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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Gospel Of Justification

Yesterday we began reading from Paul's letter to the Romans; we will be reading from it until November 5, 2005 in our daily masses. If one listens to fundamentalist and non-Catholic preachers, one gets the impression that 1:16-3:20 is a strong indictment against the sins of humanity and that Paul pronounces it in view of the end times that is about to come. I'd rather look at the section not as a threat but as an introduction to the heart of Paul's gospel of justification. In effect, Paul presents the case of humanity's sinfulness to show that God has considered it and therefore has sent his only Son as a solution to man's existential problem. The emphasis is not so much the condemnation that hangs on humankind like the perennial threat of Damocles' sword. The emphasis rather is on the mercy of God and the grace that he reveals in Christ. The condemnation is great, the threat is real, but God's love is greater than this. 1:16-3:20 is better understood in the light of what Paul says all throughout his Gospel of Justification, especially in the words which conclude his argument on Justification:

For I am convinced that neighter death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, norpowers, nor height, nor depth nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. (8:38)
Posted by biblista at 7:55 AM
Edited on: Wednesday, October 12, 2005 8:13 AM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mt. 22:1-14 The Wedding Garment

Another parable proposed by the Lord as a reply to those who ask about his authority (cf. 21:23-27) is about a wedding feast. A king's son was going to be married and so gives out the invitation to those whom he usually invites. These excused themselves due to other commitments. Not only that, some of them even killed the king's messengers (vv.2-6). The king answers with a violent reprisal (v.7). With the usual guests finished off, the king sends out his messengers once more to call in anyone -- both good and bad -- into the banquet. And so the banquet did get underway.

If we compare the parable at this point to the other parables that Jesus tells his interlocutors., we can say that the present one is telling the same thing:

1. Those who refused, stand for the Jews who turned away from the invitation to the reign of God. (21:43)

2. The reprisal of the king, already hinted at in the previous parable about the tenants of the vineyard, represents the judgment that will laid upon the wicked, i.e., those who refuse the invitation of God's grace.(cf. 21:40-41)

3. Finally, those who respond to the invitation are like the tax collectors and the prostitutes in the parable of the two sons (21:28-32) who respond to the call of the Baptist to conversion. (cf. 21:32)

Apart from this, there are echoes of banquet-sayings uttered by the Lord regarding the replacement of those normally invited by others as in Mt. 8:11-13.

But then, there is a second part to the parable...

During the party itself, the king arrived to meet the guests. He saw one who was not in the proper wedding garb. Jewish culture demands that everyone come in the proper attire for a banquet. Since banquets last for some days, anyone invited can come at one's leisure in the proper garb. The man had no excuse for coming without the proper clothing. When asked by the king about his clothing, he shut his mouth (that is what phimotheti means; other translations settle for "he had nothing to say"). And that was in the culture of the times very rude. So the king orders that the man be thrown out of the party.

Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." (v. 13)

One might as well ask: "Is the punishment proportionate to the offense? Did the man deserve to be bound hand and foot and thrown out into the darkness?" If it were just a story, perhaps we can say it was too much. The problem is, it is not just a story. The parable has all the elements of a judgment scenario: the wedding banquet, the implied wedding, the war on the wicked, the white garment for the wedding, the outer darkness. The last quoted phrase itself occurs in other parts of Matthew in the context of judgment:

Mt. 8:11-12: I tell you many will come from east and west and sit at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Mt. 13:41-42: The Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Mt. 24:50-51: The Master of that (faithless) servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Mt. 25:40: Cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Given these facts, therefore, what does the white garment point to? The answer I think is hinted at that part of the New Testament where the elements of this parable -- wedding feast, war, white garment -- can be found one other time: Revelation 19:1-21:8. In this section we find the clean white robe as representing "the righteous deeds of the saints" (Rev. 19:8).

Posted by biblista at 2:10 PM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Mt. 21-33-46 The Tenants of the Vineyard

Mt. 21:33-46 is a parable closely following that found in vv. 28-32 which deal with the question: "Who is doing the Father's will?" Both parables are tied up together by the same image, that of the "vineyard." In the parable under consideration, Jesus hooks up with the Vineyard Song in Isaiah 5:1-7 which is actually plaintive song regarding a vineyard that refuses to give off its fruits inspite of the attention given to it by its owner. The resemblance however is immediately cut off after Mt. 21:33, for what follows is the story of a rebellion. The tenants of the vineyard refuse to give the owner his portion of the yield. Instead, they kill off the owner's messengers one by one (vv.34-36). Finally, the owner sends his son, the one who will inherit the vineyard. But he too was killed by those tenants (37-39). The parable ends with a question: "What do you think will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants?" And the answer should have brought the parable to a conclusion:

He will put those wretches to a misrable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their proper season.

Transfer of Privileges

At this point in the story, one is reminded of moments in salvation history where a privilege given by God to a place or to a person is withdrawn and given to another. This is the case of Shiloh and King Saul. Shiloh was the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant until it was transferred to David's Jerusalem. King Saul enjoyed the privilege of God's election until that privilege was taken away from him and given to David. The vineyard will be "let out to other tenants..." In Romans 9-11 we find Paul explaining why the Jews have ceased to be the People of God since the privilege has been given to the Church. The parable in Mt. 21:33-46 intimates why: in killing the owner's son and wanting to inherit the vineyard for themselves, the tenants were revealing their evil intent towards the owner. They too wanted him killed so that they can have his property. The graphic illustration of hatred towards the owner is first acted out against his son. Isn't it that to accept Jesus is to accept the One Who Sent Him? So conversely, anyone who hates Jesus, hates the Father. In this story of the Tenants of the Vineyard, the story of Israel's rejection of God's Messiah is actually presaged. And the Pharisees and chief priests understood it quite clearly! (cf. 45-46)

That the story is about Christ's rejection is quite clear in v. 42 where Jesus quotes from Ps. 118:22-23:

The very stone which the builders rejected
has become the head of the corner
this was the Lord's doing
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Early Christian preaching has used this passage to refer to the rejection of Jesus by his people and the subsequent vindication he receives from God in the resurrection (cf. Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7) . A cornerstone is prepared for a new edifice. The mention of it in the context of the parable intimates points to Jesus as the cornerstone of a new building. And God Himself will make this happen. We know when it does happen: at the glorification of Christ.

The Fruits that will be Rendered Back

The parable mentions the fruits that will finally be made available to the owner of the vineyard once the proper changes are made. In Matthew, as in the Gospels, "fruit" is most often associated with righteousness, hence "fruits of righteousness" and conversely, "fruits of wickedness" Below are the occurences of the word "fruit" and "fruits" in Matthew's gospels. Note that it is only in the case of the fig tree that Jesus curses and the parable of the farmer, where the meaning of "fruit" is not moral; while in Mt. 26, the reference is to the wine of the Last Supper.:

Mt 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance.
Mt 3:10 For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.
Mt 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Mt 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.
Mt 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.
Mt 12:33 Either make the tree good and its fruit good: or make the tree evil, and its fruit evil. For by the fruit the tree is known.
Mt 13:8 And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty fold, and some thirty fold.
Mt 13:23 But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty.
Mt 13:26 And when the blade was sprung up, and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle.
Mt 21:19 And seeing a certain fig tree by the way side, he came to it and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he saith to it: May no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig tree withered away.
Mt 21:41 They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end and let out his vineyard to other husbandmen that shall render him the fruit in due season.
Mt 26:29 And I say to you, I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I shall drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.
Mt 7:16 By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Mt 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.
Mt 21:34 And when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he sent his servants to the husbandmen that they might receive the fruits thereof.
Mt 21:43 Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.

In other words, the "fruit" that is referred to in this passage are not different from the "fruits of the Spirit" mentoned in Gal. 5 or the lasting fruits by which the Father is honored in John 15.

Posted by bible student at 9:42 AM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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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.

Day

Section and Title

Monday

8:16-18: Take Heed What You Hear

Tuesday

8:19-21: The Family of the Lord

Wednesday

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

Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday

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
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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
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Monday, September 12, 2005

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
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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
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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
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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
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Monday, August 29, 2005

Mt. 16:21-27 -- Being an Alter Christus

Those who have been baptized are called "alter Christus", an "other Christ". This aspect of the Christian life is underscored in Mt. 16:21-27. The gospel selection for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) can be divided in the following way:


vv. 21-23 Get Behind Me, Satan: The Reproach To Peter
vv. 24-27 The Disciples' Way of the Cross

The statement "Whoever wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (v. 24) is actually a statement of the lifestyle of the one who wishes to follow Jesus. The central statement "take up his cross" points forward to the Way of the Cross. As Jesus will be carrying the cross of humiliation and shame, so too the disciple will have to carry his. The two outward statements -- "deny himself ... follow me" -- recalls all the instances when those whom Jesus calls have to leave something of themselves behind. The first four fishermen to be called left behind their nets and boats (in the case of James and John, they also left behind Zebedee, their father, the one who passed on to them their trade as fishermen); the rich young man had to discover that it was not enough to just obey the Mosaic law, he also had to give up his wealth (Mt. 19:16-22, cf. parallels). Given the connection of the statement to the previous one about Jesus' prediction regarding his own future, one is tempted to see here a call to the same process that Jesus will undergo: suffering, death and resurrection. When Jesus says "follow me" one might as well ask, "To where?" The gospel of John will give the answer: "Where I am, there you will also be", that is, to be with Him at the side of the Father. In Matthew Jesus intimates this in verse 27 when he refers to his return as the Son of Man who will render to each one his due.

The Son of Man is the celestial being in Daniel 7:13+ who receives from God all authority, power and kingship. This is the glorious Son of Man who will return as the Groom, King and Master of the House (cf. Matthew 25). He will share with the wise, the faithful and those who cared for the little ones the joy that is His. It is I think within this context that one must understand the statements in vv. 25-26.

Whoever will seek his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profits a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul? What can he give in return for his own soul?

Vv. 21-23 is in continuation with the previous story about Peter's confession of the who Jesus is. After Simon Bar-Jona identifies Jesus as "the Messiah (the Christ), Son of the Living God" and gets commended for it, he shows in vv. 21-23 that he has not fully understood Jesus' Messiahship. He, like the Devil in Matthew 4:1f, thought of a Messiah without a Cross. Hence, Jesus calls him by the name "Satan", the Hindrance. Like Peter, the "alter Christus" must give up one's favorite image of Jesus for one that is in conformity with God's mind. In a moment of inspiration, Peter saw Jesus as the Christ, but as a Christ in glory with authority and dominion. He had to learn that that image of Christ will become true only AFTER Jesus has become the Suffering Messiah, obedient only to the Father's word. As the Tempter in Matthew 4:1f learned what Son of God meant, so too must the disciple.

Posted by bible student at 9:41 AM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Faith of A Pagan: Matthew 15:21-28

The story of the persistent Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 is taken by the Catechism as an example of prayer borne out of deep faith (CCC, 2610). In fact, the figure of the Canaanite woman and her persistence in asking for the Lord's help reminds one of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52), the Parables of Persistent Prayer in Luke (cf. Luke 11:5-10;18:2-5). And while it can be compared to the case of the Roman centurion as an example of a healing at a distance, (Mt. 8:5-13), the case of the Canaanite woman is distinguished by the fact that here, her request was granted after being rebuffed.

Jesus' initial rejection of the request of the woman for help is justified in 15:24: "I was sent after the lost sheep of Israel." This has led some interpreters to think that the story probably came from a time in Jesus' ministry when the restoration of the people of Israel was foremost in his thoughts. However, the fact that Jesus relents to the woman at the end in recognition of her genuine faith, the story probably became an inspiration for the early Christian missionaries when these in turn found themselves in Gentile lands. Hence, this narrative provides a type for the Church in mission to the Gentiles.

This gospel narrative is paired with Romans 11:13-15.29-32 for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year A. This is interesting because Augustine has a sermon on the Canaanite woman where he makes side comments on this section of Romans (Sermon 77).

But why were the natural branches rightly broken off? (cf. Rom. 11:17a) Pride. And the wild olive rightly grafted in (Rom. 11:17b)? Humility. That's why this woman said: "Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of the master" and why he said in reply: "O woman, great is your faith!"

In this sermon, Augustine had been explaining to his audience their connection to the Canaanite woman:

With these words ("I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel") the question arises: how did we come from the gentiles into Christ's sheepfold, if he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? What is the meaning of this profoundly mysterious maneuver by which the Lord, knowing full well why he had come, which was of course to have a Church among all the nations, said he had only been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?

Thus, from this opening question, he explains the story as a prefiguration of what happens in the time of the apostles when they -- especially in the person of St. Paul -- preached the gospel to the Gentiles and made possible the "grafting" of the wild olive branches of gentility into the tree that is Israel.

The story of the persistent Canaanite woman therefore has a typological sense. It also has a moral sense which Augustine does not hesitate to pound into his audience:

So notice, brothers and sisters, how it is above all humility that is being recommended to us in this woman who was a Canaanite, that is, who came from gentility and was a type -- that is, a representation -- of the Church.

...

Let's learn, let's keep humility. If we haven't got any yet, let's learn it. If we don't have it, let us not lose it. If we haven't yet got it, let's get it andbe grafted in. If we already have it, let's keep it and not be broken off.

The story of the Canaanite woman is rich. It can be seen as an example of the persistence of a mother who loves her daughter or the humility of a pagan in front of the Lord or even a reminder of how the Lord refuses a request so as to make one's desire more intense. There is a lot of meat here but all derives from the humble woman whom the Lord praises in the end: "Oh woman, how great is your faith!"

Posted by bible student at 2:05 PM
Edited on: Thursday, August 11, 2005 2:46 PM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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Monday, August 08, 2005

Jesus Walks On Water: Matthew's Version

Matthew 14:22-33 is a rewriting of Mark 6:45-52, a narrative that closely follows the feeding of the five thousand (6:34-44) and is connected to it (see Mk. 6:52). But while in Mark the disciples were not able to understand the connection between the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus on the waters, and therefore the significance itself of this latter, in Matthew, the disciples end up worshipping Jesus as the "Son of God" that is, as God* (Mark 14:33). This conclusion actually highlights the Marcan "insinuations" of Jesus' Divinity implied in Jesus' walking on the waters, the self-presentation "Take courage, I AM", and the intention to pass them by.

Passages from Ps. 77, 20 and Job 9,8 point to God walking on the Sea. Ps. 77,20 even mentions the unseen footprints of the Lord on the mighty waters

Your way was on the sea (byam drkyka)
your path on the mighty waters
though no one sees your footprints.

Job 9,8 echoes the mythical language of a hymn about the victory of God over His enemy Yammu: "He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the mighty crests of the Sea." With these two passages at the background of the Marcan phrase "he came toward them walking on the sea" (6:48), the following "and he meant to pass them by" should echo passages from the Exodus about the glorious passing of Yahweh. God passing by is God doing something for his people. And when therefore Jesus says to his frightened disciples: "Take courage, I AM", it is as if he is bringing them the consolation that only God can give (cf. Isaiah 41:10.13;43:1.3.5).

"I AM" is the name Yahweh gives Moses in Exodus 3:14. When Moses asked Him the name by which He would be known by His people, He said: ehyeh asher ehyeh which most translations would render as "I Am Who Am". We know now, however, that the Hebrew asher is not always a relative pronoun ("who" in this instance); it can also be the equivalent of a colon or a quotation mark. Thus the proper rendering would be "I am 'I AM'". Hence, the following statement becomes easily understandable: "This is what you shall say to the Israelites: I AM has sent you."

In Matthew's version, the reference to Jesus' intention of passing by was suppressed and instead, a concrete saving act is supplied. In the figure of Peter, the disciples express themselves in a dialogue with the God who saves:

And Peter said to him:
"Lord, if is truly you, command me to come to you on the water."
And he said:
"Come."
Peter got out of the boat,
and began to walk on the water
towards Jesus

But when he saw how strong the wind was,
he became frightened
and he, beginning to sink, cried out: "Lord, save me!"

Immediately, Jesus
stretched out his hand
and caught him
and said to him: "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?"

"Lord, save me!" The Lord does not abandon those in Peter's bark to the waves of history that toss it about. He is there as the Lord of history with his hands stretched out to the men of little faith who may think that, in a moment of weakness, that the waves are bigger and the winds stronger than the Lord.

"O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" is a rebuke. Coming from one who has shown the majesty of His divinity, it should also be taken as a reminder that when the Lord is near, there can be no room for fear, only faith.

*********

*The title "Son of God" is not semitic in origin; it is Roman, and became more and more a title of the Emperor of Rome after Caesar Augustus. "Divi Filius" is therefore linked to the imperial religion to which the gospels set themselves up against. In fact, the claim that Jesus was "Son of God" is a claim that undermines Roman rule, as does the more Jewish title "Messiah" (XristoV, Christ)

Posted by biblista at 2:33 PM
Categories: New Testament
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Saturday, July 30, 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.

See this article too from Otium Sanctum.

Posted by bible student at 2:46 PM
Edited on: Saturday, July 30, 2005 3:19 PM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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Tuesday, July 26, 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 breakdown:

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 his wealth.

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.


Posted by bible student at 6:21 AM
Categories: Liturgy, New Testament
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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 cannot:

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;8:13.14.15.16.23.26.27 .

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 inexpressible.

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 into glory.

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.

Posted by bible student at 3:00 PM
Categories: Devotional, New Testament
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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.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
"I will open my mouth in parables,
I 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 3:39 PM
Edited on: Wednesday, July 13, 2005 3:41 PM
Categories: New Testament
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Tuesday, July 05, 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)
But Wisdom is justified of her children (American Version)
Yet Wisdom is justified by her deeds (NJB)
Yet Wisdom is vindicated by her works (NRSV)
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. (Matt. 11:25)

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 12:51 PM
Edited on: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 1:20 PM
Categories: New Testament
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

False Prophets

In the early Church, prophecy was considered a charism that was given for the building up of the community of the faith (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). In fact, Paul and Barnabas and even Silas were numbered among these (Acts 13:1; 15:32). That Jesus himself will be warning his disciples about false prophets (Mt. 7:15) is interesting in that by the time the synoptic Gospels were being written (70-90 AD), such false prophets have arisen to deceive many (Mt. 24:11). In Matthew 24:24, "False Christs" are even mentioned with "false prophets."

In Acts 13:7-8, one finds the case of a false prophet from among the Jews who tried prevent the conversion of a high official to Christianity. But in 2 Peter 2:1, it is clear that the false prophets will be coming from within the community of faith itself. In 1 Jn. 4:1ff, John says that the false prophets will "go out"; and these are mentioned together with the anti-christs who have gone out from the community of faith itself. By the time the Apocalypse was completed the false prophet has become the ally of all that goes against the Lamb and His own (cf. Rev. 16:13; 19:20;20:10)

In Matthew 7:16, Jesus tells his disciples the way to distinguish false prophets: by their fruits ye shall know them. The "fruit" referred to here are fruits of righteousness that correspond to Paul's "fruits of the Spirit" (cf. Gal. 5). In 2 Peter 2:1ff one finds a list of the kind of fruits these false prophets bear:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there shall be among you lying teachers who shall bring in sects of perdition and deny the Lord who bought them: bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their riotousness, through whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.

... And especially them who walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise government: audacious, self willed, they fear not to bring in sects, blaspheming. ...But these men, as irrational beasts, naturally tending to the snare and to destruction, blaspheming those things which they know not, shall perish in their corruption: Receiving the reward of their injustice, counting for a pleasure the delights of a day: stains and spots, sporting themselves to excess, rioting in their feasts with you: Having eyes full of adultery and of sin that ceaseth not: alluring unstable souls: having their heart exercised with covetousness: children of malediction.

Leaving the right way, they have gone astray, ... These are fountains without water and clouds tossed with whirlwinds, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved. For, speaking proud words of vanity, they allure by the desires of fleshly riotousness those who for a little while escape, such as converse in error: Promising them liberty, whereas they themselves are the slaves of corruption.

For by whom a man is overcome, of the same also he is the slave. For if, flying from the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they be again entangled in them and overcome: their latter state is become unto them worse than the former. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of justice than, after they have known it, to turn back from that holy commandment which was delivered to them. For, that of the true proverb has happened to them: The dog is returned to his vomit; and: The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Posted by bible student at 7:11 AM
Categories: New Testament
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ex. 16:18 In Paul's Plea For Generosity

2 Cor. 8:1-15 is the introduction to Paul's collection memo for the Corinthians which begins in 8:1 and ends in 9:15. In this memo he informs the Corinthians that Titus and some other designated assistants (8:18.23) will be making the rounds and collecting the donations of the Christian communities for the mother Church in Jerusalem. In 8:9-15, Paul makes a plea for generosity. Drawing from the example of the Lord Himself (v. 9) and reminding the Corinthians how they were the first to decide that a collection be made for the mother Church (v. 10), Paul encourages them to continue what they've begun. Then he writes something that is valid even today for individuals or groups who are asked for donations:

As long as readiness is there, a man is acceptable with whatever he can afford; never mind what is beyond his means. This does not mean that to give relief to others you ought to make things difficult for yourselves: it is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need. That is how we strike a balance: as scripture says: The man who gathered much had none too much, the man who gathered little did not go short.

The quotation from Scriptures is actually from Exodus 16:18, an episode from the "manna" incident. There the Israelites were instructed to collect manna that will be sufficient for a day. Some of the Israelites, motivated by greed, gathered more than was necessary; some others were sparing in the amount of manna they gathered. At the end of the day, however, everyone discovered that each had gathered what was sufficient. In short, whether one gathered more or less, there was enough manna for each one to satisfy the day's hunger.

This miracle of the ever sufficient food from heaven is interpreted in the Book of Deuteronomy as a lesson about the Word of God:

He fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of Yahweh. (Deut. 8:3)

God provides what is sufficient; and He provides according to His Word, human greed (getting more than is sufficient) and laziness (getting less than is sufficient) notwithstanding. This would be one of the meanings of the manna incident in Ex. 16:18 if understood from within the Mosaic discourse in Deut. 8:3. But Paul seems to draw a social implication from Ex. 16:18, an implication that is suggested by the whole of verses 17-18:

The sons of Israel did this (cf. verse 16). They gathered it some more, some less. When they measured in an omer what they had gathered, the man who had gathered more had not too much, the man who had gathered less had not too little. Each found he had gathered what he needed.

The omer that is mentioned here is a measuring device that can contain one-tenth of an ephah (16:36). I would suggest that since everyone was required to keep only the manna that can be contained in an omer, those who had gathered more than an omer gave the extra manna to those who had less than an omer. Thus, in the end, each Israelite had manna that was equivalent to one omer. It is the "balance" that Paul mentions in 2 Cor. 8:9-15: one's lack now will be filled up by the abundance of the other so that no one will be in need.

We are daily faced by inequalities in our society. If we look hard at the things we have, we may find out that we have more than we need. We may even find out that we have in abundance is precisely what another lacks in his/her need. Perhaps it is time we give up what we have in abundance to fill up the need we find in others so that we can contribute to the betterment of our society.

Posted by biblista at 2:01 PM
Categories: New Testament
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An Article On The Deity of Christ by Bruce Metzger

Bruce Metzger, the famous textual critic whom the "Ang Tamang Daan" INC-panelists like to cite in their favor has an article on the Divinity of Christ.

Posted by bible student at 1:40 AM
Categories: New Testament
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