Study Bible
Are you selfishly clinging to your rights, or are you willing to serve?
Phil 2:5–11 Often people excuse selfishness, pride, or evil by claiming their rights. They think, “I can cheat on this test; after all, I deserve to pass this class,” or “I can spend all this money on myself—I worked hard for it,” or “I can get an abortion; I have a right to control my own body.” But as believers, we should have a different attitude, one that enables us to lay aside our rights in order to serve others. If we say we follow Christ, we must also say we want to live as he lived. We should develop his attitude of humility as we serve, even when we are not likely to get recognition for our efforts. Are you selfishly clinging to your rights, or are you willing to serve?
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Boice Expositional Commentary
The centrality of the cross
Philippians 3:8 deals with Christ's death on the cross:The cross is the central feature of the New Testament. The Gospels devote an unusually large proportion of their narratives to Christ’s final week in Jerusalem culminating in his death and resurrection. Two-fifths of Matthew’s Gospel is concerned with the final week in Jerusalem. The events of the same week take up three-fifths of Mark, one-third of Luke, and nearly one-half of John. It is no exaggeration to say that the cross overshadows the life of Christ even before this point. The very name “Jesus” looks forward to an act of saving significance, for the angel that announced Christ’s birth to Joseph said, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus himself spoke of the suffering that was to come (Mark 8:31; 9:31), linking the success of his mission to the crucifixion: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). John speaks of the crucifixion as that vital hour for which Christ came and to which his ministry proceeded (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1). Besides that, the cross of Christ is in a real sense the central theme of the Old Testament. The Old Testament sacrifices prefigure Christ’s suffering, and the prophets explicitly foretell it. Jesus taught the downcast Emmaus disciples that the Old Testament foretold his death and resurrection: “ ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27). It is not surprising that the centrality of Christ’s cross has been recognized by Christians in all ages, even before Constantine made it the universal badge of Christendom. The cross stands as the focal point of the Christian faith. Without the cross the Bible is an enigma, and the gospel of salvation is an empty hope.
SOURCE: Content taken from BOICE EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY (27 Volumes). James Montgomery Boice, 2007.All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY
Meditating on the Lord’s Humility in His Suffering and Death
by Michal Hunt
Jesus is God’s divine Son, and yet, as St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, Jesus humbled Himself for us by coming in human flesh to live among us, …he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8). By His obedience, St. Paul tells us, Jesus atoned for our disobedience and was exalted by the Father who bestowed upon Him the name which is above every name and for which every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).
An early Christian hymn
Most Bible scholars believe that verses 6-11 are from an early Christian hymn written by St. Paul to the Christian community at Philippi in Macedonia. The hymn speaks of Jesus’ humility in emptying Himself of His divine glory (kenosis in the Greek) to live a human life and experiencing trials and suffering (verses 6-8). Paul was probably intentionally contrasting Jesus “in the form of God” with Adam “created in the image of God” (Gen 1:26).
Jesus defeat of both sin and death
It was Adam who attempted to grasp equality with God through his sin of rebellion and pride in eating from the fruit of the forbidden tree that Satan said would make him god-like (Gen 3:5). Through the sin of Adam, humanity was condemned to live in sin.
Jesus however, is not “created in the image of God.” He is fully God who is also fully man, and in His humility was obedient to the Father in offering His life as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. His reward was to defeat both sin and death to be raised up by God to divine glory (8-11). His victory provided a way for humanity to be raised up through Him out of sin to receive the promise of eternal salvation in Heaven that had been closed to man since Adam’s fall (CCC 536, 1026).
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.
Lisa St. Romaine
This section of Philippians is well-known. The challenge: to proclaim it anew, with amazement, pacing changes, and energy at the closing lines! Lisa has suggestions.
Lisa St. Romaine offers lector tips. She is married to Philip St. Romain, M.S., D. Min. Her videos are posted on her YouTube channel every Wednesday for Sunday.
Though he was in the form of God
Points to consider
Paul repeats the most famous hymn of the servant of God, and I love to say it, almost sing it.
But Paul uses it as an agenda for Christians. In other words, we don’t just look on him but we adopt his attitude, we become like him!
Central point: the example of Christ during our Holy Week is one of a servant — Though he was in the form of God — obedient to the very end, in great humiliation. And he did it freely to share our own humble existence and the shame of death.
The message for our assembly is in the first verse, and it is up to me to remind them to identify with the humble, obedient Christ who rises to exaltation.
I will challenge myself: To make these first century images self-evident to the people, so that we understand something more today about the Jesus we proclaim as Lord.
SOURCE: LectorWorks.org; Used with permission
An ancient church hymn
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
Saint Paul here adapts an ancient church hymn. It sings of Jesus’ pre-existence, his incarnation, suffering, and exaltation.
In the original Greek, this passage has a rhythm that suggests it may be a hymn which Saint Paul is quoting. If so, it may represent a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. It’s something Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ even earlier than he.
(Religious movements have always expressed themselves in song first, before they get around to having their doctrinal debates, heresies, apologists, councils, books, universities, inquisitions, etc. So early hymns offer precious insight into the original genius of the movement. Ideas with a musical expression get down deep into our memories, and our souls, in a way that merely verbal formulas cannot. That’s why we remember the words of songs, even nursery songs from forty, sixty, eighty years ago, better than we remember other sentences we’ve read and heard more recently and more often.)
Christians reading this passage today are joined with the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus’ life and mission. We’re singing their song, reciting their creed, at the time of year we’re remembering the most important things Our Lord did.
This passage sums up the most important things about Jesus, heedless of the less relevant details. Note the structure of Jesus’ life:
- Jesus was divine from all eternity (“in the form of God”)
- But he didn’t cling to that
- Rather, he emptied himself (of divine status) and became human
- He accepted further humbling by obeying the human condition even unto death by crucifixion
- So God highly exalted him, giving him the highest title in the universe
- We acclaim him with that title, Lord
- All creation so acclaims him
Proclaiming the Passage
he early martyrs staked their lives on this kernel of gospel truth. So it demands a solemn proclamation, slow and, if possible, rhythmic. Make it rise to a crescendo at the end, as you summon every tongue, every tongue in heaven and on earth, to proclaim that
By Grace You Have Been Saved
In the Book of Ephesians, St. Paul gives one of his most famous phrases, “By grace you have been saved.” And, without seeing the context of Paul’s use of this phrase, one can easily conclude that Paul is referring to being saved with regard to “final salvation,” and not being saved with regard to “initial salvation.” (This, of course, does not mean that it is not through grace that we achieve our final salvation, but, rather, that final salvation is outside of the scope of what Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 2:5).
Tim Staples — God’s Grace and Good Works
Ephesians 2:8-9: How can we understand the role of God’s grace in our good works? Tim Staples answers a caller on Catholic Answers Live.