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Monday, September 26, 2005

The New Otium Sanctum

I am transferring some of my files from the old Otium Sanctum to this new one. Please bookmark the site since the URL is quite long or just remember this SnipURL: http://snipurl.com/otiumsanctum. The article entitled "St. Augustine on the Reading of Scriptures" has been transferred to the new site.

Posted by biblista at 7:22 AM
Categories: Weblogs

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Luke For The Week

Below are my reflections on this week's readings from Luke . Only on Wednesday is their a selection from Matthew.


Section and Title


8:16-18: Take Heed What You Hear


8:19-21: The Family of the Lord


Mt 9:9-13 (Feast of St. Matthew): The Call of Matthew


9:7-9: Herod's Interest In Jesus


9:18-22: Peter's Confession (Luke's Version)


9:43-45: The Second Prediction of the Passion

Posted by biblista at 9:06 PM
Edited on: Monday, November 28, 2005 4:29 PM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Build My House

The theme of the weekday readings for the 25th Week in OT Year A is "Build My House". Readings are selected from Ezra, and two minor* prophets who are mentioned in Ezra 5: Haggai and Zechariah. The week starts off with the edict of Cyrus in 538 BC, the end of the exile (Ezra 1:1-6). In this edict, the Emperor calls upon interested Jews** to go back to their land and rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. In Ezra 6:7-20 one finds the edict of Darius (521-485) which reiterates the building of the Temple. He orders that the taxes be used for the financing of the construction and commands that a steady supply of animals be given to the priests to offer as sacrifices offered continually in the temple. Due Darius' support, the temple is rebuilt.

Ephesians 4:1-13 actually continues the theme of building up the Temple of the Lord but from a different perspective, that of the New Testament. The Lord's Body is His Temple. Paul urges the Ephesians to live according to their vocation to holiness, striving at the same time to preserve their unity. The unity of the Body of Christ is based on the oneness

This unity is not to be contrasted with the diversity of gifts that the Lord has procured for his Church. There are different charisms given to different members of the Church but all these are for the "building up of the Body of Christ." It must be noted that here, Paul uses the language of human growth -- "maturity", "full stature" -- because he is emphasizing the organically vital dimension of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Haggai is mentioned together with Zechariah in Ezra 5 as those prophets who protested against the discontinuation of the rebuilding of the Temple. In Haggai 1:1-8, the prophet attributes the economic difficulties of the Jews to the ruined state of the Temple. The prophecy can be summarized thus: "Build the temple that all may go well with you" (vv. 7-11). In Haggai 2:1-9, the prophet answers those who are saying that the completed Temple looks dismal and that it lacks the glory of the old one. Noteworthy in this prophecy is the reiteration of God's promise "I am with you." There is also the words "One moment yet, a little while" which is echoed in John's Gospel. "A little while" is the period of time which separates present hardship from future glory. Finally, God's future temple will be far more glorious than the first one. This prophecy does not refer to the temple that King Herod will build and which the disciples will be marvellling at. It refers to the Temple of the Lord, His Body. Thus, with Haggai's voice, we hear the announcement of the Church.

Zechariah's prophecy repeats in some ways what Haggai said about God's dwelling among his people. Alluding to the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites in the Desert, he says that God will once more protect His people like a surrounding fire. But God will not only protect His people and exact vengeance on those who have hurt them. He will dwell in their midst, just as He did before (in the Tent of Meeting). The prophecy makes sense if one situates it AFTER the completion of the second temple. The dismal looking temple that the returning Jews managed to finish -- according to this prophecy -- should not trouble them for God's presence among His people is much more important than any temple built for any god whatsoever.


*"Minor" does not mean "less important". The term refers to the books ascribed to them: these are very short books, so they are called "minor."

**Jews. Technically, "Israel" no longer existed. Only those who were from Judah returned. The exiles of 721 BC are no longer mentioned.

Posted by bible student at 4:54 AM
Categories: Liturgy, Old Testament

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Dr. Enright and Forgiveness

A propos this blog, I received a dispatch from Zenit regarding an interview with a psychologist about forgiveness. Please read this article posted at A Glitch In Time. In last Sunday's homily on the theme of forgiveness, I pointed out three steps in forgiving:

1. Stop hating the offending person
2. Forget the reason for the hatred
3. Love the offender

These three steps corresponded to the process that arouses hatred/anger towards an offender:

1. An offense is made that is seen as an attack towards one; anger is aroused.
2. One remembers the offense and lets it simmer; anger becomes hatred.
3. When the offender is thus hated, one begins to "objectify" him.

Thus, in the process thus described, one has not really forgiven the other person unless one makes the step to love him, that is, to treat him once more as a person. In the Enright interview, the psychologist is quoted as he describes the process he uses in forgiveness therapy:

for those who cannot forgive, I ask, “Are you ready to explore what forgiveness is and is not?” Such a question does not ask a person to forgive, but instead to examine what forgiveness is.
If a person has examined the dimensions of forgiveness, I ask, “Are you ready to examine forgiveness in its most basic form toward the one who hurt you? Are you willing to try to do no harm toward that person?” Notice that this question does not ask the person to love the offender, but to refrain from the negative, to refrain from harming even in subtle ways.
Next comes the question “Do you wish the person well?” Notice that this shifts the focus to the positive, toward at least a wishing, if not a deliberate acting toward, wellness in the other person.
All of these questions are intended to move the offended person a little closer to love. If a person still refuses to forgive, we must realize that their emphatic “no” today is not necessarily the final word. That person may change tomorrow. (More here)

Posted by bible student at 2:58 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 3:22 PM
Categories: Devotional, New Testament

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sirach On Forgiveness: A Doorway To The Lord's Prayer

The Gospels did not grow out of the Old Testament, we know that. Between the Two Testaments, there is a jump in quality because of the figure of Jesus Christ. It would be naive to think that the Old Testament writings, read in a particular way can lead one to the Letters of Paul and the Gospels. In fact, we know that the whole New Testament is a product of the rereading of the Jewish scriptures in the light of the death and resurrection of Christ. And yet, there are some passages in the Jewish Scriptures that show some continuity between Old and New Testaments. A case in point is today's OT reading: Sirach 27:30-28:7*

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.

Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven,
Should a man nourish anger against his fellows
and expect healing from the Lord?
Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows
yet seek pardon for his own sins?

Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor,
Think of the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.

Note the bold phrases in black. These sentences actually echo the Lord's Prayer ("Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors") and the Beatitudes ("Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."). The lines in blue actually bases forgiveness and the love (opposite of hate) of neighbor in the commandments, specifically, in the commandments given at Sinai. Does not Paul echo this passage in Rom. 13:10 where he writes: "Love does not evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."

*The Wisdom of Ben-Sirach is Jewish Scriptures; the Essenes of Qumran had it among their scrolls. It is inspired writing among the Jews of the Diaspora (the Alexandrine Old Testament gives witness to this). The Pharisees excluded it from their Hebrew canon after 70 AD; it is the Pharisaic canon which is used today by Protestants.

Posted by bible student at 5:06 PM
Categories: Liturgy, Old Testament

Mt. 18:21-35: Forgiveness From The Heart

We can sympathize with Peter when he asks: "Lord, how many times should I forgive a brother who wrongs me?" And we find the answer to the question difficult to accept: "Don't count the times you forgive.*" And then, so as to quash any objections that may arise from his reply, the Lord immediately proposes a parable about a man who was freed from a large debt by his master, the king, but who would not do the same for a person who owed him a mere paltry sum. When the king heard what the man did, he had him imprisoned until he paid back all he owed to him. And the Lord concludes the parable with these ominous words: "My heavenly Father will treat you in exactly the same way unless each of you forgives his brother from the heart."

"To forgive from the heart." Seen within the context of Matthew 18:21-35, the phrase means both forgiving with compassion and forgetting the wrong done. The king had compassion on the man who owed him a large debt and therefore freed him from it. The word for compassion used here is the same word that the Gospels use for the compassion that Jesus feels for the crowds who come to him for healing. Splanchnizomai, is a strong emotion that is felt in the center of one's being. The king experienced it when the man in the parable pleaded for more time to pay what he owed. Knowing that the large amount cannot be paid in a lifetime, anyway**, the king wrote off the debt. But the man, having been freed from a debt he could not pay, would not write off the debt of one who can pay his in this lifetime. Thus, the sadness of those who witness the man who has been treated graciously deal with a fellow in a similar situation in a cruel manner. Thus, too, the harshness of the king when he hears about it.

When was the last time you forgave from the heart?

"Forgive us our sins as we forgave those who sin against us." This is the daily prayer of the Christian. In that short petition, we are asking the Heavenly Father to forgive us not out of his sheer mercy, but in the measure that we forgive others. It actually sounds as if we are saying: "Because I forgive others, forgive me too." I have written about the Jewish roots of this idea, so I won't repeat it here. But in the light of this petition, wouldn't it be quite presumptuous for me to ask God's forgiveness when I have excluded certain people from forgiveness.

There are people who think that forgiveness means that one stop from hating a person who given offense. They would accept an apology but would not forget the offense committed. The memory of the offense is allowed to remain at the back of one's head like a mine that one has buried in a field and forgotten there. Sooner or later, one will step on that mine and detonate it. The memory of an offense can be buried so deep that one would think it is no longer there. When it is aroused however (by a similar incident or by the same person) it can still cause quite a bit of turmoil. How many people are there who go through life seething with an anger whose cause they can no longer remember, or even recognize?

When was the last time you forgave from the heart?

Stop hating, ... forget the reason for the hatred. "Forgive and forget," they say. But this isn't forgiveness yet. Until one allows compassion to be a part of it, then one's act of forgiveness is incomplete. Compassion in the Gospels moves one to do something good for the other. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? It was compassion that differentiated the Samaritan from the priest and the Levite who also saw the suffering man by the roadside. It is compassion too that made the king in the parable write off the large debt owed to him thereby allowing his debtor a new lease on life, so to speak. Unless one's forgiveness actually moves one to also do something good for the person forgiven, then the forgiveness one offers is like a cold handshake -- it will not warm the hearts of those who receive it.

Seven times seventy-seven is five hundred and thirty-nine times. With the figure, it becomes highly impractical to remember how many times one forgives one particular person. What the Lord is saying is "as your brother does not count how many times he wrongs you, so too, do not count how many times you forgive him."

The "talanton" and the "denarii" that are contrasted in the parable as the respective amounts owed by the man to the king on the one hand, and that owed by a fellow servant represent huge disproportionate amounts. The Filipino version I am using actually translates those words in terms of PHP 10,000,000.00 as opposed to PHP 500.00.

Posted by bible student at 2:04 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 2:22 PM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Col. 3:1-11 Life Between Christ's Glorification and His Return In Glory

Col. 3:1-11 is the first part of Paul's theological introduction to the practical guidelines section of his letter to the Colossians (3:18-4:9). The second part is in 3:12-17. That these sections dwell on the life of the baptized between the time of Christ's glorification and his coming again in glory is suggested in the lines "you have been raised with Christ"(v. 1)... and "you also will appear with him in glory" (v. 4). Taking these two moments as reference points for the Christian life, how is the Christian to live?

(1b)Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God
(2) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Note the parallelism in these lines. To seek the things that are above (ano), is to set ones mind on things that are above (ano) . Paul is here actually drawing a conclusion from an idea that should be obvious to his readers: the Christian has become -- through baptism -- so united with Christ that he is even now joined with Christ at the right hand of God. The Christian, in other words, is already among heavenly things! Hence, he has to fix his gaze and his hopes on those things which are proper to his new nature.

It is normal for people to think that in terms of "below-above" when we think of the spiritual life: I am "below" and God is "above". Hence, in order to be near Him, I should "go up." Isn't it that the whole idea of "ascesis" is "to ascend" as implied in the words "ascetic" and "asceticism"? Paul knew this "ascetic mentality" and talks about it in Col. 2:23, and he dismisses it as "having an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigour of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh." Rather he points to an asceticism that is more real and more in accord with the present situation of the Christian, an asceticism that is possible because rooted in the recreation of the human being.

Paul writes that the Christian's life is "hid with Christ in God" (v.3) and that the Christian -- in baptism -- "has put off the old nature with its practices and has put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (v. 10). The Christian has been created anew in Christ. The new nature that Paul refers to is the new humanity created by God in Christ and to which the Christian shares in by virtue of his baptism. Christ is "the image of the invisible God" writes Paul in Col. 1:15 and it is in this image that the new humanity is renewed in knowledge (3:10). The Christian, may look as human as anybody else outwardly; but this is only because his life is hid. As Christ when walking among us looked just like us and talked like us, so too, the Christian is by all appearances human. Only God can see who he truly is. In the end, Paul writes, when Christ appears in glory, so the Christian will also be revealed as God knows and sees him, to all (cf. Romans 7:19).

The new status of the Christian apud Deum has consequences for his daily life (3:5-17). Since he is no longer an "earth-bound-and-death-bound" being, he now has a life that is Christ-like and Spirit-filled. It is this life which Paul describes as "living IN Christ" (cf. 2:6-11)

Posted by bible student at 12:16 PM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Manuscript From Eyewitnesses?

Read my blog about the Jesus Papyrus here.

Posted by biblista at 4:59 PM
Categories: Biblical Archaeology, New Testament

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Matthew 18:15-20 The Work of Reconciliation

"Reconciliation" in the Scriptures, means "to change a relationship of enmity into friendship", and this task is given to the Church as is clear from today's gospel reading. In Matthew 18:18, the task of binding and loosing -- a task already given to Peter (Matthew 16: 19) -- is given to the whole Church within a passage that deals with "winning your brother back" (v. 15c).

Forgiveness and reconciliation is of course incumbent upon every disciple of the Lord. We are reminded of this in passages that talk about forgiving (Matthew 18:21-22) and reconciling with another on a legal dispute (Matthew 5:25f), among others. But in Matthew 18:15-17, it is clear that among members of the Body of Christ, a process that is motivated by love should be carried out in cases where a relationship has been wounded.

The Church -- the Body of Christ -- is the agent of reconciliation. When a brother has offended one, the offended party makes the first moves towards reconciliation (v. 15). If the offending party does not listen, then Deut. 19:15 is effected (v.16). Finally, if the offending party still resists reconciliation, he is reported to the assembly, the Church itself. If even that fails to move him to reconciliation, it is then that he is treated as "a Gentile or a publican," that is, as someone to be saved.

The interpretation of v. 17 may seem strange to a lot of people who have read 1 Cor. 5:1-5, where Paul is adamant that one who has offended the Church with his morals should be "put under the power of Satan". But the case of a man having an incestual relationship with his mother should merit a closer look, after all, this is no offense against a brother, taken simply. It is an offense against the whole Church, a scandal because the immorality involved is not even committed within the environs of the community where it has transpired (1 Cor. 5:1). Nor is the case in Matthew 18:15-17 to be understood as comparable to that envisioned by Paul in 1 Cor. 5:11-13. What is mentioned here is an "offense against a brother", something that goes against a brother's honor, which is normally settled in a court. Paul is totally against Christians bringing another Christian to court (1 Cor. 6:1ff); he'd rather see them not having any disputes (1 Cor. 6:7-8) nor have any cause for it (vv.9-11). In Matthew 18:15-17, one finds a procedure that I think would please Paul. For its aim is not so much settling a dispute, but to effect reconciliation.

Posted by bible student at 4:22 PM
Categories: New Testament

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Gospel of Luke and the Letter to the Colossians

For those who are in the habit of reading the Scriptures as part of their daily activities: Today, we began reading the Letter to the Colossians as the first reading for the daily mass. This will continue until next week and will cover until the third chapter of the letter. Yesterday, we began reading from the gospel of Luke, and this will continue until November, when the new liturgical season begins with Advent. We've just finished reading selections from the first letter to the Thessalonians. Below is a table showing how the selections are distributed during the weekday masses:

August 31, Wednesday

Col. 1:1-8

September 1, Thursday

Col. 1:9-14

September 2, Friday

Col. 1:15-20

September 3, Saturday

Col. 1:21-23

September 5, Monday

Col. 1:24-2:3

September 6, Tuesday

Col. 2:6-15

September 7, Wednesday

Col. 3:1-11

The readings for Sunday (September 4) and the feast of the Nativity of Mary (September 8) was not included since readings for these days follow a different rationale. Following Colossians is the first letter to Timothy.

Posted by biblista at 12:24 PM
Edited on: Thursday, September 01, 2005 1:25 PM
Categories: Devotional, Liturgy