Category Archives: Old Testament

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

#MeToo: Femininity in the Song of Songs

In the Song of Songs, the eros in Scripture, the groom, the masculine, refers to the feminine as “sister”. While this can be most disorienting to modern readers, one must read this not in terms of genetic familiality, but in terms of the family of man. We are all brother and sister to each other. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, Cain replied to the Lord. (Gen 4:9) Yes, you are. And, your sister’s, too, though your parents had no daughter. There are many sisters for whom you, man, are most certainly keeper.

“…”Thus I am in his eyes as the one who has found peace!” 319 John Paul noted that the reason for her peace is that her groom reread the language of the body in truth and therefore discovered the inviolability of her as a person. 320 While this sounds complicated, it is not. She presented herself to the eyes of the man as the “master of her own mystery.” 321 Because she is a person, no one can act on her behalf. She is free to make a gift of herself, and this freedom shows her dignity. He may not choose for her or impose his will upon her.

The groom is aware of this, as indicated by the way he speaks of her. He says, “A garden closed you are, my sister, bride, a garden closed, a fountain sealed.” 322 She is a gift to be received, not an object to be grasped. Because the bride is the “master of the intimate mystery of her own femininity,” she alone can unveil the mystery and make the gift of herself. 323 On his part, the groom is required to have purity not only in his actions, but in his intentions, so as to respect her inviolability.

Because he is conscious that she is a gift, she freely gives herself and responds by saying, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” 324 John Paul continued, “The bride knows that ‘his desire’ is for her. She goes to meet him with the readiness of the gift of self. The love that unites them is of a spiritual and sensual nature together.” 325 This demonstrates why a man cannot love a woman properly as a bride without first loving her as a sister.

After speaking about the woman being a garden locked and a fountain sealed, the love poetry progresses to what John Paul considered the closure and crowning of everything in the Song of Songs. 326 The bride declares, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death.” 327 John Paul exclaimed, “Here we reach in a certain sense the peak of a declaration of love.” 328 She opens to him because he is ready to commit his entire life to her and love her unto death…Earthly love— no matter how intoxicating— is not the ultimate fulfillment of the human heart.”

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 1552-1580, 1588). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

319 Song 8: 10; 109: 4; Cf. 110: 2.
320 Cf. TOB 110: 8.
321 TOB 110: 7.
322 Song 4: 12.
323 TOB 111: 6.
324 TOB 110: 8; Song 2: 16, 6: 3.
325 TOB 111: 5.
326 Cf. TOB 111: 6.
327 Song 8: 6.
328 TOB 111: 6.

Love,
Matthew

Creation – what Catholics MUST believe!!!


-“Adam und Eva im Paradies (Sündenfall), (Adam and Eve in paradise (The Fall)), by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533, oil on beech wood, Height: 50.5 cm (19.9 in). Width: 35.7 cm (14.1 in), Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII addressed the theory of evolution in Humani Generis, where, after noting that “caution must be used when there is … question of hypotheses” in scientific matters touching on religious truths, he wrote:

“the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter — for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.”

In addition, Catholics cannot “embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.” With these two caveats, Catholics are free to accept, partially accept or reject the theory of evolution.

http://www.dioceseofmarquette.org/UserFiles/FaithFormation/Curriculum_Materials/Appendices/Appendix1e-WhatCathBelieveAboutCreation.pdf

Catholics are required to believe:

1. The creation of all things by God at the beginning of time.
2. The special creation of man.
3. The formation of the first woman from man.
4. The unity of the human race. [Common parents]
5. The original happiness of our first parents.
6. The divine command placed upon man to prove his obedience.
7. Man’s transgression of that command at the instigation of the
devil by the serpent.
8. The fall of our first parents from the state of innocence.
9. The promise of a future redeemer.

-Pontifical Biblical Commission, 1909.

Psalm 28

To you, I call;
you are my Rock,
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if You remain silent,
I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to You for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward Your Most Holy Place.

Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back on them what they deserve.

Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord
and what His hands have done,
He will tear them down
and never build them up again.

Praise be to the Lord
for He has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise Him.

The Lord is the strength of His people,
a fortress of salvation for His anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Love,
Matthew

2 different OTs?

“One evening I had the sad duty of attending my neighbor’s funeral.

My neighbors were not religious, but apparently a local “mega-church” offered to conduct the eulogy for them. The assistant pastor from the church stood up and after a few short remarks about the deceased began to give a lengthy sermon. The first ten minutes was dedicated to how he knew that my neighbor believed in Jesus and was in heaven, so there was no need to pray for her or offer Masses or anything like that.

The next thirty minutes or so (it’s difficult to tell since it seemed like eternity) was dedicated to explaining why it doesn’t matter which church one attends—Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran—they are all the same! None of them are more correct than any other. “We all believe in the same fundamental biblical truths about Jesus,” he said, “such as the need to put our faith in Jesus…” and so on.

Speaking at a funeral must not be an easy thing to do, so I walked up to the assistant pastor to thank him. After dispensing with niceties and explaining that I am a Catholic, I said to him: “Pastor, I just want to share with you a biblical verse that has always given me comfort in times like these, the book of Wisdom, chapter 3 says, ‘But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.’”

The pastor gave me an odd look. “Book of Wisdom?” he said. “That’s not in the Bible!” To which I responded, “Well, I guess there are important differences between us.”

The assistant pastor seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Catholic and Orthodox bibles contain seven books in their Old Testament that Protestant bibles omit.

Catholics call these books the deuterocanon. Protestants, however, had rejected these books as inspired texts and call the Apocrypha.

Despite the assistant pastor’s best efforts to be non-denominational and dispel the importance of religious dogmas, he and his church actually held a very dogmatic view on which books belonged to the Bible. Going by the generic name of “Christian” didn’t release him from dogmatically committing himself to a particular doctrine on which books the Bible comprises. This position is undeniably important. Which collection or canon one adopts, whether Catholic or Protestant, will determine whether the first ten minutes of his sermon was “biblical” or a flight of fancy.

The question of which books belong to the Bible (especially the Old Testament, since Catholics and Protestant share the same New Testament books) is more fundamental of a question than anything in anyone’s theology, because theology is to be based upon divine revelation. What makes up God’s revelation, therefore, has a direct impact on one’s theology.

This is especially true for Protestants who believe in sola scriptura, which says that the Bible is the only source of Christian doctrine. It is, for nearly all Protestants, the norm that sets all norms and the standard that sets all standards: the highest court of appeal for judging all doctrine. But as we have painfully learned over the last few decades, those who are allowed to sit on the Supreme Court will affect how the court rules. This assistant pastor’s “Supreme Court” (i.e., the Bible) informed him that we should not pray for the dead, but Catholic and Orthodox bibles affirm that we should.

Each position is “biblical” given its respective Bible, but which Bible has the correct books? Which books are inspired by the Holy Spirit and which ones are mere human apocrypha? This question needs to be settled first.

How did Protestants and Catholics end up with two different Old Testaments?

Protestants claim that the Catholic Church added the seven books of the “Apocrypha” to the canon of Scripture in order to refute Protestantism. This is generally said to have occurred at the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent (April 8, 1546).

Catholics make the opposite claim; they claim that these same books were always considered inspired Scripture, but they were rejected by Protestantism because their teaching contradicts certain areas of Protestant theology.

Which is correct? Did the Catholic Church add books to the Old Testament or did Protestantism remove these books from the canon of Scripture?”

Love,
Matthew