We have been reflecting on what God is saying to the Church today through the prophet Malachi. After reproving priests for their failure to teach, Malachi turns his attention to the state of marriage among God’s people, focusing on two problems. Continue reading
Category Archives: current events
America is going through hard times economically, socially, and politically. Does Jesus have a message for Christians in America? And if so, what is it? The best place to look is the word of God. Continue reading
This morning reading Scripture gave me the strength I needed to begin a fast for the remaining 40 Days for Life (check out their inspiring website).
I have been reading through the prophets and am now in Daniel. Today I read Dan 10, which begins like this:
In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. (Dan 10:2-3)
Daniel was “mourning” (the NJB says “doing a three-week penance”) because the attempts to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem after the exile were stalled due to intense opposition (see Ezra 4:1-4). Daniel, however, was not merely grieving over the situation, but was appealing to the Lord to act.
By now everyone knows that a jury in Orlando has found Casey Anthony “Not Guilty” of murdering her two-year old daughter. Meanwhile many of the Catholic faithful are discovering that, according to the religious community to which he belongs, the charismatic Fr. Corapi is indeed guilty of many of the charges leveled against him.
What does Scripture say to us about these two cases? First as regards Fr. Corapi, it teaches that the possession of great and genuine charisms, whether those distributed by the Spirit or those that come through the sacrament of orders, are no proof of the spiritual standing of the person who exercises those gifts.
As a priest and evangelist, God worked powerfully through Fr. Corapi (see this message from some whose lives have been touched), even though his personal life was gravely out of order. But this does not contradict Jesus teaching:
Matthew 7:20-23 20 So by their fruits you will know them. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, 1 but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. 1 Depart from me, you evildoers.’
Jesus does not dispute that such individuals truly prophesied in his name or truly cast out demons. They did! According to Jesus, these are not the fruits by which we can recognize true prophets. Rather, we are to look for those “who do the will of my Father in heaven,” i.e., those whose personal lives are marked by holiness, by obedience to God’s word (see the verses that immediately follow, 24-27).
All charisms, including sacred orders, are given to benefit others, to benefit the Church; they will only benefit those who possess them if they live in obedience to their Lord.
So, do we simply condemn Fr. Corapi as a false prophet and evildoer? By no means! His story isn’t over yet. Remember David’s sin and repentance (2 Sam 11-12; Ps 51). Remember Samson’s foolishness and the final act by which he delivered God’s people (Jdg 16:23-30).
I believe Fr. Corapi has good intentions, but is weak and wounded by sin, like the rest of us. In hindsight it seems clear that he had not overcome his previous addictions, that like most addicts he needs lifelong practice of the Twelve Steps, and that he needed more, not less, community life on account of his public ministry. Let’s pray for him that he may humble himself, repent, and receive the help he needs to bear truly good fruit, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and so be saved and help to save others.
Let’s pray for all those who benefited from Christ’s grace at work in and through Fr. Corapi, that they may not stumble on account for Fr. Corapi’s fall, but remain faithful to Christ, the true source of the grace they received.
A brief thought related to the Casey Anthony decision.
I am reading through Isaiah and in particular, a section that speaks of God’s judgment at the end of history (Isa 24-27). Yesterday I happened on this verse:
Isaiah 26:21 See, the LORD goes forth from his place, to punish the wickedness of the earth’s inhabitants; The earth will reveal the blood upon her, and no longer conceal her slain.
In other words, in the long run no one ever gets away with murder. The Torah is very insistent on how seriously God takes murder (see Gen 4:10, 9:6; Num 35:33; Deut 19:10-13; 21:1-9). The prophets through to the book of Revelation (18:24) confirm that God will redress this wrong.
Am I saying Casey Anthony murdered her daughter? No. God knows, I don’t.
In fact, our legal system’s principle of the presumption of innocence comes from the Bible. In all serious cases and especially in capital cases (and in regard to accusations against presbyters, i.e., priests), both the Old and New Testament insist that “two or three witnesses” are necessary to convict and punish a person for wrongdoing (see Deut 17:6; 19:15; Matt 18:16; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19).
This is a very high standard of evidence. In the world of today one could posit that forensic, circumstantial, or other kinds of evidence could equal the weight of two eyewitnesses, although that would need to be clear. If anything, this suggests that American jurisprudence requires less stringent evidence of wrongdoing than does biblical law.
The reality is that people commit many serious crimes for which the biblical standard of evidence can never be met. Thus, in order to protect the innocent from false condemnation, God’s law permits many guilty people to go scot free and unpunished in this life.
But that is because God sees things from a longer range perspective, as we should. Perfect justice will be done in God’s court, but not until then. No one should allow himself or herself to imagine their wrongdoing will go unpunished, because no human being knows or can prove it, or that their good deeds will go unrewarded. Let us prepare ourselves and our friends, neighbors, and children for “the day when… God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus” (Rom 2:16; 2:5-8).
The best preparation for everyone is faith and conversion, since God is merciful toward those who turn to him (1 John 1:7-9).
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!
In recent days the headline news has been about governments killing their citizens and an earthquake and tsunami taking thousands of lives. These tragic events naturally raise the question, How can God let such things happen? What does Scripture say?
Luke 13:1-5 reports that Jesus was asked a similar question. When people came to him troubled by tragedies of the time, he answered in a way that is at once surprising and disturbing:
“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'”
Although we have no information about these events other than what Luke tells us, Josephus reports other acts of violence by Pilate against subjects who resisted his will. The fall of the tower of Siloam may have been due to an earthquake, faulty construction, or both. In principle, if not in magnitude, these incidents resemble Qaddafi’s violence in Libya and the disasters in Japan.
Why would God permit such disasters? Jesus rejects the explanation that probably came first to the minds of his hearers. These victims were not worse sinners than anyone else. Superficial biblical interpretation might have led to this conclusion. The Old Testament clearly teaches that sin will be punished and it was expected to occur in this life. For example, King David’s adultery and murder of Uriah brought terrible consequences to him and to his family (2 Sam 12-20). Israel’s idolatry and injustice eventually brought military defeat, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and exile from the promised land in 586 BC, just as Deuteronomy and the prophets foretold.
While Jesus’ audience assumed that the victims must have specially deserved the fate that befell them, modern audiences might assume the opposite, that the victims are innocent. But Jesus does not say that the victims were innocent. Rather he warns, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The anomaly, Jesus implies, is not that they were judged, but that so far you have been spared. Repent, while opportunity remains!
In saying “you will all likewise perish,” Jesus speaks figuratively as he often does. He does not literally mean that all who do not repent will meet an untimely death. Rather Jesus identifies these tragedies as signs warning of a far greater disaster that could overtake anyone of us, judgment and the loss of eternal life.
Jesus doesn’t address some of the questions that bother us. What about the innocent children who may have been among those who died? What about those who already repented? When will unjust rulers be held accountable?
But Jesus has implicitly answered these questions, when he teaches in the preceding chapter “do not fear those who can kill the body” but rather fear the one “who has the authority to cast into hell” (Luke 12:4-5). Unlike many people today who measure everything in terms of this life, Jesus presupposes the eternal perspective, the resurrection of the dead, and the justice of God. The repentant who have died tragically will rise again and receive their reward. Everyone else who has survived to the present will not escape punishment, unless they repent.
The message of these tragedies, Jesus says, is to summon all to repent. Every human being must be converted or suffer eternal loss.
What does it mean to repent? The Greek term for repent, metanoeō, means to change one’s mind. Jesus refers to the fundamental decision to do God’s will rather than one’s own. Luke’s Gospel makes the meaning more concrete through examples. For example, in Luke 3:8-14 John the Baptist insists that repentance entails right conduct or “fruits in keeping with repentance”—specifically, renouncing wrongdoing and sharing one’s goods with the needy. The woman who wept on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair shows that repentance entails faith and receiving forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). Zacchaeus shows that repentance is marked by celebration, making amends, and extraordinary generosity, and that it results in salvation (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus teaches that it causes the angels to rejoice (Luke 15:7, 10). It is what the prodigal son does, but the elder brother refuses to do (Luke 15:18, 28). It is what the tax collectors and sinners do, but the scribes and Pharisees do not. It is what one thief does and another does not.
Jesus does not say that God directly causes these tragedies. In the case of political violence, the sinful choices of human beings are obviously responsible. In the case of natural disasters, the fallen created order that results from human sinfulness malfunctions to harm rather than serve human life (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8:20). Nevertheless, God makes use of these evils to announce a warning that can lead to salvation.
An immense wave far greater than the one that struck Japan is rushing toward the whole human race and all that we hold dear. According to Jesus, for every person the difference between eternal salvation and eternal loss is repentance. May the tragedies in Japan and the Middle East lead us repent. May they lead us to pray for, and insofar as we are able, to persuade others to repent as well.
It’s one thing to know repentance is necessary, the point of Jesus’ warning and today’s post. It’s another to show someone the way to repentance. To see the gracious way that Jesus did it, see next Sunday’s Gospel from John 4, the subject of the next post by Dr. Mary Healy. Or read the rest of Luke!