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Sept 11, 2019

On this 18th anniversary of the event, Father Linsky asked how we were changed as a result of the September 11 attacks.

On that Tuesday morning, I was playing golf at Windermere Golf Course on Longcreek Plantation near Blythewood. One of the tee boxes was at the home of one of the men in our foursome, and, as we prepared to tee off, his wife came running from their house yelling, “We are under attack in New York City!”  Well, that certainly put a damper on the golf for that day.

I rushed home, only a mile or two away, and found Karen glued to the TV and on the phone with our son, Greg, who was living and working in Manhattan. All he and his co-workers knew was that there were lots of sirens in the streets and smoke from lower Manhattan, and he was relaying information from Karen to his co-workers about the attack and the falling of the towers.

I told her to find out where he could walk out of the city so I could get in the car and drive up there and meet him and bring him home. That is how serious it looked at that moment.

I don’t remember any particulars of the next seven days, except that Greg soon assured us that the attack was limited to the WTC and that he was fine and did not need to be evacuated. And I am pretty sure that one week later I was back on the golf course since that was our important and regularly scheduled Tuesday game. Saturday was an important golf day also, but I don’t know if I played on September 15th. I suspect I did.

About a year later, I began reducing my golfing activity and started classes at the Lutheran seminary, but, no, I apologize for a disappointing and anticlimactic ending, but I am not claiming that 9/11 had anything to do with that lifestyle change.

But, whatever the reason, I am thankful that I have not spent two days per week on the golf course for the past 18 years. That would have been a lot of golf, and I would probably have remained a sorry golfer and would have been too tired to do anything else worthwhile.

But, back to the original question, here is a short video about a Catholic priest, Father Judge, and a New York City fire fighter, Tom Colucci, for whom everything changed as a result of 9/11.

A Christian Nation?

As we were sharing thoughts this morning, the following questions went through my mind:

  1. Can the USA be reasonably considered a “Christian Nation?”
  2. Should the USA be considered a “Christian Nation?”
  3. Given that several Middle Eastern nations are clearly and proudly Islamic, is it reasonable that uninformed citizens there consider the USA a “Christian Nation?”
  4. Is there enough evidence to convict us of being a “Christian Nation?”
  5. Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appropriate “Christian” responses to the 911 attacks?

I wonder how our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,  would have The Church, the Body of Christ, respond to such as THIS.

Loving the Enemy

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is very informative about what the relationship between Christians and Muslims should be. The first two sentences shed some light on where this story is going because Jews would often avoid Samaria, enemy territory, when traveling from Judea to Galilee. So maybe the reason Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” was theological and not geographical. We can be sure that the Apostle John did not use that phrase lightly. You can read the whole beautiful story HERE.

If you wonder about the original language and whether it was translated accurately, it is always helpful to look at a list of the English translations of the verse to see if some translated it differently. You can easily create such as list as HERE. It is interesting that only two of these leave out the necessity angle and those two, VOICE and PHILLIPS, are not translations but paraphrases, so, beware of paraphrases. Message (MSG) is a paraphrase also, but it includes the necessity of passing through Samaria. Here is the Greek word.

And, by the way, here is an earlier post on why the Jews and Samaritans were at odds.

Disciples, Apostles, Bishops, and Sacred Tradition


A Japanese Erhu

About a dozen years ago in Tokyo, Karen and I visited Jin Nakamura, a friend from the MIT Sloan Class of 1990. Jin had learned to play the erhu, a beautiful ancient Japanese musical instrument and, during our visit to his home, demonstrated it for us.

We asked how and why he had learned. He said he had heard a master play the instrument and was so impressed and inspired that he went to that master and asked to be his disciple.

I remember that conversation clearly because it clarified what it means to be a disciple. I don’t know how Jin was doing in the eyes of the “master,” but he played beautifully and impressed us. It was clear that, to Jin, being a disciple meant focus,  serious study, and hard work leading to new skills and knowledge.

Disciples and Apostles in The New Testament

Today Father Linsky talked about 21st Century Church structure and how that is related to the disciples and apostles of the New Testament. Both get lots of mentions in the New Testament, apostle or messenger mostly by St. Luke in Acts and by St. Paul in 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Maybe apostle was not commonly spoken during the ministry of Jesus and his search for good messengers but had become common by the time  the Gospel was written by Luke and St. Paul addressed the Corinthians.

The Greek word translated disciple, pupil, or follower is found only in the Gospels and Acts and in none of the Epistles.

Here is some more information for those interested in the language issues. It may help to remember that all NT apostles were disciples but not all disciples were apostles.

A Few Interesting Uses of “Disciple” in the NT:

Some Disciples Had Distractions
Matthew 8:18-23
 When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of (his) disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” He got into a boat and his disciples followed him.

John the Baptist Also Had Disciples but no Apostles
Matthew 9:14
 Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?” (See also Matthew 11:2, 14:2, John 1:35.)

The Twelve Were Both Disciples and Apostles in Matthew and Luke
Matthew 10:1-4
 Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. (Interesting to have both Greek words so close together.)

Luke 6:12-16  In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Note capitalization of Twelve which has nothing to do with the Greek and seems to be peculiar to the NAB translation.)

Disciples of Jesus Received Special Instructions in Private
Mark 4:33-34
 With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Jesus Considered His Faithful Disciples to Be His Family
Matthew 12:49-50
 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Not All Disciples Had Staying Power
John 6:66
 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. (This after the Bread of Life discourse)

At the Last Supper, the Twelve Were Referred to as Disciples in Matthew
Matthew 26:17-19
 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover. (They are apostles in Luke.)

After the Resurrection, Jesus Gave the Great Commission to Eleven Disciples
Matthew 28:16 – 20
 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Before Pentecost. Makes it clear that we are all to be disciples.)

Perhaps in Humility, the Writer of John Refers to Himself as a Disciple
John 21:24
 It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.

A Few Interesting Uses of “Apostle” in the NT:

At the Return of the Twelve Sent Out to Proclaim the Kingdom and Heal
Luke 9:1-10
 He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (the sick). He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere. Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him. When the apostles returned, they explained to him what they had done. He took them and withdrew in private to a town called Bethsaida. (Here again, in Luke, Twelve is capitalized, not Greek and peculiar to the NAB. But I like it.)

In Luke, the Twelve at the Passover Are Called Apostles
Luke 22:13-14
 Then they went off and found everything exactly as he had told them, and there they prepared the Passover.  14 When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. (They are disciples in Matthew.)

Matthias Chosen as 12th Apostle to Replace Judas
Acts 1:26 – 2:1
  Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. (No voting and no politics!)

Paul Identified Himself as an Apostle
Romans 1:1-3
 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, (Remember that the word meant messenger and did not imply status as much as responsibility and burden.)

St. Paul Had a Global Diocese
Romans 11:13
 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry. (Good thing he didn’t know how many “gentiles” there were on the planet.)

Only Apostles Had This Special Gift Not For Sale
Acts 8:17-19
 Then they laid hands on them and they received the holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was conferred by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me this power too, so that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive the holy Spirit.”

Decisions Were Reached by the Apostles and Presbyters in Jerusalem
Acts 16:4
 As they traveled from city to city, they handed on to the people for observance the decisions reached by the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem. (The Greek word translated Presbyters generally means elders. This is why Presbyterian churches generally have Elders and Deacons in leadership roles.)

Paul Mentions Two Believers Not Apostles but well known to the Apostles
Romans 16:7
 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me. (Some scholars have argued that these two were also apostles, but that argument has been lost, at least in the Catholic Church.)

Not Only Apostles Have Gifts and Responsibilities
1 Corinthians 12:27-31
 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. (Striving eagerly for those gifts makes us good disciples.)

The Catechism on Apostolic Tradition (How we got from Apostles to Bishops)

  1. The Apostolic Tradition

75 “Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”

In the apostolic preaching. . .

76 In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
– orally “by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received – whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit”;
– in writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing”.

. . . continued in apostolic succession

77 “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”

78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, “the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.” “The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.”

79 The Father’s self-communication made through his Word in the Holy Spirit, remains present and active in the Church: “God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church – and through her in the world – leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness.”

What About The Rest of Us?

Most of us don’t have to worry about the burden of being part of that Apostolic Succession but we can all do the serious study and hard work required to be better Disciples.

2 Timothy 2:15  Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation.

1 Peter 3:15-16  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.


August 21, 2019 – Fourteen Judges and A Self Identified King on a Roller Coaster Ride

Discussion Wednesday morning began with the Judges 9 story of Abimelech and his son Jotham, the OT Mass reading for the day. The period of Judges was a tumultuous time with lots of ups and downs, war and peace, worship of false gods, and subsequent selfish appeals for mercy. Abimelech will be found in the list below of judges. He is sixth of fifteen.

The Prologue

Just for a little back ground, the story of the Children of Israel began with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whose rowdy sons sold their young brother, Joseph, into slavery with the interim result that Joseph became powerful in Egypt and was able to save the whole clan from starvation during the next famine.

That positive interim result was followed by generations of Israeli slavery in Egypt after there arose an Egyptian king “who knew not Joseph” and who feared the rapid growth of that alien population in his home country.

Then Moses, their chosen and called leader and Law giver, rescued them from Egyptian slavery and led them across the sea of reeds and through forty years of wilderness wandering and manna consumption.

And, after the death of Moses, Joshua led the people across the Jordan  River and into the “promised land” followed by resounding defeat of Jericho, the first major city west of the river.

The Judges

And so begins the period of the judges when Joshua dies at the age of a hundred and ten and a generation arises that knows not the Lord, does evil, serves the Baals, abandons the God of their ancestors who had brought them out of Egypt, and follows other gods. And the work Joshua began is far from done. The “Promised Land” is only partially occupied, and there are still Mesopotamians, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, Ammonites, Philistines, and maybe other unnamed occupiers to be killed or displaced. (Even at the time of Jesus, there would be Romans occupying. Maybe the motto of those centuries was “Occupy Jerusalem!”

Leadership among the twelve Israeli tribes is generally weak with governance not by a king or other “strong man” but by Judges whose primary function seems to be dispute resolution mixed in with some military ventures.

So, the Israelites are punished with defeats until they feel at least regret, if not repentance, and “cry out to the Lord,” and he raises up Othniel, first Judge of Israel, who marches out to military victory against the Mesopotamians. All is well for forty years, until Othniel dies.

Again, the Israelites do evil, serve the Moabites under Eglon for eighteen years, and finally cry out to the Lord. He raises second Judge Ehud, a lefty who makes a two-edged dagger and thrusts it into the very fat belly of Eglon.  The Israelites slay about ten thousand Moabites, and then rest for eighty years.

Israelites again do evil, cry out to the lord, and get third Judge Shamgar who slays six hundred Philistines and is seen as a savior for Israel. The Israelites again do evil and fall under the power of the Canaanite king Jabin who oppresses the Israelites for twenty years.

Deborah becomes the fourth Judge of Israel and sits under a palm tree where the Israelites come to her for judgment. She and Barak and 10,000 men go into victorious battle against Jabin, and Barak kills leader Sisera with a tent peg. Rest for forty years.

As was their custom, Israelites again do what is evil and fall to Midian for seven years. God calls reluctant Gideon who finally agrees to be fifth Judge after the famous signs of wet and dry fleece in generally dry and wet surroundings respectfully. Gideon achieves victory (Great story in Judges 6-8) with an army of only 300, and the people want him to be king and rule over them with his son to follow. Gideon refuses the job. There is rest for 40 years.

So, now we come to the story of Abimelech, sixth judge and son of Gideon and his concubine. After Gideon dies, the Israelites, once again, follow false gods. Abimelech, remembering that his dad had turned down the title of king, apparently self-identifies as king rather than judge so gets himself appointed king, kills his seventy brothers except Jotham, the youngest, and rules over the people. No peace, nothing but problems, cursed by Jotham.

Tola, seventh judge, famous for nothing, judges Israel for 23 years.

Jair, famous for having thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys and possessed thirty cities, serves as eighth judge of Israel for 22 years and dies. (One note says number on donkeys was a measure of wealth.)

Israelites again do evil and are oppressed by the Ammonites. Jephthah becomes ninth judge and vows burnt offering to God of first person who comes out of his house when he returns home victorious in war. He defeats Ammonites and returns home to be greeted by his daughter, a virgin, coming out of the house. She burns and he rules for six years.

Ibzan (tenth) who had thirty sons and thirty daughters judges for thirty years and dies.

Elon (eleventh) judges for ten years, dies, and is buried.

Abdon (twelfth), with forty sons, thirty grandsons, and seventy donkeys, judges for eight years, dies, and is buried. (He is apparently wealthier than Jair.)

Israelites again do what is evil and Manoah and his unnamed barren wife are promised a son, Samson, who is the thirteenth judge, lives a troubled and complicated life of mysterious meaning, lots of violence and killing, marries Delilah who deceives and betrays him, and ends his life as a suicide terrorist. (Read Judges 13 – 16 including the footnotes.)

And here is the last verse of the book of Judges: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own sight.

And then, in 1st Samuel, the following book, the penultimate Judge, Eli the priest, and his charge Samuel, the last of the Judges come on the scene. (This is a more uplifting story in 1 Samuel 1 – 7.)

The Next Chapter

Samuel is famous for warning the people of how they would suffer under a king and for anointing Israel’s first two Kings, Saul and David. Read his prophetic warning at 1 Samuel 8:4-22.

And then begins the period of the Kings, about thirty different kings over a period of around 400 years. Variations of the phrase, “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” appear 38 times as descriptors of kings in the books of 1st and 2nd Kings. There were a couple of good kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, but another 600 years were to pass before the perfect king as prophesied in Psalm 72 would appear and fail to be recognized.


This was an interesting personal study for me. I had no idea there were 15 judges or that the Period of Judges lasted as long as it did, somewhere between 150 and 400 years depending on the expert you ask. I had heard only of Deborah, Gideon, Samson, Eli, and Samuel and didn’t know Gideon and Eli were Judges in addition to being Bible distributor and priest respectively.

And, with respect to current events, if you ever see me standing and cheering any POTUS as if he or she were royalty or expressing hope for a POTUS who will “save” us, you will know senility has set in. All any such leader in our system of government deserves is quiet respect and thanksgiving for humble and faithful service. I do have some hope for such a person, maybe somebody with the character of Gideon (Judges 6, 7, 8)

Franciszek Gajowniczek (and Miscellaneous Items)

I thought that difficult-to-pronounce name might catch your eye. He is the man Maximillian Kolbe loved enough to die for so I thought we might at least care enough about him to find out something about his life. The teaser is that he died in 1995 at age 93. You can read about his life HERE.

Armenian Church

And, you can read about the Armenian Church HERE. Here are a couple of articles about the monophysite controversy, one from the almost unreadable Catholic Encyclopedia, and a much more concise explanation from Britannica.

The Link to Nagasaki

Here is a link to the movie about Nagasaki bombing survivor, Dr. Takashi Nagia, All That Remains. Here is information about the book written by Dr. Nagai.

And, the Main Character

And, not to ignore the main character, here is more on St. Maximillian Mary Kolbe.

July 17 – Listening for and to God

mary marthaFather Fryml led a discussion on silence in the presence of God and listening to God as essentials of Christian prayer. There are numerous commands and instructions in the Bible and in the Catechism about speaking to God and about staying busy with good works, but, for today, the theme is listening in silence.

Prayer in the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines prayer as “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God.” (Paragraph 2558) Following paragraphs state that “humility is the foundation of prayer,” and that “the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.” Following these introductory comments are about 75 pages on Christian Prayer in Part Four of the Catechism, all consistent with the principles of humility in the presence of God, in relationship and communion with Him. And that suggests we should shut up and listen as well as speak.

Advice from Jesus on Prayer

Matthew 6:5-8  “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Samuel Listening to God

1 Samuel 3:8-10  The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Other Examples of Responses to the Presence of God – “Here I am.”

Genesis 46:1-2  Israel set out with all that was his. When he arrived at Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he answered.

Exodus 3:2-4  There an angel of the LORD appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.”

1 Samuel 3:2-4  One day Eli was asleep in his usual place. His eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see. The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was. The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”

Psalm 40:2-9   I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry, Drew me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp, Set my feet upon rock, steadied my steps, and put a new song in my mouth, a hymn to our God. Many shall look on in awe and they shall trust in the LORD. Happy those whose trust is the LORD, who turn not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood. How numerous, O LORD, my God, you have made your wondrous deeds! And in your plans for us there is none to equal you. Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount. Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!”

Psalm 70:5-6  But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. May those who long for your help always say, “God be glorified!” Here I am, afflicted and poor. God, come quickly! You are my help and deliverer. LORD, do not delay!

The Call and Response of Isaiah

Isaiah 6:1-8   In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft. “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!” they cried one to the other. “All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

God Speaking through the Prophet Isaiah Declares His Presence

Isaiah 65:1-2  I was ready to respond to those who asked me not, to be found by those who sought me not. I said: Here I am! Here I am! To a nation that did not call upon my name. I have stretched out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in evil paths and follow their own thoughts,

Isaiah 52:5-6  But now, what am I to do here? says the LORD. My people have been taken away without redress; their rulers make a boast of it, says the LORD; all the day my name is constantly reviled. Therefore on that day my people shall know my renown, that it is I who have foretold it. Here I am!

Isaiah 58:9-11  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;  Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

And These about Silence in the Presence of God

Deuteronomy 27:9-10   Moses, with the levitical priests, then said to all Israel: “Be silent, O Israel, and listen! This day you have become the people of the LORD, your God. You shall therefore hearken to the voice of the LORD, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes which I enjoin on you today.”

Job 6:24  Teach me, and I will be silent; prove to me wherein I have erred.

Job 33:31-33   Be attentive, O Job; listen to me! Be silent and I will speak. If you have aught to say, then answer me. Speak out! I should like to see you justified. If not, then do you listen to me; be silent while I teach you wisdom.

Psalm 4:4-5  Know that the LORD works wonders for the faithful; the LORD hears when I call out. Tremble and do not sin; upon your beds ponder in silence.

Lamentations 3:25-28  Good is the LORD to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the LORD.  It is good for a man to bear the yoke from his youth.  Let him sit alone and in silence, when it is laid upon him.

Habakkuk 2:20  But the LORD is in his holy temple; silence before him, all the earth!

Zechariah 2:17   Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD! for he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

And a Reminder that God May Speak Very Quietly

1 Kings 19:11-13  Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD– but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake– but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire– but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”

Gospel of Matthew – Structure

For the last few days Mass readings have been from the Gospel of Matthew. While there is great wisdom and truth in the individual readings, it seems that richness of understanding is increased if we understand how they fit into the literary structure of the Gospel. Here is a good link to a source explaining the basics of that structure, work by Dr. Felix Just. Below is the pertinent exhibit from that source. If you click on the link, you will also find a complete outline of Matthew alongside comparisons with the other two Synoptic Gospels, Mark and Luke. Note we have been reading from the second of five discourses of Jesus in the Gospel.

Bottom line is that we don’t know if Jesus delivered these words in Matthew 10 in the order written in the Gospel or even at the time indicated, but we do know that the divinely inspired Gospel writer composed his gospel of the materials and information he had in the form in which we read it today. It is fascinating that the Gospel is organized around these five discourses, separated by narratives and ending with the Passion and Resurrection Narrative.

This discourse we have just been reading begins with Matthew 10:1 (Then he summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. ) and ends with Matthew 11:1 (When Jesus finished giving these commands to his twelve disciples, he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.) The other four discourses in Matthew are bracketed by similar beginning and ending phrases so watch for those when reading the Gospel.

In an earlier post I quoted some of Dr. Just’s work on the Psalms.


The Sins of the Father and his Sons

Who can name the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob) in order of birth and give the names of their mothers? Almost nobody I guess. I couldn’t, even now, after writing it all down. They are in the bold print below, daughter Dinah included. I hope this list will come in handy for future reference.

From dysfunctional family to forgiveness and God’s Love and Grace, this is a fascinating story. I see a Netflix series that would be spellbinding, the average person being as shocked at the ending as many fans of The Americans were at seeing daughter Paige standing on the train platform as her Russian spy parents left the station to avoid arrest and prosecution.

We hear all the stories, usually one at a time, without much context, but reading these sixteen chapters of Genesis in one sitting pulls it all together. In spite of all the sins and sinning and sinfulness, we have this statement of faith from Joseph, at the end, as he forgives his brothers: Genesis 50:20 (NABRE) Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people. And then there is that ominous eighth verse of the first chapter of Exodus, the beginning of the story of Moses. This story is great theological truth in an ancient literary masterpiece.

Joseph, by the way, comes through the whole story as virtuous and upright except that it does bother me that he devised and implemented a plan to confiscate all the wealth of the people and turn it over to the Pharaoh. Maybe that Pharaoh was a benevolent and loving dictator with the best interests of the citizens at heart, but there is always that next king. Maybe this story was in his mind when Samuel warned the people (1 Samuel 8) about the problems with kings.

And, the story goes on. We should not be surprised when we learn that the twelve tribes named after the twelve sons end up fighting and dividing and being conquered by Assyrians and Babylonians.