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Friday, July 29, 2005
Luke 10:38-42 Martha, the One and the Many
Luke 10:38-42 has been interpreted in the past in terms of the active
and contemplative religious life. According to this understanding of the
text, Martha represents the religious who is engaged in various forms of
apostolate while Mary would stand for those who spend their time in
prayer and contemplation. While some may object to this interpretation
because of its anachronism, there is also some reason to accept it.
After all, Luke in his Acts also narrates an event in the early Church
where the job of serving at tables was delegated to a group of chosen
men so that the apostles can devote themselves to "prayer and the
ministry of the Word (cf. Acts 6:3-4)." This narrative in Acts parallels
the case of Martha who is worried and upset over the many tasks of
hospitality vis-a-vis her sister who is at home at the Lord's feet,
listening to His Word.
There is also another way of taking the symbolisms for Martha and Mary,
as St. Augustine would. Martha represents the toil and labor that
characterizes the present time while Mary's "resting" before the Lord
points us to that time when the moment is no longer marked by human
toil. In other words, the contrast between this life and the life to
come. In this interpretation, Martha and Mary are facets of the
Christian life which is marked by worry and hardship now, but tends
towards rest and contemplation in eternity. Here are Augustine's words:
What, in any case did the Lord say to Martha? Mary has chosen the better
part. Not that you chose a bad one, but she chose better. Listen to what
makes it better: which shall not be taken away from her. Some time
orother the burden of need will be taken away from you; the sweetness of
truth is eternal. What she has chosen will not be taken away from her.
It's not taken away, but still it can be increased. Or rather, in this
life it can be increased; in the next life it will be perfected, it will
never be taken away. (Sermon 103, 5c)
Augustine could have expressed here what he refers to as the otium
sanctum and the negotium caritatis -- that balance of the
"Martha and Mary" facets of the spiritual life. Otium
sanctum (holy leisure) is the contemplative aspect of the
Christian life, a foretaste of the joys that God reserves for those who
love Him. This aspect is characterized by prayer and the adoration of
God in His works -- a preparation for the beatific vision. Negotium
caritatis on the other hand is the business of charity to which
the Christian is daily called. In this life, Augustine seems to say, a
balance of both is needed. Holy leisure is the ideal of the Christian
life, but it should not prevent one from responding to the business of
charity. Martha was not told to stop what she was doing; her attention
was called to the one thing necessary. But Mary has chosen the better
part, and that will not be taken away from her.
this article too from Otium Sanctum.
Posted by bible student
at 11:46 PM
Edited on: Saturday, July 30, 2005 12:19 AM
, New Testament
Monday, July 25, 2005
The Kingdom and the Scribe
Matthew 13: 44-52 may at first appear unrelated. vv. 44-50 continues the
string of parables about the Kingdom that Jesus tells his hearers
beginning in verse 1. Vv. 51-52 is a concluding remark about the
parabolic lessons just heard. In this remark, Jesus refers to a "scribe
instructed in the kingdom of heaven." What is the relationship
between a kingdom and a scribe? Answer: a king always has a scribe
working for him. Scribes are those who keep records of the kingly
administration., records that are both old and new. Scribes are the
memory of a king's reign; through them, the continuity between a
previous administration to a new one is made possible.
This passage is broken down by the liturgy to smaller passages during
the course of the weekday readings for the 17th week in OT. Here is the
Wednesday, Mt. 13: 44-46
Thursday, Mt. 13: 47-53
In Mt. 13:44-46, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a treasure buried
in a field on the one hand and to a pearl of great price. The first of
these parables emphasizes the hiddenness of the treasure that can be
discovered only by "digging up" the earth, that is, by toil and hard
work. The second emphasizes the search that one undertakes before one
finds a pearl of great price. In both cases, when one finds the kingdom
it is with great joy, and with joy also that one gives up all that one
has for it. Both these parables should somehow remind one of Jesus'
teachings about discipleship and most specifically of the story of the
Rich Man who could not be Jesus' disciple because he could not give up
Mt. 13:47-50 is a parable that can be compared to the one about the
darnel and the wheat because of the reference to the day of judgment
(cf. vv.24-30.36-43). Here however the emphasis is on the coverage
of the kingdom of heaven. At first it gathers in all -- both good and
bad -- and only afterwards will the separation between good and bad
occur. The God who lets the rain fall on both good and bad wants his
kingdom to draw in both good and bad. This should be a reminder to all
that while God wants all to be perfect as He is perfect, He also desires
that the "imperfect" be perfected in His mercy and compassion*.
Mt. 13:51-52 is the saying about the scribe who is compared to the
master of the household who has a rich store of supplies that he can
distribute as provision. Since the scribe passes on memories, this
particular saying of Jesus are for the "teachers" of the Matthaean
community who are supplied with these parables so that they can teach
others what the kingdom of heaven means.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Give Me Wisdom
1 Kgs. 3:5.7-12 is this Sunday's Old Testament reading. The selection
emphasizes Solomon's request for Wisdom and how the request pleased God.
As appearing in the liturgy, we find a one-to-one correspondence between
the request that Solomon makes and the response of God to that request.
The text however appears in a more complete form as part of the literary
unit formed by vv. 1-15. vv. 1-4 is a brief summary presentation of what
Solomon did from the time he took power until the time he made his
request, and justifies his presence at Gibeon, "the most renowned high
place" (v.4). Note that high places were used for idolatrous worship,
yet Solomon offered sacrifices to God there and it was there that God
appears to him in a dream.
The dialogue between Solomon and God is found in vv. 5-14, with the
remaining verse (v. 15) providing the conclusion to the whole story. The
dialogue opens up with God commanding Solomon to make a request (v.5).
Solomon's response can be divided into (a) Preface (vv. 6-8) and (b) The
Request (v. 9). The first part of the preface is a narrative that
emphasizes the special favors shown by God to David and his son. The
second part highlights the present situation of Solomon, the son of
David, who feels his own inadequacy in front of the people whom
God has chosen. Solomon's request is in function of his role
towards God's people, and that is, "an understanding heart" to judge,
and to distinguish between right and wrong, so as to govern. God's
response to this request is positive. God notes that Solomon did not ask
for something that enhances himself personally -- long life, riches,
victory in battle -- and was therefore pleased. He grants the request
for an understanding heart, but in addition He would also grant what
Solomon did not ask for, riches and glory as no other kings have, and --
on condition that he is faithful as David was -- even long life.
The Sunday liturgy suppresses a part of Solomon's preface to his
request. "You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David,
because he behaved faithfully toward you, with justice and upright
heart; and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today,
seating a son of his on his throne." This was done for a simple reason:
the emphasis on the liturgy is on the exercise of kingship, not on the
theme of succession. What is emphasized here is the requirement for a
kingly rule that is pleasing to God. As such the reading actually echoes
something from Wisdom literature: the need for kings and judges to seek
This selection from the OT also sheds some light on the relationship
between religion and politics, a relationship which is often
misunderstood. If all authority is from God, then power and wisdom must
necessarily come from on High. Take this premise as the first one in a
syllogism about earthly rule and one gets to the conclusion that the
best leader is one who is -- in Filipino parlance -- maka-Diyos
(in English, this would be roughly translated as "Godly").
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Rom. 8:26-27 Praying When It Is Difficult
"How can one pray when it is difficult to pray?" Rom.
8:26-27 gives us an indication to the answer: the Holy Spirit which has
been poured into our hearts enables us to pray even when we feel we
The word "Spirit" appears in the Letter to the Romans 20 times and 14 of
these instances are found in Romans chapter 8. This only shows that the
word "Spirit" is a key-word in this chapter. The word "Spirit" however
does not have the same value in the way it is used throughout Romans.
Rom. 1:4 "spirit of sanctification"; Rom. 1:9
"my spirit" = I ; Rom. 2:29 "spirit" vs. "letter"; Rom.
7:6 "newness of spirit" vs. "oldness of letter"; Rom.
8:2 "law of the spirit of life" vs. "law of sin and death"; Rom.
8:4 "walk according to spirit" vs. "walk according to the flesh." Rom.
8:5 "flesh-mind" vs. "spirit-mind" Rom. 8:6
"wisdom of the flesh" vs. "wisdom of the spirit" Rom.
8:9 "flesh" vs. "spirit" / "Spirit of God" "Spirit of Christ" Rom.
8:10 "body" vs. "spirit" Rom. 8:11
"Spirit of Him" "His (Christ's) Spirit" Rom. 8:13
"live according to flesh" by the Spirit "mortify deeds of the flesh" Rom.
8:14 Spirit of God Rom. 8:15 spirit of bondage and fear,
spirit of adoption Rom. 8:16 Spirit himself > our spirit Rom.
8:23 firstfruits of the Spirit Rom. 8:26 Spirit ... Spirit Rom.
8:27 Spirit Rom. 11:8 "spirit of insensibility" (as opposed
to the "spirit of wisdom") Rom. 12:11 "in spirit" (as
opposed to "in body")
In all these instances, the Holy Spirit is referred to in the
following verses: Rom. 1:4; Rom. 8:9.11;8:220.127.116.11.23.26.27 .
The passage under consideration therefore refers to the Spirit which is
both called "Spirit of God" and "Spirit of Christ" in 8:9 and "Spirit of
Sanctification" (= "Holy Spirit") in Rom. 1:4. And the function that is
underlined here is that of prayer. The Holy Spirit empowers the baptized
to pray by interceding for him/her through groanings that are
The Catechism makes use of Romans 8:26-27 in synchrony with Hebrews in
explaining the prayer of intercession:
Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus
did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men,
especially sinners. He is "able for all time to save those who draw
near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession
for them "(Heb. 7:25). The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us ...
and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God". (Rom.
8:26-27) (CCC, §2634)
Thus, when we intercede as the Church in behalf of all men and the whole
community of the faithful, we extend on earth what the Lord, our High
Priest, is doing before the Father, and at the same time, we mirror in
our act of intercession what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives.
Romans 8:26-27 when seen within its immediate context gives us an idea of
what the Spirit is doing in our lives as the future of God inexorably
makes itself present. Romans 8:18-30 develops within the contrast "present
sufferings -- future glory". The inexpressible groanings of the Holy
Spirit mirrors the groaning of creation and of the Christian that labours
in pain under the present which is in the process of being transformed
For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of
childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although
we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory,
also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait
anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his
children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (8:22-23, NLT)
The Holy Spirit which has been poured into our hearts, enabling us to
call God "Father",(Rom. 5:5;8:15; cf. 8:29) just as Jesus did, is a
companion in this present time of "groaning". In our prayers, He is
there helping us with His own prayers and in so doing, helps us to pray
even when we feel that we cannot (Rom. 8:26). It is thus, that in times
of anguish and distress brought about by the difficulties of the
present, it is the Holy Spirit that helps the Christian raise his/her
heart to God and pray with faith for all that he/she needs.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Parables of the Kingdom
Matthew 13:24-43 continues the theme of Jesus teaching in parables. The
first part of the passage is a series of parables about the "kingdom of
heaven." Parable, here, should be understood as a simile, since Jesus
prefaces a parable with the explanation "X can be likened to Y". (The
NLT translates "illustration")
The longest parable deals with the question of the bad and good being
mixed up in the kingdom (v. 24-29). Here it is about the wheat and the
tares, the first having been planted by the farmer and the second by the
enemy, i.e. the devil. One might as well ask: "Why is it that inspite of
the fact that all of us hear the same Word of God, not all turn out to
be good believers?" The emphasis in the parable, however, is how to deal
with those weeds which the enemy has planted: the owner of the field
tells his worker not to uproot the weeds immediately, but to wait until
harvest (= Judgment Day) when these will be separated from the wheat:
Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say
to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles
for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn." (v.30)
The parable is given its explanation in the last part of the passage
(vv. 37-43). Note the attitude of the owner of the field: he does not
uproot the bad so as to protect the good. Even if the weeds continue to
grow, the owner of the field is still the Master of what he owns; He is
in control and has an appointed time for the weeds. Some Christians find
it scandalous that in the congregation they go to, they recognize people
whom they know to live immoral lives. There are denominational groups
that even excommunicate a member for not living according to the moral
standards the group has defined, e.g. a girl who cuts her long braid
finds herself excommunicated because her group believes that females
should have long hair, or a male TV star gets the same treatment because
he appears in a beer commercial. The Lord however sees the Church as a
mixture of wheat and tares while it continues its pilgrimage on earth.
Only on Judgment Day will the true sons and daughters of God be
manifested (cf. Romans).
The second parable is another parable about the mustard seed (31-32). In
another parable that is well known, the mustard seed -- the smallest of
all seeds -- is compared to faith. No matter how small one's faith is,
so long as it is there, one can do the impossible. Here the comparison
is to the Word that is sown but then grows into a shelter that can be a
home to a great variety of people. Here, mustard tree that emerges from
the smallest of seeks evokes the image of the Church that draws to her
bosom the men and women of all races (= the birds of the sky)
The third parable is about the leaven-like characteristic of the kingdom
of heaven (v. 33). In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord spoke of the
Church as "salt of the earth and light of the world." In this passage he
compares it to the yeast that the baker mixes with flour until the dough
rises and becomes a loaf of bread. The kingdom of heaven is to the world
of men and women like yeast is to dough. The quality of the world should
"rise" wherever the Church is inserted into its life.
The central part of this discourse is another explanation as to why
Jesus speaks in parables (vv. 34-35):
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said
through the prophet:
"I will open my mouth in parables,
will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world."
In a previous instance, the Lord tells his disciples that he speaks in
parables so that those only whom God has disposed to listen to Him may
truly benefit from His words (cf. "No one comes to me until the Father
draws Him"). In this sense, the parabolic form of Jesus' teachings
already have the characteristic of judgment: there are those who will
listen but not hear (See Matthew 13:10-17).
In the present passage, the idea of "parable" is taken from the quoted
psalm 78, which is a prophetic recitation of Israel's salvation history.
In this psalm "parable" is synonymous with "hidden lessons", i.e. about
something that is shared between God and his people and which nobody
else can understand or know about. In this sense, the parable is also
something that hides when it is disclosed. It is for this reason that
the Lord, when alone with his own, explains to them the hidden things he
announces (vv. 36-43).
Posted by biblista
at 12:39 AM
Edited on: Wednesday, July 13, 2005 12:41 AM
Categories: New Testament
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Isaiah 55:10-11 My Word Never Fails
Isaiah 55:10-11 is from the conclusion of Isaiah's Book of Consolation
(Isaiah 55:1-13). Here the keyword is DABAR which the Septuagint
translates as logoV. Our
modern English translations simply render it as "Word." But this somehow
limits the concept that both the Hebrew original and the Greek
translation containt. In both those languages, the original idea can be
rendered as "Word-Event." God's "Word" is not simply an idea that is
pronounced or written, it is a "happening"; and because it "happens", it
can change, transform, create. The powerful imagery that Isaiah employs
in these two verses compares God's Word with water that becomes either
snow or rain that irrigates the land and makes it produce the food that
one brings at table and from which one is nourished. From water, to
snow, to irrigated land, to vegetation, to bread that one eats -- God's
Word operates the same way once it leaves God's mouth. It brings about a
happening, or like the water, a "life-cycle."
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
the end for which I sent it (Isa. 55:11)
The liturgy for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary time pairs this passage with
the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23. By doing this, the Church
is helping us understand the connection between the words of Jesus and
God's Word. In Matthew's parable, the words of Jesus -- symbolized by
the seed of the sower -- can grow and bear fruit in a heart that is
"fertile." The parables that Jesus use to teach the crowd already
"select" those meant to benefit from them: "they
shall look but will not see and listen but will not hear or understand."
Only to the disciples has it been given that Jesus' words are
understood. And it is for them that the Word of God becomes life.
There is another passage from the Gospel of John which echoes Isaiah
55:10-11. The echo is faint, but it is there. "My Word ... shall do my
will ... (shall do ) the purpose for which I sent it" has an echo in "My
food is to do the will of God who sent me to finish His work" (Jn.
4:34). The context of this latter passage is Jesus' encounter with the
Samaritan woman. It was an encounter where He, the Word of God made
flesh (cf. Jn. 1:1-18) presents himself as the source of the water that
gurgles unto eternal life (Jn. 4:14). The encounter ends with the woman
going back into town and calling her townsmates to where Jesus was so
that they too may encounter Him. The evangelist John composed the story
in such a way that Jesus' talk about food and harvest in v. 34-38 should
point to the coming of "many Samaritans" (v.30). Thus, by sending God's
Word to this town of Samaria, a woman who sought water helped a whole
town recognize "the Savior of the world. (v. 42)"
Monday, July 04, 2005
Matthew 11:19b Wisdom's Children or Works of Wisdom?
In Matthew 11:16-19 Jesus compares the towns where he has been preaching
to children playing in the marketplace: they won't respond to the dirge
of the Baptist's asceticism or to the flute of Jesus' joyful
announcement of the good news. In Filipino, one can even interject that
"this generation" is sala sa init, sala sa malamig.
Then Jesus concludes his comparison with a wisdom saying that has been
rendered differently by different translations.
kai edikaiwqh h sofia apo twn teknwn authV
But Wisdom is justified by her children (New King James Version)
Wisdom is justified of her children (American Version)
Yet Wisdom is
justified by her deeds (NJB)
Yet Wisdom is vindicated by her works
Yet time will prove where Wisdom lies (NAB)
But Wisdom is
shown to be right by what results from it (NLT)
Notice that the NKJV and the AV represent very literal renderings of the
original with minor differences in the interpretation of apo.
The NJB and NRSV however represent an effort to render the concept
behind "Wisdom's children" where "children" are understood as those that
are "effected" by Wisdom. In this sense, the New Living Translation is
more explicit in its line of interpretation when it chooses a longer
rendering "by what results from it (Wisdom)." Given
this sampling of renderings, the NAB seems to represent a wholly
different line of thought: where does it get the idea of time? Was the
translator imagining a word like aharit ("generation after" which
can also conceivably stand for "children") behind the Greek teknon?.
The NAB translation however retains the enigmatic character of the
saying. The line of interpretation followed by the NJB, NRSV and NLT
however lends well to the larger context, if we would include the
following prophetic oracles over the unrepentant towns within it. This
latter ends with a prayer where Jesus mentions "children" as opposed to
the "wise and the clever."
At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord
of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things from
the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
This would make the "works of Wisdom" repentance and faith in Jesus'
words. But given the literal translation of the NKJV and AV (also the
Douay-Rheims and Vulgate), would it still be necessary to do so?
Wisdom's children would be the community of faith itself.
Posted by bible student
at 9:51 PM
Edited on: Monday, July 04, 2005 10:20 PM
Categories: New Testament