Posts tagged: Old Testament

Jesus Loves His Friends

By , April 5, 2014 4:48 am

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April 6th, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Oh, today’s Gospel! This is one of my favorite texts in the entire bible whether you are talking about Old or New Testaments. Today’s Gospel excerpt is drawn from the 11th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and for me it is wonderfully meaningful. The whole thrust of this Gospel is John, communicating to the first generation of the life of the Church, his memory what Jesus revealed about himself.

Sometimes our Lord communicated with words and other times just extraordinary actions. Today I am making reference to what I consider a wonderful extraordinary aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the fact that he was a MAN.
Members of the Christian community always recognize that Jesus is God dealing with us through a human nature. We know that. We believe that. But can we get our arms around it? Can our limited brains really grasp the awesome reality that within this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth the Godhead dwelt?

Well, today’s text really helps us to go in that direction. You know the story so well. Jesus goes to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus but on arriving, he is told that Lazarus died several days before. The text says that he was “troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions” and then listen to this, he began to WEEP!

Did we all catch that? Jesus of Nazareth is weeping. This Divine Presence is torn by emotions, saddened and filled with a sense of loss. Can we really grasp that? I think the principle underlying the scene is that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus liked him. Jesus was crushed on learning of Lazarus’ death. I like to transfer that concept to the rest of us. Yes, we are followers of Jesus, yes, we believe in him, but do we really see him as our friend? What a gift.

If we live a good life and if we do the things I just mentioned, we are his friends. Would your acquaintances be impressed if you were at a meeting and they announced that the president of the United States has called for you and has asked you to return the call? Would it seem important to you if it were only the governor or the mayor? My friends, if we are living a good life, we are the friends of Jesus. There is nothing better than that.

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Happy New Year!

By , November 30, 2013 4:11 am

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I know that that sounds silly but I say it every year on this particular Sunday. It is accurate because we ARE starting a new year. Not a year marked by months with the names of Roman emperors, but a year that marks and memorializes all the events relating to Jesus of Nazareth and therefore relating in an awesomely important way to each and every one of us.
The first reading from Isaiah seems to me to really jump off the page. It is early in this important book of the Old Testament and the message is wonderfully hopeful and optimistic. Isaiah is writing from about the 6th century before Jesus. Everything has gone wrong. God’s people have been terribly oppressed. There have been many destructive wars but Isaiah looks into the future with confidence.
His words, which were written more than 2,500 years ago, have very helpful meaning for the Year of Our Lord 2013
Listen to Isaiah. He reminds us that we have instructions from God himself in the Sacred Scriptures. He urges us to listen as Yahweh….
“Instruct us in His ways that we may walk in His path.”
“For from Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between nations and impose terms on many peoples. “
Regretfully, while that has already happened, the desired results are not yet at hand. Isaiah hopes and prays that,
“They shall beat their swords into plowshare and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not raise the sword against the other nor shall they train for war again.”

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Jewish Prayers Are Powerful!

By , September 14, 2013 5:27 am

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September 15th, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s first reading describes a dramatic scene, an important event. God is angry, very angry. His people are journeying slowly and with great difficulty towards the Promised Land and time after time in moments of fear or discouragement they fall back into the pagan idolatry of their neighbors. At the moment Moses is up on the mountaintop negotiating with God. Yahweh informs him that he ought to immediately go right down into the valley because his people are about to be destroyed.

We see the awesome reality of Moses dealing directly with God but he is not afraid. He argues, he prays, he implores and his expectations produce results. He reminds Yahweh of how He has helped these people again and again on their painful journey through the desert. Will He now wipe them out and erase the great work of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? He reminds Yahweh that Yahweh, Himself, had promised to make of them a great nation. Won’t he be going back on his word if he destroys them now?
“So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on Israel and his people.”

Remember, Abraham prayed in the same way when Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be destroyed. In the Old Testament, God’s people are conscious of his great love for them but frequently see him as awesome and terrifying. It was not until the coming of Jesus that we are able to experience the infinite gentleness and love that is manifested through His human nature. God is pleased with us when we express our dependence on him and when we intercede for our needs. When we do so we are expressing both dependence and faith simultaneously. Both are good qualities and necessary for prayer.

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Our Eyes Fixed on Jesus

By , August 17, 2013 5:38 am

Photo: M. Poloskey


August 18th, 20th Sunday of the Year
Let me say once again that I really love the Lectionary, the book of scriptural readings that we use over a three year cycle that was put together by a group of excellent scripture scholars following the Second Vatican Council. Each Sunday, three texts – one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles and an excerpt from one of the four Gospels – is presented to us. A speaker with a positive approach can always draw a meaningful message out of them.
Well, this is August and things are really hot. I think the scripture readings for this particular Sunday neatly tie in with the weather. In the first reading poor Jeremiah, having brought a true but unhappy message to the king regarding the enslavement of God’s people, finds himself trapped in a very dry hot cistern with death approaching. Yahweh saves him however.
In the next excerpt from St. Luke’s Gospel has Jesus warning us that his presence and his message will create tension and conflict among peoples and even within families. People will be divided by bitterness and hatred. Accepting his message will be the criteria as to which side you are on. If you have a conflict-proof family, you have to thank God as a very special gift.
There is much that is difficult in today’s readings but the excerpt from Hebrews explains the mystery.
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith. For the sake of the joy which lay before him he endured the cross!”
Yes, there is pain and suffering in life but we are on our way to eternal joy and the key to that is faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us believe and evermore deeply.

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Getting It Started!

By , October 6, 2012 5:45 am

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October 7th, Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s first reading takes us to the very beginning of the human story; a beautiful, meaningful and delightful excerpt from the second chapter of the book of Genesis. In this section, the various activities connected with creation are described and finally, of course, you come to the creation of humanity itself. Genesis tells us that God creates Adam and then observes that since “it is not good for man to be alone,” he creates a helpmate, Eve. The whole human experience begins to unfold from that first moment of infinite power – breathing infinite life and spirit into what an earlier text referred to as the slime of the earth. This is a good spot to say a few very simple and necessary things about reading Sacred Scripture.

The book of Genesis is divinely inspired. It is God’s word but it is not a scientific treatise. One interesting thing about the book is that even though it appears first in the bible, it is one of the newest parts of the Old Testament. People were always trying to grasp the meaning of life, causality, relationships and purpose. The Holy Spirit inspired the sacred author of this book. Moses gets credit for being the author but that is very unlikely.

The message of Genesis is that God is the author of all creation, that an infinite number of wonderful beings have been brought into existence, the human creature is above all the others and while sharing certain aspects of nature somewhat like other material beings, such as animals and plants, it also shares in God’s life since God breathed into man a living spirit. Whether or not there was ever life on Mars or what happens when you get to the last known universe have nothing to do with our faith. God is the Lord of all creation and we humbly worship him for that fact, and in joyous gratitude look forward to sharing life with God for all eternity.

When we human beings worship God, we must thank him for all his gifts but especially our uniqueness. All beings beneath us are material by their very nature. All beings above us, angels and God himself, are pure spirits. Only the human being pulls both of those aspects of reality together. We live suspended between heaven and earth and have a foot in both spheres.

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When the Blind See and the Deaf Hear

By , September 8, 2012 5:01 am

http://www.jesuschristsavior.net


The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The scripture excerpts that the Church puts in front of Catholics all over the world today are the kind that really delight me, because they fit perfectly in the pattern that the Church tried to develop in the lectionary (the book of readings) shortly after the second Vatican council. This wonderful book is designed to place in front of people as we are celebrating mass on Sunday, a unified flow of Scripture texts that form an extraordinarily beautiful mosaic or collage. The system is simple. the first reading is from the Old Testament, and the text chosen makes a specific point. The gospel reading will almost invariably build on that point, while the second reading is to provide practical application of the message being delivered for this day. The Gospel is last, because it is the most important of the texts. In my opinion, the readings should be presented as Reading one, reading three, and then reading two. I’ve been saying this since 1965, but to date, no one has taken me seriously.
Today is a perfect example. Reading one from Isaiah calls us to courage. The voice of the prophet rings out, “Be strong. Fear not. Here is your God.” Looking into the future, the prophet foretells the coming of the Messiah, and when that time arrives, he states that “then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared. Then will the lame leap like a stag, and then the tongue of the dumb will sing”. It is a beautiful poetic description of the good that will come with the arrival of the Messiah. This leads into today’s Gospel, when we see Jesus, walking beside the sea of Galilee, surrounded by crowds who are hoping to see this carpenter’s son do some miraculous action. They pushed a deaf and speech-impaired man towards Jesus, and begged for a miracle. They are not disappointed! At once the man was cured of both impediments, and began to wildly run about, telling people about this wondrous event. Both of these readings refer dramatically to God’s power and the way it is manifested in our lives.
In the second reading from James, we are challenged to use the power within us, all of which is from God, with divine generosity and helpfulness. James tells us, ” Listen dear brothers. Did not God choose these who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and heirs to the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?”

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The Gospels and Social Justice

By , June 13, 2012 4:58 am


The theology of the Catholic Church is drawn and formed by the divinely revealed message from both the Old and New Testament but primarily from the New Testament. The four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles are the treasure load by which the Christian community has poured thought and prayer and from which it has drawn its theology. That theology is all encompassing and enables us to be guided in every aspect of life and with every new situation that develops with the unfolding of the years and the centuries.

One of the things that I am most proud of about the Roman Catholic Church is its highly developed social theology which governs the relationships between all of us as individuals and as institutions and social structures. From the 1st to the 15th century, society was structured very simply and those structures changed little over the centuries. The political system was kingship and the economic system was agriculture. With the coming of modern times and industrialization, new opportunities began to appear, new problems developed, new relationships were formed and in some cases, monumental abuses began to develop. In that context, the Roman Catholic Church began to evaluate the economic, social and political system in the light of the Gospels. Thus, was formed what is called today Roman Catholic social theology. A beautiful and integrated system, solidly based on the natural right to own private property but balanced with a highly developed theory that private wealth is a privilege but also carries with it serious responsibilities. This is a complex issue that cannot be developed in a tiny blog but there is one principle that I will write down here that underlines everything in Catholic social thought and we call it the principle of subsidiarity. The best place to take care of an issue, the most efficient and least expensive place to take care of an issue is as close as you can get to it. If an individual can take care of it himself, he or she should. If the individual cannot, the family assumes responsibility. Then the extended family and then whatever social structure is present in that place at that moment of time. This sounds very simple, doesn’t it? However, it has tremendous implications on how we develop our social structures.

Our theology is a blessing – a trustworthy guide. But we have to have the will and the discipline to follow it day by day!

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No One Wants to be Hard Hearted

By , January 28, 2012 4:52 am


January 29th, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Most viewers of this blog are probably familiar with the fact that I only post them six times a week. On Saturday, I make some comments on the Scriptures of the following day and then take Sunday off. I hope that you also have an easy Sunday!

This is always the easiest day of the week for me to post a blog because I have my choice of three different readings. The first and second readings are usually drawn from the Old Testament and from one of the Epistles while the third reading is always from one of the four Gospels.

Today, I am passing all of those over and going to the Responsorial Psalm which I think is beautiful, optimistic and a guide for anyone’s life. The first refrain tells us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Oh, my friends, what a wonderful challenge. Each of us has experienced temptations to do something that our conscience warns us against and, on the other hand, we sometimes see an opportunity to do good and yet feel that it wasn’t our job or our responsibility. When we have those thoughts and we don’t give the right response, what we are doing is exactly what the psalmist calls us not to do. We are hearing his voice but we have hardened our hearts.

This particular psalm comes from the 95th psalm and it is so beautiful. The psalm tells us:

Let us sing joyfully to the Lord
Let us greet him with thanksgiving
Let us bow down and worship
He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides

These few words are both a challenge and a source of joy and confidence. We are part of the flock. He does shepherd us and we should endeavor to be open constantly to the various invitations to be better, to walk in his footsteps.

Once again, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

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Was There Really a Whale?

By , January 23, 2012 4:59 am


On the weekend blog, I touched very briefly on Sunday’s excerpt from the book of Jonah and I began an all too brief introduction on a complicated issue – how to read the bible intelligently in order to get the maximum benefit from it. My point the other day was that while everyone knows about Jonah and the whale, very few of us know what really the purpose of the message is and what its meaning is.

We know nothing about the prophet Jonah but the majority of Scripture scholars date the book between the fourth and second centuries BC. It was written at a time in the post-exilic period; namely, after the Jews had returned from their enslavement in Babylon. It was an age when the Israelites were tempted to hope more for the destruction of their enemies than for their salvation. The author of this book conveys a message about the extent of the Lord’s mercy not just for the Jews, but for the whole human family. It is a message that God’s people needed at the time that it was written and it is a message that all of us need today. Jonah is a tremendous gift to us not just as a teaching tool, but as conveying an extraordinarily important component of the Christian message.

God loves the human family!

More later about Jonah.

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Jonah and That Whale!

By , January 21, 2012 5:55 am


January 22nd, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading today is one of my very favorite excerpts from the Old Testament. The reason I say that is because it provides an excellent tool for teaching people how to read the bible. Put a hundred people in a room together and ask them how many have ever heard of the book of Jonah. Virtually, all of them will raise their hands. Ask a second question. What is the book of Jonah about? What is its message? Ninety-nine out of one hundred will quickly tell you that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. They are wrong but their reaction provides a marvelous opportunity to teach something about reading Sacred Scriptures.

The bible is a series of small booklets, written over centuries, in various literary forms. This is tremendously important and it is necessary to understand this if you are going to read the bible intelligently.

Take a look at your morning newspaper. You instinctively know that what is printed on the first page is different from what is printed on the editorial page. You also recognize that the comic strips and the “want ads” are a different literary form designed to accomplish specific goals and it works very well for us. The same is true of the bible. Those many booklets that make the bible have been written in various literary forms, in different times and to accomplish different goals. The book of Jonah is not a catalogue for National Geographic. It is a message about God’s love for the whole human family.

More on that on Monday.

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