Category Archives: Old Testament

The Bible is a Catholic Book: 400 silent years?

Many in the Protestant community discount books not found in their version of the Old Testament on the ground that there were “400 silent years” between Malachi and the ministry of Jesus.

This claim is bolstered by the assertion that there were no prophets in this period. The implication is that, without the divine inspiration given to prophets, books of Scripture couldn’t be written.

There are several problems with this assertion. One is that it isn’t clear that all the books in the Protestant Old Testament were written before 400 B.C. Even among conservative Protestant scholars, a significant body of opinion holds that some were much closer to the time of Christ.

Another problem is that an author doesn’t have to be a prophet to write Scripture. While all of the biblical authors were divinely inspired, this didn’t mean that they functioned in society as prophets. Psalms and Proverbs attribute many passages to David and Solomon, but they were kings, not prophets. The truth is, we don’t know who wrote many Old Testament books—including all the historical ones (Joshua to 2 Chronicles)—and it’s just supposition to claim that they were by prophets. We also have no evidence that New Testament authors like Mark and Luke ever received prophetic revelations.

But even if we granted that one had to be a prophet to author Scripture, we don’t have evidence that the gift of prophecy was absent in this period. Sometimes advocates of the “four hundred silent years” appeal to passages like 1 Maccabees 4:46 and 9:27 to support the claim that there were no prophets in this era, but these passages don’t show this.

The first describes how, around 164 B.C., Judah Maccabee and his men debated what to do about an altar the Gentiles had defiled. They tore it down and stored “the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.” The second refers to a few years later, when “there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.”

These passages indicate that—in the 160s B.C.—there were no prophets functioning, but that doesn’t mean that God never gave prophecies between Malachi and John the Baptist, or that Jews of the period didn’t expect new prophets. First Maccabees shows they did. Thus, in 4:46, it says that they set aside the altar stones until “there should come a prophet to tell them what to do with them.” Similarly, 1 Maccabees 14:41 states that, in 140 B.C., Simon Maccabee was made ruler of the people “until a trustworthy prophet should arise”—again indicating an expectation of further prophets, including the possibility of one arriving in the reign of Simon Maccabee.

The absence of prophets in the time of the Maccabees thus was a temporary event, and it wasn’t unprecedented. There were similar lulls in prophetic activity in other periods. First Samuel 3:1 reveals that, when the prophet Samuel was a boy, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” Yet later in his life, when Samuel anointed Saul as king, there was a band of prophets that met Saul on the road, and he himself was overcome by the Spirit and began to prophecy. Thus, it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (see 1 Sam. 10:9-12).

Another prophetic lull is mentioned during the Babylonian Exile. Psalm 74, which records the destruction of the temple (vv. 4-7), says, “We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet” (v. 9). Similarly, Lamentations 2:9 describes events following the destruction of the temple by saying Zion’s “prophets obtain no vision from the Lord.” Yet neither passage indicates that the age of Old Testament prophecy was closed, for prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were active during the Exile. Neither do these prophetic lulls indicate Scripture couldn’t be written, for both passages are part of Scripture!

Even in a prophetic lull, God could give revelation, as in the case of the previous two passages. Similarly, in the time of the Maccabees, Judah Maccabee himself received a revelation (2 Macc. 15:11-16), though he didn’t function as a formal prophet.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book: Protestant & Catholic Bibles

Oral Torah


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“Q. Our Protestant friends often speak of “the word of God” as if it was limited to just the Bible. Is that true?

Jimmy: No. The Bible speaks of the “word of God” as being several different things. It certainly includes the Bible, but it also includes the word of God communicated to people orally—in the form of Tradition, as when the apostles preached the word to people before the New Testament was written, or when the prophets preached God’s word before any book of Scripture was written. The ultimate Word of God is Jesus himself, so we can’t limit the word of God to just the Bible.

Q. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for “making void the word of God” by their tradition. Does that mean all Tradition is bad?

Jimmy: Just because one group misuses tradition doesn’t mean that all tradition is bad. Elsewhere, the New Testament speaks highly of the traditions that come from the apostles, and it commands Christians to honor them whether they are written in the Bible or not. The tradition of the Pharisees isn’t binding on us, but the Tradition of the apostles is!

Q. Our Protestant friends say we should base our doctrine on “Scripture alone.” What’s wrong with this idea?

Jimmy: A big problem is that, if we have to prove every doctrine “by Scripture alone” or sola scriptura then we’d have to prove this doctrine in the same way. But we can’t. There are no verses that say or imply that we should prove every doctrine by Scripture alone. That makes sola scriptura a self-refuting doctrine.

Q. Some anti-Catholics say that the Catholic Church “hates” the Bible and tried to keep it from the people. How can we reply to that?

Jimmy: If the Catholic Church “hated” the Bible, then it wouldn’t have laboriously hand-copied Bibles in the long centuries before the invention of the printing press. Further, the monks wouldn’t have made the beautiful, illuminated Bibles, whose pages they literally covered in gold by applying gold leaf to the illustrations to honor God’s word.

Q. When were the Gospels written? Are they late documents written long after the life of Jesus?

Jimmy: As biblical scholarship has progressed, the dates for the Gospels have been steadily rolled back. You no longer have scholars saying they were written a hundred or more years after Jesus. Today, virtually all scholars acknowledge that they were all written in the first century, and the best evidence indicates that they were written between about A.D. 55 and 65—only around twenty to thirty years after Jesus’ ministry.

Q. Did all Jews in Jesus’ day honor the same books as Scripture?

Jimmy: No. Different groups of Jews had different opinions about which books were sacred, and most did not have a single, closed list or “canon” of biblical books. The precise boundaries of the Old Testament continued to be debated in Jewish circles for centuries.

Q. Why does the Bible contain the books that it does? How did we get the exact list of books it has today?

Jimmy: God guided the Church, over the course of centuries, to recognize certain books and not others as being written expressions of his word. On the human level, this was done through the teachings of the Magisterium—the popes and the bishops. The Catholic Church thus played a crucial role in identifying the books of the Old and New Testaments.

Q. Why do our Protestant friends have smaller Bibles?

Jimmy: Martin Luther and other early Protestant leaders rejected certain Catholic teachings, such as purgatory, which is strongly supported in the Old Testament book 2 Maccabees. They therefore appealed to the European Jews of their day, who didn’t honor 2 Maccabees and certain other books as Scripture. They thus removed certain books from the Protestant Bible that Christians had historically regarded as Scripture.

Q. Bottom line: Why is the Bible a Catholic book?

Jimmy: The Bible is a Catholic book because the New Testament was written by Catholics, because the Catholic Church determined which books belong in the Bible, and because the Catholic Church preserved and published the books of the Bible by hand-copying them down through the centuries. The Bible is a gift that God gave to the world through the Catholic Church.”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Scripture

“Jesus and the apostles did appeal to Scripture, and we should mention how the term was used in Jesus’ day. The Greek word graphê originally just meant writing, especially a brief piece of writing, but in Jewish and Christian contexts it came to mean a holy writing, which is why it is often translated scripture.

Today we use this term to refer to the entire collection of holy books, saying things like, “Scripture contains the Old and the New Testaments.” But in the first century, when the term was used in the singular, it normally referred to a specific book or passage. Thus, in Mark 12:10, Jesus says:

Have you not read this scripture: “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?

The passage Jesus is quoting (“this scripture”) is Psalm 118:22-23. By contrast, when people wanted to refer to all the holy writings as a group, they used the plural: “the scriptures.” Thus, Jesus tells his Sadducee critics they are wrong, “because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).

Christians initially used this term for writings composed in the Old Testament period, for these were the only holy books at the time. Even when they began writing the books of the New Testament, they used “the scriptures” as a technical term for the earlier holy books.

There are a few exceptions, such as when Paul refers to Luke’s Gospel as “scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18; see Luke 10:7) or when Peter lists Paul’s letters alongside “the other scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:16), but referring to the books of the New Testament as “Scripture” really didn’t catch on until the second century.

Jesus overturned many common religious ideas of in his day, but he didn’t challenge the authority of Scripture. As the incarnate Word of God, he acknowledged the authority of the written word. Thus, he declared, “Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17); and, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

Jesus saw his ministry as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. At the Triumphal Entry, Jesus rode a young donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 (see John 12:14-15); and when he was arrested, he declared, “All this has taken place, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56). Following the Resurrection, he spoke with two disciples, and “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

The Scriptures Jesus Accepted

If Jesus saw his ministry as the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures, which ones did he have in mind?

In the Gospels, he commonly refers to “the Law” and “the prophets” (e.g., Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13). This was a common way of referring to the whole of the Old Testament, though it doesn’t tell us which specific books he saw it including.

From the evidence of the Gospels, we can tell Jesus placed more emphasis on certain books than others. The ones he quoted from most were Psalms, Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Isaiah. Depending on how you reckon what counts as a passage, he quotes fifteen passages from the Psalms, eleven from Deuteronomy, eight from Exodus, and seven from Isaiah.

The large number of quotations from Deuteronomy and Exodus are to be expected, given the prominence of the Pentateuch in Jewish thought, and it’s no surprise he also quotes from Genesis, Leviticus, and Numbers. When it comes to the prophets, Jesus quotes not only from Isaiah but also from Jeremiah and Daniel, as well as several minor prophets (Hosea, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi).

Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow us to say precisely which books he regarded as Scripture. The Gospels are only partial records of his words and actions, and the fact that they don’t record him quoting a book doesn’t mean that he never quoted it or didn’t regard it as Scripture.

When scholars commonly believed there was a “Palestinian canon” that all Palestinian Jews accepted, it was easy to claim—based on where He lived—that Jesus simply accepted that one. But as scholarship has advanced, it’s become clear there were multiple, fuzzy canonical traditions even in Palestine.

It’s likely Jesus accepted more books than the Sadducees. When they challenged Him on the resurrection of the dead (Matt. 22:23-32), he conspicuously used Exodus 3:6 (“I am the God . . . of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”) to prove that the dead will one day rise, though there are much clearer passages, such as Daniel 12:2 (“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”). Jesus elsewhere cites Daniel as a prophet (Matt. 24:15) and quotes from his book (Matt. 24:30; 26:64). This indicates that Jesus treated Daniel as Scripture, and He probably avoided using it with the Sadducees because they didn’t accept it.

Some have tried to shed light on which books Jesus accepted by appealing to the languages he spoke. From various Aramaic words and phrases in the Gospels (see Mark 3:17; 5:41; 15:34), it’s clear Jesus’ daily language was Aramaic. When he quoted Scripture, he likely did so in Aramaic, based on the targums read in the synagogues. But it’s also likely he used Hebrew, and some have argued he would have accepted a book as Scripture only if it was in Hebrew or Aramaic—excluding the deuterocanonical books.

There are several problems with this argument. One is that modern scholarship has shown most of the deuterocanonicals were actually written in Hebrew or Aramaic. These include Sirach, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, and 1 Maccabees, so language would not prevent Jesus from accepting them.

Also, Greek was an international language at the time, and it was spoken in Palestine. Modern scholars have taken seriously the idea that Jesus and his disciples may also have used Greek. In the Gospels, Jesus speaks to Gentiles on various occasions (e.g., Matt. 8:38-34; Mark 7:26), including the Roman governor (Matt. 27:11), who would not have known Aramaic; and a group of Greeks asked Philip to arrange an audience with Jesus for them (John 12:20-22).

We also have evidence that Jesus read and valued some of the deuterocanonicals. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus made a single petition contingent on our own actions rather than simply being a request made to God. He taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12), following it up by saying, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Scholars have noted that this expresses the same teaching found in Sirach 28:1-5, but not present elsewhere in the Old Testament. Thus, Sirach states, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sir. 28:2).”

Love,
Matthew

Revelation 22:18-19

“Catholic Bibles are bigger than Protestant ones. The Catechism teaches that the canon of Scripture includes “forty-six books for the Old Testament (forty-five if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and twenty-seven for the New” (120). Although Protestants agree with Catholics on the books that make up the New Testament, there are seven books in the Catholic Old Testament canon that they reject: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. They also reject portions of the books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these seven books as the deuterocanonical (second-canon) books and Protestants call them the Apocrypha.

You may run across a Protestant who rejects the deuterocanonical books because he thinks the Catholic Church added these books, in violation of John’s prohibition to add to the Bible:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19).

John says not to add to Scripture, yet the Catholic Church literally added seven whole books and more!

Reply:

1. If we granted for argument’s sake that John here is referring to the entire canon of Scripture, then Protestants would be guilty for removing the deuterocanonicals.

If we suppose that John is talking about the biblical canon (the list of all the books that make up the Bible) in Revelation 22:18-19, then the challenge becomes a two-edged sword. A Protestant may argue that the Catholic Church added books to the Bible, but a Catholic can just as easily argue that the Protestant community took some books away.

The seven books found in the Catholic Old Testament that are not found in the Protestant Old Testament were widely held as Scripture all throughout Christian history, and it was not until the Protestant Reformation that their canonicity was called into question and rejected on a major scale.

Prior to the Reformation, some individuals did question the canonicity of these books, but for the most part Christians as a whole accepted them. Numerous fourth and fifth-century Church councils authoritatively declared them to be inspired: the Synod of Rome (A.D. 382), Council of Hippo (393), Third Council of Carthage (397), and Sixth Council of Carthage (419). Protestant scholar J.N.D. Kelly affirms the major consensus on these books in the early Church: “For the great majority, however, the deuterocanonical writings ranked as Scripture in the fullest sense.”

Such historical evidence makes this challenge difficult for a Protestant. If Revelation 22:18-19 refers to the canon, then the prohibition of “taking away” from it is just as strong as the prohibition of adding to it. So how can Protestants reject seven books from the Bible when Revelation 22:18-19 forbids it?
2. This passage is not even discussing the canon of Scripture but merely the book of Revelation.

These verses, however, don’t even refer to the entire Bible. The Greek word use here for book, biblion, can mean “small book” or “scroll.” In the ancient world, it was impossible to fit the entire Bible on a single scroll. The books of the Bible were originally individual compositions, such as an individual scroll, and the biblical canon as we know it was a collection of individual scrolls, a library of books. That’s why they’re called the “books” (plural) of the Bible. These books would not be put into a single volume until centuries later.

Therefore, it makes most sense to read the phrase “book of this prophecy” as referring to the scroll in which John is recording his prophecy, namely, the book of Revelation. As such, John’s instruction not to add or remove anything refers to the book he was writing—Revelation—and not the future canon of Scripture (which wouldn’t be authoritatively settled for centuries after).

A similar instruction is given is Deuteronomy 4:2, where Moses says, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Moses wasn’t referring to the whole Old Testament canon; otherwise we would have to side with the Sadducees and reject every Old Testament book outside the Pentateuch. He was merely prohibiting adding or taking away from the “statutes and the ordinances” that constitute the Mosaic Law.

Since we now know that John was not giving instructions concerning the biblical canon, but instructions governing the book of Revelation (don’t add to the prophetic text of Revelation and don’t take away from it), it becomes clear that Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t undermine the Catholic canon, regardless of whether the Catholic Church added books to the biblical canon or Protestants subtracted from it. Of course, we must not add to or subtract from the canon of Scripture. But that is not what John is talking about in this passage.

Reply: How could John be referring to the entire biblical canon in Revelation 22:18-19 when the canon wouldn’t be settled for another several hundred years?

Consider: Your Protestant friend might argue that because the New Testament doesn’t quote any of the deuterocanonical books we have good reason to exclude them from the canon of Scripture. This is common among some Protestants. But this logic would demand that we also exclude from the canon Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, Nahum, Joshua, Obadiah, and Zephaniah, since the New Testament doesn’t quote any of these. I don’t think your Protestant friend wants to make his biblical canon any smaller!”

Love,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book – Hebrew Scriptures

“Scholars frequently discuss a concept known as the canon of Scripture.

This is based on the Greek word kanôn, which means a rule or measuring rod. It came to mean an authoritative standard, and so the canon of Scripture is the collection of writings that are divinely authoritative.

The Pentateuch was the first authoritative collection of books. These books tell how the people of Israel came to be, as well as God’s law for Israel, so they became the core books of Scripture for his people, and thus the first part of the biblical canon.

The importance of these books is indicated by their name in Hebrew. They are called the Torah—a word meaning “instruction.” They contain the fundamental instructions God gave Israel. Later, when the Old Testament was translated into Greek, they became known as the Law (Greek, nomos) which is why they’re referred to as the Law of Moses.

They became an authoritative collection early. This is shown by the fact that the Samaritans have their own Pentateuch.

The Samaritans are descended from the ten northern tribes of Israel. They seceded and formed their own nation around 930 B.C., resulting in the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. They were conquered by the Assyrians around 723 B.C., and many were deported, but there is still a community of Samaritans in Israel. They worship Yahweh, the God of Israel, though they do so on Mt. Gerizim, in their own territory, rather than in Jerusalem.

They have a version of the Torah—known as the Samaritan Pentateuch—that includes the same books as the Jewish one and differs only in minor details. This indicates that it has an early date and was considered authoritative—canonical—from early times. It’s also significant because the Samaritans accept as canonical only the five books of Moses. They don’t accept the other books of the Old Testament, which suggests that the Pentateuch was the first group to be canonized, and the canon gradually expanded after this time.

New Books of Scripture Composed

The ten centuries leading up to the time of Christ were an active period. It was when the Old Testament took shape.

The Pentateuch ends with the death of Moses, and the story of what happened next is continued in a series of historical books. The first—Joshua—tells of the conquest of the promised land. The book of Judges then records how God repeatedly delivered his people from oppression through a series of divinely chosen military leaders. Ruth focuses on the life of a woman who was an ancestor of Israel’s most famous king, David.

Israel’s history continues in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Each of these was originally a single book, but they are divided in two in modern Bibles.

The books of Samuel tell the story of the last of Israel’s judges, how the monarchy was established under King Saul, and how it was passed to King David.

The books of Kings cover the final stage of David’s life and how Solomon succeeded him. Following Solomon’s time, the nation split in two, with the ten northern tribes seceding and forming the kingdom of Israel, leaving the southern tribes as the kingdom of Judah. The story of these two kingdoms is then related, until Israel is conquered and deported by the Assyrian empire around 723 B.C. and Judah is conquered and deported by the Babylonian empire around 587 B.C., beginning the Babylonian Exile.

The books of Chronicles cover the same period as the books of Samuel and Kings, but they focus on the southern kingdom and provide a supplemental theological perspective on the events.

Ezra and Nehemiah—which were originally one book—cover events after the Babylonian Exile and deal with the people’s return to the land of Judah and the rebuilding of the temple.

Esther also deals with the Babylonian Exile, and it is often grouped with the historical books. However, according to Pope St. John Paul II, this book has “the character of allegorical and moral narrative rather than history properly so called” (General Audience, May 8, 1985).

God also began to inspire what are known as wisdom books. They are devoted to philosophical reflection and the worship of God. The book of Job is a meditation on human suffering, while Ecclesiastes is devoted to the quest for meaning in life. The Song of Solomon celebrates the love of man and woman, and Proverbs offers practical advice for daily living. By far the longest wisdom book is Psalms, which is a collection of hymns.

The final type of book God inspired in the Old Testament period is prophetic. Several of these books are significantly longer than the others, so they are known as the major prophets. They consist of Isaiah, Jeremiah (together with the short book of Lamentations), Ezekiel, and Daniel. These prophets all related to the Babylonian Exile in one way or another.

By contrast, the minor prophets are generally shorter. There are twelve such books, and they were originally collected in a single volume called the Twelve. However, in Christian Bibles they are listed separately. The minor prophets lived between the 800s and 400s B.C., meaning they covered the period both before and after the Babylonian Exile.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 7 – Fourth Commandment: Honor thy Mother & thy Father


Sts Monica & Augustine, by Ary Scheffer, (1846), please click on the image for greater detail.

Today happens to be my late parents’ historical anniversary, and my late mother’s historical birthday.  It has always been a special day in my family.  Little did I know the Dominicans are required by their constitutions to remember deceased parents on this day.  Praise Him!!!!


-by Br Irenaeus Dunleavy, OP

““I told them I was pulling the fourth.”

A wise father once shared with me that the fourth commandment—honor thy father and mother—is a trump card he holds up his sleeve. He pulls it out when his children need to hear it. A stubborn teenager or a young adult know that Dad means business when the precept sounds. Sometimes the pater familias has to lay down the law for the good of the family.

Today, the Order of Preachers pulls the fourth on us friars. The Constitutions state:

Mass of the Dead shall be celebrated in each convent on 7 February for the anniversary of fathers and mothers (LCO 70.II).

St. Thomas teaches us that we can never repay our parents for everything they’ve done for us. They’ve given us life, nourishment, and instruction. In many ways, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. Existence, health, and (for many of us) the faith … our parents generously bestow all of these to us.

Honoring our father and mother is an act of justice, but it is also an act of charity. More than just repaying a debt, fulfilling this commandment fosters gratitude for something we could never earn. The love that our parents have given us comes first, and we are called to respond. The parallel to the love of God is evident, and this is why the fourth commandment straddles between the commandments concerning love of neighbor and love of God.

For those who have suffered the loss of a parent, a temptation can sink in that the time for the fourth no longer applies. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and there’s a more profound reason than mere obligation.

Saint Augustine says that we are bound to love all, but cannot do good to all. Our limitations require us to perform acts of mercy in a selective way, and this begins with mom and dad. The filial bond we share with our parents orders our love, and death does not change that bond. Our love, thanks be to Jesus Christ, can pierce through the dark cloud of death.

There is no better example of this than the mother of St. Augustine, St. Monica. On her death-bed, she too pulled the forth on her son:

“Bury my body wherever you will, do not be concerned about that. One thing only I ask you [Augustine], that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.” (Confessions, 9.11.27).

Love, praise for holy parents, especially my own,
Matthew

“Repent!!! And believe in the Gospel!!!” – Mk 1:15


-by Br Philip Nolan, OP

“While our human judgment suffers from a deep fallibility, God’s judgment is subject to no such imperfection. Throughout the Sacred Scriptures, God asks His prophets to go and report to people that He will judge them. Jonah goes to the Ninevites. Elijah tells king Ahab that “the dogs shall lick up [his] blood” for his crimes (1 Kgs 21:19). John the Baptist demands that the Jewish people repent for their sins. These are not instances of fallible human judgment. Rather, God uses human agents to proclaim to His people the reality of His judgment, in order to try to convince the wayward to change. Divine judgment is coming. Now is the time for repentance.

Jesus, too, demands repentance, but He makes an explicit promise. “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). The kingdom of God, expanded upon by Jesus in so many parables throughout the Gospels (the pearl of great price, mustard seed, treasure hidden in a field), is the promise of a life governed by God, ordered by God, healed by God—a life with God. It is that which makes our earthly lives worth living as they become mysteriously entwined with eternity.

We have repented, we continue to repent, and we must also preach repentance. This is not always comfortable, but it is essential. We may be accused of being judgmental, but more properly we are relaying the reality of God’s judgment. The world needs to know that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Time is short. We must live with urgency. The kingdom is here, the king is here: Rejoice, repent. Our God is merciful: “for He wounds, but He binds up; He smites, but His hands give healing” (Job 5:18). Turn from your delusions, your belief that your desires and your will provide you grounds from which to critique God and His law. Live in freedom. Repent. See the great gift held out to you. Reject what causes you to reject this gift. It is not too late, now is the time.”

Love, myself repenting first & foremost, 1 Cor 15:9,
Matthew

I seek not My own glory – Jn 8:50

“I honor My Father…. I seek not My own glory.”
“I receive not glory from men.”
(John 8:49, 50; John 5:41)

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, increase within me Your love and Your zeal for the glory of the Father; teach me to despise all personal glory and to flee from it.

MEDITATION

“Jesus ever sought His Father’s glory, and to this end He chose for Himself utter humiliation, even to becoming “the reproach of men and the outcast of the people” (cf Psalm 22:7). Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary—the three great stages of the humble, hidden life of Jesus, in which He veiled His glory as the Son of God. Even during His public life, when His divinity was more openly manifested, Jesus tried to flee as much as possible from human glory. Many times after performing a miracle, He imposed silence on those who had witnessed it. He forbade the three Apostles who had been present at the Transfiguration “to tell any man what things they had seen, till the Son of Man shall be risen again from the dead” (Mark 9:8). After the first multiplication of the loaves, “when He knew that they would come to take Him by force and make Him king [He] fled again into the mountain Himself alone” (John 6:15).

The glory of Jesus lies in the fact that He is the Son of God; He desires no other glory. It is as though He would relinquish this essential glory by accepting any other. Therefore He said: “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father that glorifieth Me” (John 8:54). Jesus knows that after His death He will be glorified and acknowledged as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, but He desires that even this glory may be for the glorification of His Father: “Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee” (John 17:1).

COLLOQUY

O Lord, give me Your love for Your Father’s glory, so that I too, wretched and poor though I am, may serve my God in some small way and give Him glory.

“May it be Your pleasure, my God, that the time may come when I shall be able to pay at least a small part of the immense debt I owe You; do You ordain it, Lord, according to Your pleasure, that I may in some way serve You. There have been others who have done heroic deeds for love of You; I myself am capable of words only; and therefore, my God, it is not Your good pleasure to test me by actions. All my will to serve You amounts to nothing but words and desires, and even here I have no freedom, for it is always possible that I may fail altogether. Strengthen and prepare my soul, Good of all good, my Jesus, and then ordain means whereby I may do something for You, for no one could bear to receive as much as I have and pay nothing in return. Cost what it may, Lord, permit me not to come into Your presence with such empty hands, since a man’s reward must be according to his works! O Lord, here is my life, my honor, and my will! I have given it all to You; I am Yours; dispose of me according to Your desire. Well do I know, Lord, how little I am capable of, but keep me near You. I shall be able to do all things, provided You do not withdraw from me. If You should withdraw, for however short a time, I should go where I have already been—namely, to hell” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 21).

Make me understand, O Lord, that if I wish to work for Your glory and the glory of Your Father, I must be entirely detached from every desire for personal glory; otherwise I shall deceive myself, thinking that I am working for You, whereas in reality I am but serving my own ego.

You know, O Jesus, that herein lies the greatest danger for me, that which I fear most in my good works, especially in the works of my apostolate. Therefore, I beg You, Lord, to use every means to save me from it. And if this requires humiliations, failure, criticism, use them, and use them abundantly. Do not consider my repugnance, pay no attention to my tears, for I do not want to lessen Your glory or ruin Your works by my pride.”

Love & His glory,
Matthew

The Wicked & the Good Shepherd


-“The Bad Sheperd”, by Jan Brueghel the Younger, circa 1616, oil on panel, 73.7 × 104.8 cm (29 × 41.2 in), please click on the image for greater detail


-cf Br Damian Day, OP

“The prophets inveighed against those wicked shepherds “who destroy and scatter the flock of [the Lord’s] pasture” (Jer. 23:1). Such shepherds failed to care for the sheep who “were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts…No one looked after them” (Ez. 34:5-6). The sheep who follow such shepherds find themselves lost and perishing.

Following wicked shepherds, lost sheep become wicked sheep, trusting in themselves and sharing in the lot of the wicked:

“This is the lot of those who trust in themselves,

who have others at their beck and call.

Like sheep they are driven to the grave,

where death shall be their shepherd.” (Ps. 49: 13-14)

Death is the shepherd of the wicked. For it was the wicked “who with hands and words invited death, considered it a friend, and pined for it, and made a covenant with it” (Wis 1:16). To follow wicked shepherds—or to trust in yourself as your own shepherd—is to make death your shepherd.”

“O Lord, You are my Shepherd, I shall not want; You make me lie down in green pastures, You lead me to the water of refreshment, You convert my soul and lead me on the paths of justice. Even though I walk in the ravines, in the dark valleys, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff are my comfort. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over” (cf. Psalm 23). O Lord, my Good Shepherd, what more could You have done for me that You have not done? What could You have given to me that You have not given? You willed to be my food and drink. What more delightful and salutary, nourishing and strengthening pasture could You have found than Your own Body and Blood?

O good Lord Jesus Christ, my sweet Shepherd, what return shall I make to You for all that You have given me? What shall I give You in exchange for Your gift of Yourself to me? Even if I could give myself to You a thousand times, it would still be nothing, since I am nothing in comparison with You. You, so great, have loved me so much and so gratuitously, I who am so small, so wicked and ungrateful! I know, O Lord, that Your love tends toward the immense, the infinite, because You are immense and infinite. Please tell me, O Lord, how I ought to love You.

My love, O Lord, is not gratuitous, it is owed to You…. Although I cannot love You as much as I should, You accept my weak love. I can love You more when You condescend to increase my virtue, but I can never give You what You deserve. Give me then, Your most ardent love by which, with Your grace, I shall love You, please You, serve You, and fulfill Your commands. May I never be separated from You, either in time or in eternity, but abide, united to You in love, forever and ever.” (-Ven. R. Jourdain).

Love,
Matthew

Law & Grace


-by A. David Anders, PhD

“The most contentious issue in the Western theological tradition has been the relationship of law and grace.  In the second century, Marcionites stressed grace so much that they completely rejected the Old Testament and what they took to be the God of “law.”  In the third and fourth centuries, the Roman priest Novatian1 Novatian2 and the British monk Pelagius emphasized law and morality to the point of eliminating grace. In the sixteenth century, nothing was more divisive than Martin Luther’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Luther rejected the Catholic tradition with its supposed emphasis on “works.”

The roots of these conflicts are not hard to find. St. Paul took up the relationship of law and grace in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. The apostles and elders treated the question definitively in the first Church council, described in Acts 15. In these sacred texts, we read about the struggle between Hebrew Christians who adhered to the law and Gentiles who came to Christ without the Mosaic Law.  The record of this episode in Scripture guarantees that law and grace will always be a part of the Christian’s theological lexicon.

The first Christian conflicts over law and grace took place in a context far removed from subsequent Church history. The first disciples were mostly Jews from Galilee and Judea. Hellenic Jews from the diaspora quickly joined their ranks, and early Gentile converts came from among the proselytes to Judaism. (The Gentile “God fearers” were those who accepted Jewish belief but did not submit to circumcision or practice the full range of Jewish law.) St. Paul preached mostly in synagogues to Jews and to “God fearing” Gentiles.

The overwhelmingly Jewish character of early Christianity posed a difficulty. Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition demanded the separation of Jews and Gentiles.  The Christian gospel aims emphatically at their reconciliation. The key theological question for early Christians was, “Are Jews and Gentiles reconciled by their mutual adherence to the Law of Moses or simply by their mutual faith in Christ?” Paul’s answer was categorical:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances. (Ephesians 2:13-15)

From context, it is plain that Paul has in mind The Law of Commandments and Ordinances that had created a barrier between Jew and Gentile. In other words, Christ destroyed the Mosaic Law in order to reconcile Jew and Gentile through faith.

In Luther’s day, the question of Gentile circumcision was no longer pressing. As such, Luther operated within a totally different theological context.  He misread St. Paul as a result. For Luther, the rejection of law meant the rejection of morality as the path to reconciliation to God. For Paul, however, it is precisely on the path of morality that the way of salvation is open to Jew and Gentile alike.  “Is God the God of Jews only,” Paul asks, “or of Gentiles too?” (Romans 3:29) It is when Gentiles “who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires. . . They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts.” (Romans 2:14-15)  Thus, God will give eternal life to everyone who does good, first to the Jew but also to the Greek. (Romans 2:7-8)

Where does grace fit into the picture? For St. Paul, the Mosaic Law cannot compel true righteousness. It can prescribe and enforce external ritual and behavior, but law alone does not change the human heart. Real righteousness is a matter of love – the love of God and neighbor (Romans 13:8) – and not simply following a list of ritual prescriptions. And where does love come from? It is the gift of grace. Christ lays down His life for us. We grasp that through faith. With the help of the Holy Spirit, it elicits our loving response.

Shakespeare has a beautiful line: “How can I hold thee but by thy granting?” True love cannot be compelled by law. It can only be elicited by the free gift of oneself. This is the real meaning of the opposition between law and grace. The gospel does not do away with the objective demands of morality. Nor does it rule out morality as the mode of our union with God. (Jesus says that if we love Him and keep His commands, then He will come and dwell with us. — John 14:23) What the gospel promises instead is the gift of love. Through Christ, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5) By faith, therefore, and not by ritual prescription, we receive the grace necessary to live the law of love.”

Love,
Matthew