Father Linsky sends this flyer along with encouragement of strong participation by the Men’s Prayer Group.
Father Linsky sends this flyer along with encouragement of strong participation by the Men’s Prayer Group.
Bishop Baron had a slant on Wednesday’s Gospel reading from Mark 4:1-20, the Parable of the Sower, that I had never though of as being the point of the story. He suggests that the listeners were rolling their eyes at the foolishness of a farmer who would so carelessly scatter and waste precious seed and then suggests that the point Jesus was making was that God is like the farmer, scattering his seed, the Gospel, everywhere, even on those least likely to respond. In other words, the story, he suggests, is not about us, but about the Grace of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
That made me think of the focus of a homiletics class at the Lutheran seminary fifteen or so years ago. The professor often made the point that the themes of our sermons should never be “if, then” but always “because, therefore.”
If…, then… is an Old Testament theme, and Because…therefore… is a New Testament theme. Here are two covenant statements given to the people, the first through Moses, describing the OT, if…then covenant, and the second several hundred years later through the prophet Jeremiah, promising the NT, because…therefore covenant:
Exodus 19:3-6 Moses went up the mountain to God. Then the LORD called to him and said, “Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites: You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. That is what you must tell the Israelites.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they broke my covenant and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jeremiah 31:31-34 is referenced four times (Paragraphs 64, 715, 762, and 1965). These are worth reading!
64 – Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts. The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations. Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel’s salvation. the purest figure among them is Mary.
715 – The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.” St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace.
762 – The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people. Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations. But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”
1965 – The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
St. Marks Parable of the Sower gets no references in the Catechism, but the Matthew 13:3-23 version of the same parable is referenced in Paragraph 1724 about Life in Christ. The footnote for Paragraph 1724 is on the phrase about slowly bearing fruit in the Church to the glory of God.
1724 – The Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, and the apostolic catechesis describe for us the paths that lead to the Kingdom of heaven. Sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we tread them, step by step, by everyday acts. By the working of the Word of Christ, we slowly bear fruit in the Church to the glory of God.
Thanks be to God for that gift of Grace which gives us the desire and enables us to continually grow in our faithfulness to Christ and his commandments, “slowly bearing fruit in the Church to the glory of God.” God has prepared the soil and sown the seed. We are called and enabled to cooperate. Even that shows up in The Catechism.
323 – Divine providence works also through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to co-operate freely with his plans.
Fr. Linsky will be tied up in diocese meetings this week but the MPG will meet Wednesday morning, Bill Neglia leading.
The January 8th discussion centered on the Gospel Reading, 1 John 4:11-18, which begins, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another,” and goes on to say, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” That sounds like Mystical Union!” It seems to be a pretty heavy theological burden to be borne by a word we use to explain how we feel about popcorn, chocolate, fishing, baseball, and various other unimportant and non-productive indulgences.
Depending on the Bible translation used, that simple word, “love,” may be listed, with faith and hope, as one of the three theological virtues which
But, according to the Catechism, source of the four descriptors above, the three theological virtues are not faith, hope, and love but rather faith, hope, and charity! (See Catechism)
Those three theological virtues are found in the Bible in three primary texts, all words of St. Paul, inspired by The Holy Spirit. They are:
For now, ignore faith and hope and focus on the deep scriptural meaning of the greatest of the three, love. Agape is the Greek word translated love in these three passages. Here is what Strong’s Concordance says about the meaning of agape. Read more HERE.
That definition seems a bit weak given the importance of the word in the New Testament. So, how have Bible translators dealt with that Greek word agape? Bible Gateway, which is linked at this website, will generate a list of all English translations of a verse. Here is that list for 1 Corinthians 13:13. Of 59 English translations listed, agape is translated as love in 52 and as charity, consistent with wording of the three theological virtues, in the other seven.
So, why is charity the chosen translation for four King James Versions including the BRG Bible, plus the Jubilee Bible, the Wycliff Bible, and the Douay-Rheims Bible? I think the answer to that question is that those are all old translations, hundreds of years old, and were most certainly influenced by use of the Latin word caritas to translate agape in St. Jerome’s 4th century Latin Vulgate, the Latin Bible of the Catholic Church. The Douay-Rheims is not just influenced by but is an English translation of the Vulgate rather than of the original languages. The English translation of caritas is, of course, charity. So, now we know why the Catholic theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity rather than faith, hope, and love, and we can ask what that translation from agape to caritas reveals about the 1st century meaning of agape.
At this link is a good discussion of the reason for translating as caritas. It references a quote from the Latin writings of St. Augustine: I mean by charity (caritas) that affection of the mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and one’s neighbor in subordination to God;” That makes a pretty good case for the Greek to Latin switch but, in 21st century American English, charity means as little as sending a check for $20 or so to Oliver Gospel or The Salvation Army around Christmas or slipping a couple of bucks to a homeless person on the streets of Columbia, nothing like the deep meaning St. Augustine expressed. At this link is a definition and several example sentences which illustrate the full meaning of caritas.
Since our theology and salvation history begin in the ancient Hebrew Old Testament, and since the Vulgate and Septuagint were translations from Hebrew, we should pay attention to what the Old Testament teaches about the love of God. Here is a beautiful OT proclamation about God and his Love. It shows up a dozen or so times with minor wording variations:
The single Hebrew word translated steadfast love in this verse is chesed which has a suggested meaning of lovingkindness or devotion. It can be translated as gracious, merciful, kind, good, or to bend or bow oneself, but is translated in the King James Version 26 times as lovingkindness, a strong word that covers motive and action, love followed by corporal or spiritual acts of mercy. I’m going to extrapolate and suggest that since the time and culture of the early Christian Jews was the same as that of the early non-Christian Jews, agape had a similar meaning, making the translation to caritas reasonable and logical.
Does all this mean that anyone who doesn’t use an English bible that translates agape as charity in 1 Corinthians 13 misses the boat on understanding the theological meaning of love? No, there is plenty of evidence of that meaning in the fact that “God so loved (agape) the world that he gave his only Son…” That is a perfect example of love-driven action. John could have written, “God so loved the world that he hoped everybody would do OK,” but that would have been a false statement. (See James 2:14-17)
There is one potential problem with using an English Bible that translates agape as charity. If it is read from the KJV at a wedding, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity,” the guests might think they are at a fund-raiser instead of a wedding and start asking how their donation checks should be made out. At least that would mean they were taking the word seriously, if incorrectly.
Extra Credit: Why is love(charity) the greatest of faith, hope, and love(charity)?
And one final thought: Some have reversed the order of “God is love” to read “Love is god.” Not so!
We all shared memories of our own fathers and got to know each other better as a result of that discussion. Father Linsky had led us in that direction because of inclusion of Joseph in the Gospel Reading for the day. So, discussion then turned to Joseph’s role in the lives of Mary and Jesus.
End of the Genealogy of Jesus
Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah. Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
Mary & Joseph and The Birth of Jesus
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
There are three important Josephs mentioned in the Bible, Joseph, Jacob’s son, who was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, Joseph of Arimathea, wealthy and prominent citizen who claimed and buried the body of Jesus after the Crucifixion, and Joseph who was betrothed to Mary and took her into his home and was earthly father of Jesus.
At this LINK is the Catholic Online view of St. Joseph. It’s a nice summary, unfortunately cluttered up a bit with advertisements. Teaser sentence for the link: “Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.”
I continue to be impressed with the well referenced articles on Wikipedia about Bible and Religion. For what it says about modern views of Joseph by various Christian churches, click HERE and scroll down to “Modern Appraisal.”
The Eastern Orthodox and Catholic and a few other churches are in agreement on the perpetual virginity of Jesus which of course would tell us a lot about Joseph. I had never heard the position of the Orthodox Church that Joseph had earlier children, but the writers of Britannica don’t believe it has credibility and argue that, “reliable information about Joseph is found only in the Gospels.” Well, that is consistent with the quote from Catholic Online.
As we consider any issue or question about The Blessed Virgin Mary, it seems important to remember this statement, Paragraph 487, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is in the section about the Creed and the phrase, “Born of the Virgin Mary.”
587 –What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.
So, it’s all about Jesus!
Along with passages that mention “brothers” of Jesus, verse 25 in the Gospel reading seems to many to provide evidence against the Perpetual Virginity of Jesus. We have talked a few times about the meaning of “brother” in the first century Middle East, but not of the translation of Matthew 1:25.
Someone asked why the writer of Matthew used the preposition “until” in this verse since that suggests denial of (but does not actually deny) perpetual virginity. The fifth word in the verse above is the one translated “until,” and there is little controversy about that translation except for a couple of mentions.
The more interesting word is the third one, the one in the phrase translated “had no relations,” because that word. ginosko, means and is normally translated as “know.” Below is all the translation information from Strong’s Greek Lexicon. Note that the snip includes the URL where this kind of information can easily be found.
Note especially the third definition, euphemism for sexual intercourse. The word is translated that way four times in the New Testament, including in Matthew 1:25, but as forms of “know” more than a hundred times. I would find little support among Bible scholars but could argue that a better translation of Matthew 1:25 would use the third definition and would be, “He (Joseph) did not have full knowledge and understanding of her (Mary) until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Translated that way, given that full knowledge and understanding by both Joseph and Mary of who Jesus was, how Mary had been chosen and prepared, what she had done, and how Joseph had been called to help, I suspect that marital relations and more children would have been absent from the list of priorities for both Mary and Joseph and that Perpetual Virginity would have been assumed by both. One might use the phrasing of Catechism 587 to say of Joseph: What Joseph believed about Mary was based on what he believed about Christ, and the way he treated Mary illumined his faith in Christ.
This is a minor issue and not significant since we have no way to know how old Joseph was at the time of the birth of Jesus. It is interesting that he seems to have no presence after the Birth and Presentation stories so may have died before the ministry of Jesus began. Therefore, we may reasonably think of him as depicted in this 15th century painting by Guido Reni, an elderly man well past his prime.
Perpetual Virginity of Mary (PVM) is certainly not a priority of most churches today except Catholic and Orthodox. However, that seems to be an evolved and weakened position from strong belief in PVM by original 15th century reformers. Here are some interesting links for any who want to pursue the question further.
On a different subject, Rich Sayers suggested sharing this beautiful film with the group. This is what it is about. It is only about 7 minutes.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
In thinking of the meaning of these words, it is important to note that they are found only in the Gospel of Matthew, a Gospel generally recognized as addressed to a Christian community of Jews. Here are some evidences of that:
There is probably more, even enough for a Doctoral thesis or a book, but the point in all this is to better understand the words in Matthew 11:28-30. For clear and convincing evidence that the problem, the source of the burdening, is the Jewish establishment, read these words:
Matthew 23:1-11 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. 5 All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7 greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ 8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. 10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be your servant.
It seems we must conclude that Jesus is saying to “do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you” only to the extent that those things are correctly understood. Jesus seems to spend much of the Gospel explaining what that ancient Law really meant.
That is probably enough about the Gospel. What about the context within Matthew’s Gospel of these three verses of invitation and promise? Major sections of the Gospel are:
So, it seems to be not too much of a stretch to argue that the “Come to me” verses, the bold red print above, are the focal point, the primary invitation, of Matthew’s Gospel. (Remember there were no verses, chapters, or punctuation in ancient Greek writing)
Jesus has preached and sent out the Twelve with the message and it has largely been rejected. So, he issues this profound invitation and promise, a challenge to the establishment, and, from that point, conflict with the establishment increases, the Passion is foreseen, and Jesus turns his attention to instructing his followers, those who responded positively to his invitation, and building the foundation for The Church which would bring that message of rest, humility, easy yoke, and light burden to all people.
After all, the Gospels are not just bunches of words randomly assembled but are divinely inspired and carefully structured and composed by talented writers who had first-hand knowledge of Jesus and whose goal was proclamation of the Gospel.
Our 2007 Austrian vacation during Advent included a visit to Hellbrunn Palace, summer residence of the Prince-Archbishop (I don’t like political-religious titles.) and a center of Christmas celebration with a Christmas Market and very large Advent Calendar posted in the palace windows. It appears we were there on their fifth day of Advent.
There are about 9 million people in Austria, 75% identifying as Catholic, so general acceptance of Advent as a public celebration is normal. I doubt we could get away with posting these numbers on The State House in Columbia, even with the Christmas Tree in front.
That high concentration of Catholics is at least partly because between 1684 and 1731, Austria expelled their Lutherans, some of whom ended up in South Carolina and founded Wachovia Bank. Freedom of religion was not a popular concept at the time. Even though Lutheran at the time of our vacation, I still felt welcome as a spending tourist, and the information about past intolerance and persecution by Catholics did not discourage me from being received into the Catholic Church forty-two months later. Misbehavior was as common in the 16th century as now.
Pardon my digression, and back to the point, the reason for and value of observing Advent.
For me, that question has to be answered in the context of Advent as a part of the Liturgical Year, a continuous reminder of the whole story, the big picture, salvation history, from the creation through the patriarchs, the law, the prophets, the promise of and waiting for a messiah, the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension, the establishment of The Church, the Body of Christ, and the charges and instructions given to, and the early experiences of, that Church of which we are a part 2000 years later. Keeping that total picture in focus helps us avoid simplifying Christianity to a simple “me and Jesus” formula. Observance of the Liturgical Calendar forces us to pay some attention to all of Sacred Scripture, the whole story, the big picture, and our roles in it.
Father Linsky mentioned the St. Bernard sermon about the threefold coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, His coming to us now, and the final coming in glory and majesty. Here it is, 12th century wisdom, copied from the Universalis App.
So, it is not just a simple “me and Jesus” formula, but our personal relationships with Jesus are essential and life changing. I don’t think of any simpler representation of what the results of that relationship, Mystical Union with the Triune God, can be than the Virtue chart posted here earlier, the virtues and gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit keeping us away from those dangerous sins beckoning us. If we are all in, corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, joyful living, and deep love of God and neighbor may come as naturally as breathing. And, if we all, or at least most of us, have that, we may need to add Masses at The Basilica of St. Peter to accommodate the masses drawn to see what in the world is going on.
524 – When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
1095 – For this reason the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the “today” of her liturgy. But this also demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to this spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church’s liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it.
Here is one Christmas custom we don’t want to borrow from the Austrians. Krampus is to St. Nicholas as stick is to carrot. He was roaming freely around the Christmas Market looking for trouble and scaring the kids until finally confronted and defeated by “St. Nicholas” at the Cathedral.