Monthly Archives: June 2011

Reflecting on the Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on the prayer in Matthew 11:25-27:

The final line of the prayer serves as a revelation to the reader. All things, Jesus says, have been given over to him from the Father. The meaning of this statement is not explained, but looking back over the Matthean storyline thus far, one may surmise that it refers to the divine authority that Jesus wields in the world. He possess teaching authority that ranks him above Moses (5:21–46); he displays healing authority to cure sicknesses and cast out demons in an instant (4:23; 8:3, 13–17; 9:22); and he is vested with spiritual authority to forgive the sins of others at will (9:1–8).

© 2010 Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.
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Scripture on Divine Judgment

Yesterday’s first reading from Genesis 18:16-33 about Abraham’s prayer for Sodom sheds light on, and to some degree qualifies, what I wrote in my last blog about the prospect of severe judgment on America and the Christian West.

The story of Abraham’s intercession illustrates God’s readiness to withhold judgment on the wickedness of many for the sake of a few who are righteous.

In fact, there is still a great deal of Christian faith and faithfulness in the United States that might preserve this country from judgment for awhile. Although many among our political, educational, media, and entertainment elites and ordinary people whose conduct resembles Rom 1:18-32, still there are many  whose conduct shows love of God.

A battle is raging for the soul of our country. Although the trends don’t look great, it’s probably a mistake to write off America for destruction just yet, even if severe warning judgments may be expected.

From a biblical perspective, it’s interesting to see how long God is willing to wait before bringing definitive judgment to bear. Abraham is told that his descendants will not receive Canaan until the fourth generation, since “the iniquity of the Amorites is not complete” (Gen 15:16). Amos prophesies doom on Israel 30 years before it descends in 722 BC. Micah and Isaiah prophesy the destruction of Judah 150 years before Babylon destroys Jerusalem and exiles the people in 586 B.C. Along the way Hezekiah and Josiah bring reforms that stay God’s hand (2 Kings 18-20; 22-23); the repentance of even the most wicked kings like Ahab (1 Kings 21:27-29) and Manasseh (2 Chron 33:11-19) delays the outcome.

The truth is, we don’t know how much time is left to America and the Christian West.  A major cultural change for the worse, when judged by the standard of obedience to God’s word in Scripture and Tradition, began in the 1960’s with the sexual revolution, legalized abortion, and atmosphere of rebellion against and denial of God, followed by the rampant consumerism of the period that followed.  We’ve had about fifty years of heading in the wrong direction.  How long will America and the West be allowed to continue?  The judgment that comes on Sodom and Gomorrah teaches that God will eventually deal with those who persist in doing evil.

Nevertheless, this story also sets before us the magnanimity of Abraham, who boldly pleads with God to spare Sodom if even ten righteous people  can be found there. Let us also intercede for America and on the other nations of the West, that God treat them and us according to his mercy rather than according to what we deserve.

More on the biblical perspective on divine judgment later this week or next!

First, we have the example of the righteousness and magnanimity of Abraham, who boldly pleads with God for mercy on Sodom if even ten righteous people (the NAB’s “innocent” is less precise) can be found there. We also should intercede for America and on the other nations of the West, praying for God’s mercy for the sake of the just men and women who stand to suffer greatly if North America receives what it deserves.

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Filed under biblical theology, Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

A Message from the Prophets?

One of best things about being a Scripture professor is that I get to read a lot of the Bible.  Early in the year I volunteered to teach a course this May at the National Seminary in Beijing.  I sent the dean a list of all the courses I’ve ever taught, offering to teach any he should choose.  But he asked me to teach on the OT Historical Books, so I got to re-read and teach Joshua to 2 Kings.

This summer I’m doing a directed readings course with a couple students on the Prophets, another course I’ve not taught before.  So now I’m reading through the Prophets.  One of the things that strikes me is certain parallels between the situation of Israel and Judah in the eight century B.C., before decisive judgment landed on them, and the situation of the Church and of the Western world today.

Although there was a faithful remnant among God’s people in the eighth century B.C., there were many who had adopted the pagan ways of the surrounding culture.  Many in Israel were affluent, some oppressed the poor, and many engaged in idolatry and immorality.  Sound familiar?

Back then those who spoke for God said that severe judgment was coming.  I’m sorry to say I’m convinced that, unless there is a radical change of direction, severe judgment is coming on the Western world that once was Christian but has in large measure apostatized—including America.

You don’t have to be a prophet to reach this conclusion—just a halfway alert reader of the Bible.  God acts in history to judge both his people and the nations.  This is a basic teaching of the historical books and of the prophets.

So, what will happen to a Judeo-Christian society when it kills millions of infants in the womb, when it pursues wealth and uses it self-indulgently, when it surrenders itself to unrestrained sexual immorality?  You don’t need a PhD in biblical exegesis to know the perspective of Scripture on this situation.

What’s amazing to me is how few are expressing this prophetic perspective and summoning the Church to repentance, despite the many indications that judgment has already begun.  Where are the prophets?

Today I’m in Micah.  Here are some verses that strike me:

Micah 2:6 “Do not preach” — thus they preach — “one should not preach of such things; disgrace will not overtake us.”

Apparently, words about coming judgment were not welcome then either!

Micah 2:4  In that day they shall… moan bitterly, and say, “We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! To an apostate he allots our fields.”

When God judges his people he does so at the hands of those who are not his chosen people, even at the hands of the wicked.  We should not be surprised then, when secularists, Muslims, or non-Christian nations prevail politically or economically over the Lord’s inheritance, the once-Christian West.

Finally, after prophesying judgment on corrupt leaders–civil authorities, priests, and prophets–Micah cries out,

Micah 3:8  But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

The Lord will fill some with the Spirit of prophecy to speak to our generation, to the Christian people today.

May we be those who listen and repent!  May we be those who receive the Spirit and prophesy!

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Filed under current events, Peter Williamson, Uncategorized

Reflecting on 1 Corinthians for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body

From First Corinthians (Coming September 2011) by George T. Montauge, SM, commenting on 1 Cor.  10:16:

The union effected by the blood and the body of Christ is a participation. This Greek term koinōnia has a richness difficult to express in a single word. The NAB, RSV, and NIV translate it as “participation.” Others translate it “sharing” (NJB, NRSV) or “communion” (JB). In documents contemporary with Paul, koinōnia is a favorite expression for the marital relationship as being the most intimate between human beings. Depending on the structure of the Greek, it can mean union with a person, as Paul has already in this letter spoken of a koinōnia with the Son of God (1:9), or a common sharing in something, such as in the faith (Philem 6), in sufferings (Phil 3:10), or in a work of service (2 Cor 8:4). Both senses converge in the koinōnia of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:13). The term can also stand for the community created by the sharing. All of these senses can be seen in Paul’s use of the word here. The koinōnia of the Eucharist is (1) a common sharing or participation in the body and blood of Christ; (2) an intimate union with the person of Christ; (3) a “community” brought about by the Eucharist, as is be specified in verse 17.

© 2011 George T. Montague and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

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Venerating the Word of God

Many Catholics who know well to show great reverence for the Holy Eucharist are uninformed about the way our Catholic faith reverences the word of God in Scripture.

Sr. Mary Timothea Elliott, RSM, a highly-respected Scripture scholar, who is now engaged in pastoral ministry in Tennessee, shared with me recently how she helps Catholics grasp the importance of Sacred Scripture to our Catholic faith.

She reminds people of what Vatican II says on the subject:

The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy, to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ.

Since Vatican II the “veneration” of the Scriptures in the liturgy is powerfully connected with the Eucharist itself.  Sr. Timothea invites then people to remember and picture in their minds how we venerate the word of God at Mass.

Sr. Timothea gave a few examples off the top of her head that I found arresting:

1)      The deacon carries the Book of the Gospels into the Church, leading the procession, and lifting it high above his head for all to see.

2)      He places the Book of the Gospels upon the altar table for the introductory rites of the Mass.

3)      In the Liturgy of the Word, the book of the Gospels is carried in procession by the Deacon from its place on the altar to the ambo. In solemn liturgies he is led by two altar servers carrying lighted candles signifying the Word as Light

4)      In solemn liturgies incense is offered to the book of the Gospels—indicating the presence of Christ in the Word.

5)      After reading the Gospel the Deacon kisses the page of the Gospel reading

6)      Then he carries it to the presiding celebrant who kisses it also.

7)      If a Bishop is presiding, he takes the book of the Gospels and blesses the Congregation with it—again indicating the presence of Christ in his Word.

So, “The Church has always venerated the divine scriptures as she venerates the Body of the Lord….” Do we?

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Reflecting on 2 Corinthians for The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

From Second Corinthians by Thomas J. Stegman, SJ, reflecting on 2 Cor.  13:11-13:

The doctrine of God as one and triune took hundreds of years to be fully formulated. What Paul’s writings reveal, at a remarkably early period—recall that he wrote 2 Corinthians only a quarter century after the death and resurrection of Christ—is an extraordinarily rich appreciation of what theologians call the “economic Trinity,” that is, God revealed in his activity in history through the sending of his Son and the outpouring of his Spirit. One prominent Pauline scholar refers to Paul’s benediction in 2 Cor 13:13 as “the most profound theological moment in the Pauline corpus” (Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presnce). The Apostle’s blessing here contains in embryonic form the rich understanding of the Trinity formulated in the Church’s great ecumenical councils.

© 2009 Thomas D. Stegman, SJ and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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Reflecting on 1 Corinthians for Pentecost Sunday

From First Corinthians (Coming September 2011) by George T. Montauge, SM, commenting on 1 Cor.  12:7:

Manifestation of the Spirit means that the gifts are visible, outward evidences of the work of the Spirit. They are not merely interior graces of prayer. We might think of a crystal-ball chandelier that sparkles as it turns. This kind of manifestation would tell the unbeliever visiting the church that God is truly in their midst (14:24–25). Is given, repeated in verse 8, indicates that the manifestation cannot be attributed to a natural talent, nor does it indicate that the receiver is a holier person who merited the gift. This is quite important because many Christians believe that the charisms are only for canonizable saints. No, they depend on God’s choice and generosity (v. 11). For some benefit (“the common good,” NIV, NRSV; “the general good,” NJB; “for a good purpose,” JB) again means that the purpose of every gift is to build up the church in faith, hope, and love and to empower its outreach.

© 2011 George T. Montague and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

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Filed under First Corinthians, From the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, George T. Montague, Lectionary