Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dec 19 – Barren Women

Five Barren Women Blessed by God

Here is a simple chart of key points about the five once barren women we discussed and information about where to read the whole stories of them and their sons.

For most in Old Testament times, eternal life was dependent on one’s children. Descendants were key to preserving memory of a person. Even in New Testament times there was disagreement between Sadducees and Pharisees on whether there was life after death.

We also touched on modern solutions to difficulties becoming pregnant and how some of those solutions conflict with Church teaching.

And, we addressed the problem of despair, complete lack of hope, usually self focused, sometimes leading even to suicide. Remember Hope is a theological virtue. Despair, at least, didn’t make the list of capital sins, though self focus seems to be a common theme.

 

Universalis App, “Enlarged Form” of Morning Prayer, and Pope St. Leo the Great

After using the Universalis App for Morning prayer for a couple of years I discovered this morning the option for the “Enlarged Form” of morning prayer which includes the Gospel reading from Mass and readings from the Office of Readings. Here is what the first page of the “Enlarged Form” looks like on my iPad. All the little parallel horizontal bars at the right indicate options that are available. The set at the top easily allows a switch back to the standard Morning Prayer. The second set allows a choice of invitatories including a different one of the four each day.

So, if you have twenty or thirty minutes for Morning Prayer, check this out. Today it includes this from Pope St. Leo the Great who was Pope from 440 to his death in 461. Sometimes the readings are inspirational to me and sometimes not. This one is.

 

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!”