Category Archives: Uncategorized

December 5 – Advent, Season of Penitence and Preparation

Until I read today’s Mass reading from Philippians 1, I struggled with what to write about our Wednesday morning discussion of Isaiah 25. Considering all the problems in the world today, we seem to have made little progress toward that time when “fierce nations will fear God” and the “uproar of the wanton” will be quelled, a time when all peoples will enjoy  a “feast of rich food and choice wines,” when God will “wipe away the tears from all faces.” I’m inclined to agree with Jim’s comment that this must be a prophecy of the end times.

I found Father Linsky’s comments about salvation being a process and the importance of cooperation,  involving preparation, and effort, to be particularly meaningful. I think that applies to us individually and to the Church and to the whole world. And then the reading from Philippians 1 seemed to express that so well, St Paul writing to the Christians at Philippi.

Philippians 1:3-11   3 I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you,  4 praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,  5 because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.  6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.  7 It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  9 And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception,  10 to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

There are many examples in Sacred Scripture of the Catholic understanding of the process of Salvation, and these words from St. Paul seem to be an excellent example. As one on my professors at the Lutheran seminary once said,  “Don’t worry about whether you have crossed some line. Worry about the direction you are going.” Or, in the words of theologian Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

We have important roles and responsibilities, all in the general category of cooperation with the love and grace and mercy of our Triune God, in our personal faith journeys, in the ministry of the Basilica of St. Peter, and in the global witness of The Church, the Body of Christ, all in the process of preparation for that time prophesied in Isaiah 25.

Nov 28th – Revelation

I have difficulty understanding Revelation but agree with Fr. Linsky on this theologically encouraging verse: Revelation 3:20 ‘”Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. That verse is a part of a summary statement at the end of the messages to the seven churches.

Our discussion about the many strange and varied interpretations that are possible from the symbolic and apocalyptic language reminded me that in my young adulthood many believed and taught that the locusts in Revelation 9 were a prophecy of the military helicopters playing a big role in the Vietnam War.  Just Google “locusts in revelation as helicopters” to see that it is still a common interpretation. There will also be links to lots of other interesting theories, but I don’t recommend spending any time on them.

Looking for some reasonable approach to the mysterious book, I turned to the Introduction to Revelation in The Catholic Study Bible NABRE, 2nd Edition, page 1752. I found this helpful paragraph:

Certainly the Church faces many crises today including severe persecution in many parts of the world. So, while Revelation may not be helpful in trying to pin down the exact time of the Resurrection of the Dead, the messages to the churches in chapters 2 and 3 including praise, criticism, and recommendations, are timeless and helpful even now.

The letters include praise for hard work, labor, endurance, intolerance of the wicked, testing of apostles, suffering in His name, hating heresy, being faithful witnesses, loving, and serving. They include criticism of following false gods, accepting heresies, tolerating false teachers, and of lacking love and being lukewarm in the faith. Instructions to the churches for improvement include repenting, remaining faithful unto death, being watchful, holding fast to the faith, and being fearless.

It sounds like a good basis for ministry improvement of any church at any time under any circumstances.

Below is a map, courtesy of biblestudy.org, of the seven churches in Revelation.

And a final word from the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

 

 

Nov 21 – Gospel According to St. John

Below is the barely readable two-page handout we discussed covering uniqueness of The Gospel According to St. John.  There is a PDF version for downloading and printing. And, all the separate  exhibits, readable and with some explanation and comment, can be seen in my Lastofall Blog.

 

For readable versions of the above, with some comments and explanation, go to www.lastofall.net.

Or, here is a printable PDF of the handout: John Handout Nov 21

Nov. 14th – Samaritans, Obedience, and Thanksgiving

Samaritans

Here is some detail on why there were Samaritans and why the Jews, the real “Children of Israel,” didn’t trust them.

In case you can’t read the fine print above, here is what happened to the Northern Kingdom when it was defeated by the Assyrians, invaded, and occupied, resulting in mixed races, misbehavior, and false gods.

2 Kings 17:24-41 (Excerpts)  The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon…and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.  25 When they first settled there, they did not venerate the LORD…But these peoples began to make their own gods in the various cities in which they were living; in the shrines on the high places which the Samarians had made, each people set up gods…They also venerated the LORD, choosing from their number priests for the high places, who officiated for them in the shrines on the high places…Thus these nations venerated the LORD, but also served their idols. And their sons and grandsons, to this day, are doing as their fathers did.

And here is what happened to the Southern Kingdom when it was defeated by the Babylonians, the elite exiled as farmers remained and tilled the soil. Then the elite returned and rebuilt: 

2 Kings 25:1-12 (Excerpts)   …Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem, encamped around it, and built siege walls on every side…the city walls were breached… The king was therefore arrested and brought to the king of Babylon, who pronounced sentence on him…He led into exile the last of the people remaining in the city…and the last of the artisans…But some of the country’s poor (were) left behind as vinedressers and farmers.

Ezra 1:1-3 (Excerpts)   In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia…the LORD inspired King Cyrus to issue this proclamation…’All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  3 Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!

Look up the passages and read without excerpts for the whole story.

Leprosy

The Old Testament leprosy regulations occupy chapters 13 and 14 (13:1-14:57) of Leviticus. The first sentence is, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants, who shall examine the sore on his skin.” Then, after 3200 words of detailed regulations, processes, and procedures, the final sentence is, “This is the law for leprosy.” Read some of it to get a feel for why anyone determined to read the whole Bible should skip over Leviticus or at least take it in small bites.

The chart below and the following list show all references in the Bible to leprosy or lepers.

  • Exodus 4:6 – Moses gets very short term case of leprosy from God
  • Leviticus 13, 14 – The details of the law concerning leprosy (Whew!)
  • Numbers 5:2 – Reminder about the law concerning leprosy
  • Numbers 12:10 – Strange punishment of Miriam – strange short term case
  • Deuteronomy 24:8 – Reminder about the law concerning leprosy
  • 2 Samuel 3:29 – In a prayer of David for someone else
  • 2 Kings 5 – The healing of Naaman the leper
  • 2 Kings 7:3-8 – Two lepers at the gate trying to decide what to do
  • 2 Kings 15 – King Azariah dies a leper
  • 2 Chronicles 26:18-23 – King Uzziah dies a leper
  • Matthew 8, Mark 1, Luke 5 – Jesus heals a leper, tells him to keep quite and go to the priest
  • Matthew 10:8 – Jesus commands the twelve to cleanse lepers
  • Matthew 11:5, Luke 7:22 – Jesus instructs John’s disciples to tell John lepers are being cured
  • Matthew 26:6, Mark 14:3  – Jesus visits the home of Simon the leper (Dangerous?)
  • Luke 4:27 – Jesus refers to healing of Naaman of leprosy and says not all were healed
  • Luke 17 – Story of the ten cured lepers, only one giving thanks

Leprosy was a big deal in Bible times.

Naaman Has Trouble Obeying; Offers a Gift of Thanksgiving

2 Kings 5:1-14  Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper.

Now the Arameans had captured from the land of Israel in a raid a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria,” she said to her mistress, “he would cure him of his leprosy.”  Naaman went and told his lord just what the slave girl from the land of Israel had said. “Go,” said the king of Aram. “I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.

To the king of Israel he brought the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”  When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.”  Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.  The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”

But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.  Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?” With this, he turned about in anger and left.

But his servants came up and reasoned with him. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.”  1So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

The Ten Lepers Obey; One Gives Thanks

Luke 17:12-19  As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him  and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed.  And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;  and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

 Leprosy in the 20th Century – St. Damien

Turning to more modern times, here is the story of St. Damien of Molokai.

 Obeying and Obedience

Forms of obey are very common throughout the Bible but only show up once coming from the lips of Jesus:

Matthew 5:17-19  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And then Jesus condenses the commandments to two on which all the law and prophets depend. I guess that makes obedience more difficult since anything not based on love is discounted.

Matthew 22:36-40  “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.  39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

This verse uses “keep” instead of a form of obey and does not seem to be a command as much as a promise.

John 14:15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Thanksgiving

Forms of “thank” are common in the Bible. Here are the eight instances in which we find them on the lips of Jesus.

Matthew 15:36  Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.

Matthew 26:27-28  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you,  28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 8:6  6 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.

Mark 14:23-24  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Luke 22:17-18   Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;  18 for I tell you (that) from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

John 6:11  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

John 11:41-43  So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

 

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)

Reading this morning about St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, founder of 67 Catholic institutions across the USA to serve the “poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick” made me wonder who is doing such Catholic missionary work today and even whether such work is possible in today’s environment. She was the first US citizen to be designated Saint.

You can read about her at Franciscan Media, Catholic Online, and Wikipedia.

Original St. Cabrini Home in 1890

Most of the institutions she founded have ceased to operate for various reasons. One of the saddest stories is about St. Cabrini Home, founded in 1890 in West Park, NY. After serving orphans and homeless for seven decades, it was incorporated in 1959 as St. Cabrini, Inc. “which brought changes in governance.” By 2004, St. Cabrini Home had become a “facility licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.” Some unfortunate following scandalous incidents described in the linked article resulted in closure in 2011.

And, some things with which she had nothing to do were named after her, Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green for example.

Loveless solutions to extreme poverty are usually found lacking.

 

Cleansing/Replacing an Ancient Temple

The Gospel reading this morning reminded me that I had created a diagram about the history of the Jewish Temple which might as well be shared when  the opportunity arises. It goes from the Exodus to today’s conflicts over Jerusalem.

I’m sure the Bible verses are difficult to read on the slide so here they are larger. These are just teasers. Look them up and read them in context if interested.

1. King David Feels Guilty, Plans Temple, Plan Rejected

2 Samuel 7:1-17  When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,  2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent… Look it up in Bible for Rest of the Story.

2. King Solomon Builds the First Temple about 1000 BC

1 Kings 6:1-38 Excerpts:   In the four hundred and eightieth year from the departure of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, the construction of the temple of the LORD was begun.  2 The temple which King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty wide, and twenty-five high…. Look it up in Bible for the rest of the story.

3. Solomon’s Temple Destroyed by Babylonians 586 BC, People Exiled

2 Kings 25:8-12  On the seventh day of the fifth month (this was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, came to Jerusalem as the representative of the king of Babylon.  9 He burned the house of the LORD, the palace of the king, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every large building was destroyed by fire.  Look it up in Bible for the rest of the story.

4. Exile Ends and Second Temple Construction Begins

Ezra 1:1-7   In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing:  2 “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Look it up in Bible for the rest of the story.

5. Herod Rebuilds, Updates, Expands the Second Temple

6. Jesus Cleanses the Temple – John 2:13-22 (Today’s Mass Reading)

7. Temple Destroyed by Romans in 70 AD

Summary of facts from Ancient History Encyclopedia

 

Nov 7 – Loving, Hating, and Renouncing

It’s Greek to Me

I raised the Greek question with Fr. Linsky this morning so looked up the answer at home. How to do that is about all I remember from the Greek course at the seminary. Here are the Greek words translated as hate, renounce, and love, and meanings of them according to Strong’s Greek Concordance . I’m doing it as a screen shot so I don’t have to worry about figuring out how to type Greek.

Thinking about the Luke 14 verses, it may help to remember that what Jesus was saying was literally true at that time and place. There was no “church” and he was gathering up disciples and taking them with him as he taught and trained them. If they couldn’t go with him, they could not be his disciples at that time and place so they had to part with or at least say goodbye to their possessions if they wanted to take the course, so to speak.

It is interesting that the Greek word sometimes translated Hate shows up 182 times in the Old Testament and 40 in the New Testament. It is sometimes translated as dislike, despise, or be the enemy of.

For the Greek word translated Love, Father Linsky mentioned the poverty of the English language in expressions of various kinds of love. We “love” football, french fries, grandchildren, and God. The ancient Greeks had six words expressing different kinds of love, and you can read about all of them HERE. It is interesting that eros never shows up in the New Testament.

The Greek word translated Renounce shows up a half dozen times in the New Testament, and here they are, illustrating different ways the Greek word is translated.

NAB Mark 6:46 And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.
NAB Luke 9:61 And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
NAB Luke 14:33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
NAB Acts 18:18 Paul remained for quite some time, and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut because he had taken a vow.
21 but as he said farewell he promised, “I shall come back to you again, God willing.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
NAB 2 Corinthians 2:13 I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Taxation and Freedom

Early in President Obama’s first term I became very interested in and started studying and blogging about government spending and taxing and impact of same on our freedoms including religious freedom. Here are some posts I did on the subject which I hope do a better job of explaining my point than what I said during our discussion.

Married Filing Jointly

Clamoring to Concede Freedom of Religion

The Sacred Tax Deduction

The simple answer to all the issues I raise is drastically lower flat tax rates, income, property, and sales taxes, across the board, with no exemptions, deductions, exclusions, or credits.  The current high nominal rates are required because so much is excluded from taxation.

If SC, for example, eliminated all the exclusions from the Sales Tax, the rate could be lowered to around 3% and still generate the same revenue. And, with such low rate flat tax systems in place, thousands of former lobbyists and IRS employees could clamor for jobs and Congress could get to work on important national issues instead of listening to lobbyists and  tinkering with the tax code for favors, votes, and donations.

Churches benefit from fire and police protection and good streets and sidewalks and should be quite happy to pay property taxes and sales taxes at low and fair rates to support such services. And churches should never be profit-making entities so should never incur income tax bills. There is more logic behind these simplistic statements in the links above. I have come to believe that it is regrettable that we have given up so much freedom as a result of government “favors” made possible with borrowed money at the cost of burdensome national debt.

But don’t worry about my radical thinking. Such changes will never happen because it would rob Congress of too much power.

I bet you are sorry I brought it up!

The Early Years of the Catholic Church in the USA

Below is the quote I loved about early US Catholicism without support by or interference of the government. It was actually from Wikipedia rather from the very interesting book I mentioned. Here is a link to the whole article, including the sad parts that were mentioned in the discussion this morning: History of the Catholic Church in the United States

“In the nineteenth century the Church set up an elaborate infrastructure, based on dioceses run by bishops appointed by the pope. Each diocese set up a network of parishes, schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable institutions. Many priests arrived from France and Ireland, but by 1900 Catholic seminaries were producing a sufficient supply of priests.”

And then the 1960’s and 1970’s arrived.