1st Sunday in Lent (A): Genesis 2:7-9;3:1-7 • Romans 5:12-19 • Matthew 4:1-11

We’re not doing a standard Bible study for Lent and Easter, so I’ve decided to put my commentary on the Sunday readings, rather than study guides, up on the blog.

First Reading (Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7)

The Old Testament readings for Lent begin with Genesis — first failure (the sin of Adam and Eve), then promise (God beginning His covenant with Abram). Then the third through fifth weeks we’ll see how God provides for His people, how He exalts the lowly, and restores them to life.
But first we have to hear the familiar story of the Garden of Eden: God creating man and woman, placing them in the garden, and their disobedience of His command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
God breathes into us “the breath of life” and so we are living beings; the “breath” of God, ruah in Hebrew, is another name for His Spirit. It is His Spirit which gives life to our souls, and which He pours out upon us to give us new life in Baptism and to strengthen that life in Confirmation.
The first man was named “Adam,” a play on the Hebrew word for soil or ground, adamah. Likewise, our word “human” comes from the Latin humanus, which has a root of humus, which means soil or ground.
The serpent which tricks Eve was no measly snake — the New Testament identifies Satan as “that ancient serpent” (Revelation 12:9). Satan wants us to question God — to question His commands, His will for us, even His very wisdom. The result of Eve’s transgression, and Adam’s going along with it, causes them to become ashamed of how God had made them (was God foolish to have kept them naked?), and fills them with a desire to hide from Him (is God unable to find anything?), leading to the first question in the whole Bible (Genesis 3:9, just outside of the reading we’ll hear), God calling out to Adam, “Where are you?” Of course, when God asks a question, it’s not because He doesn’t know the answer, but because He wants to hear our answer…

Responsorial (Psalm 51)

And our answer, our response to that first sin, is to confess our own sin in the words of David the King (how fitting). We ask God to be merciful, to wash away our sins, to renew our hearts, to keep us in His presence, and to let us experience the joy of salvation. In response to His grace, we will proclaim His praise.

Second Reading (Romans 5:12-19)

St. Paul gives us a recap and analysis of our First Reading: how sin and death entered the world through one person and how likewise salvation and eternal life entered the world through one person. Paul names Adam, not Eve, as the root: “the trespass of Adam”. Perhaps this implies that Adam failed in his God-given duties “to cultivate (keep) and care for (guard) the garden” (Genesis 2:15) by permitting the serpent to convince Eve that God was a liar.
This reminds us that we can be complicit in the sin of another both by our action and by our inaction. For those of you were at the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. David the King this week, you might remember we prayed the Confiteor (“I Confess”) at the beginning of Mass, where we admit to having sinned “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”
But Paul does not end with gloom; he preaches the Gospel! Jesus is the new Adam (and Mary is the new Eve). Jesus succeeded where Adam failed; we now have acquittal where before we had condemnation; we have life where before we had death. In short, where as the many have suffered for the sin of one, the many can now rejoice in the righteousness of one. And not only can we rejoice in the righteousness of Christ, we have the promise of being made righteous through God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Verse (Matthew 4:4)

Before we hear the Gospel, we always hear a verse intended to prepare us for the whole thing. This week it is the first response of Christ to his tempter, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” We’ll look at this in more detail in the Gospel, below.

Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11, paralleled in Luke 4:1-13)

The Catholic Church uses a three-year cycle for Sunday readings. Since Advent 2016, we have been in Year A, which uses the Gospel according to Matthew predominantly (although we’ll hear John’s Gospel a lot during Lent). Because Lent is a time when we consider more strongly our spiritual struggle against sin, we start the season by hearing about the temptation of Christ in the desert by Satan, after his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist.
As is often the case, the Gospel is related thematically to the Old Testament reading. Jesus’s temptation is contrasted with Adam and Eve’s, with St. Paul’s analysis as the hinge between them.
After his baptism, the Holy Spirit urges Jesus to go out to the desert to be tempted. Not just to spend time in solitude, in prayer and fasting, but to face the tempter, Satan. That might sound like a foolish decision by God: to identify His chosen one and then put him in harm’s way. But even the “foolishness of God” surpasses the wisdom of man (1 Corinthians 1:25). Jesus is tested, but never succumbs. Satan takes advantage of his fasting and hunger, and challenges him to turn stones into bread, surely something the Son of God could do. He challenges Jesus to jump from the Temple roof, since surely the Son of God would be protected from falling to his death. And he challenges Jesus to worship him, Satan, instead of God, and promises dominion over all the kingdoms of the world in return. This time, the devil does not bring up Jesus’s title as “Son of God”, but it is implied: Satan is asking Jesus to forsake his Father, to give up his inheritance (as God’s Son) and choose a promised gift from him instead.
Jesus responds to each of Satan’s tests by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy, one of the first five books of the Jewish scriptures, the books of Moses, the Torah. To the challenge to produce bread from stones, he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, and refuses to use his power for his own benefit, choosing to accept God’s will, which in the desert, means fasting and being hungry! The context of the verse he quotes is Moses’ warning to the Israelites that the miraculous manna (bread from heaven) which God provided for them in their hunger was a sign that they should heed God’s commandments as their source for life. So Jesus places God’s will for him over the temporal benefit of food.
In the second challenge, the devil himself quotes Scripture to trap Jesus (a practice Christ would encounter again by others who opposed him). Satan quotes Psalm 91, the psalm of those whose fortress, shelter, and refuge is God. The psalm confesses that for those who trust in God, “no evil shall befall you … for he commands his angels … to guard you wherever you go … lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:10-12) But Jesus is smarter than Satan, and responds with Moses’ instruction to the Israelites not to “put the Lord, your God, to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16) as they had done at Massah (which we’ll hear about in the following Sunday’s First Reading). What is more, Satan is foolish to choose Psalm 91, which promises that God will save His faithful from snares and traps, and they shall tread upon serpents!
In the third challenge, the devil (the “ruler of this world” as Jesus thrice calls him in John’s gospel) promises to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, but Jesus rebukes him with the oldest rule in the book: you shall worship God and no other (Deuteronomy 6:13). Israel knows the sad history of abandoning worship of God, and Jesus is restoring Israel, making the right decisions where they made the wrong ones. Worshiping God, and only God, is Faithfulness 101; it’s a precept so simple yet so important that Moses instructed it to be written on the Israelites’ doorposts, and worn upon the arm and the head as jewelry, that the Word of God would never be far from them.
In return for Jesus’ faithfulness, not only do angels come and minister to him when Satan leaves, but Jesus confirms that what Satan attempted to offer him has actually been given to him by his Father: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
God has always been the gold standard for us: how He loves, we should love; how He protects, we should protect; how He is perfect, we should be perfect. But we could never learn from God’s own example how to obey… until He came to us as a man, as Jesus. In Jesus Christ, God has finally shown us a perfect example of obedience, because his obedience is God’s obedience. For this, we should give thanks. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory.

Questions to Consider

  • When have I been persuaded to trust in someone or something other than God?
  • What temptations do I face, and how do I resist them?
  • How can I use my fasting and abstinence during Lent to focus more on God’s will for me?

Our Lenten Study

Lent begins March 1st with Ash Wednesday, and goes six and a half weeks. The Easter Triduum begins on April 13th, Holy Thursday, and lasts through April 16th, Easter Sunday.

The day before Lent is known as “Mardi Gras” (“Fat Tuesday”), because it marked the last night until Easter when richer, fattier foods could be eaten. The traditional Lenten fast was much stricter than what we practice today: eggs, dairy, and meat were not eaten during all of Lent, so they had to be cleared out by the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The Brazilian festival of “Carnival” is named for this same practice of “removing meat” (carne levare) from the household.

During Lent, Catholics are called to abstain from meat on Fridays, and to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (April 14th). Abstaining from meat means consuming no red meat, pork, or poultry; fish has has been a traditional replacement food on Fridays. Fasting means restricting your food to only one meal, keeping any other food consumed that day totaling less than a meal, with allowances made for water and medicine.

Lent is associated with three spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We’ll talk about ways to practice these disciplines over the course of our Lenten study, in addition to our main program, which will be watching and discussing the Catholicism series by Fr. (now Bishop!) Robert Barron of Word on Fire ministries.

We begin on Monday, March 6th, meeting in the Spiritual Reading Room at 7:30 PM. We will meet for ten Mondays during Lent and into the Easter season, taking off on April 17th (Easter Monday) because the church is closed that evening, although we could have a social event elsewhere that evenings.

Learning the Language of the Liturgy

There will be a three-part series on the Mass at the Great Hall at St. David the King in January. We will meet from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM on the following dates: Jan 5 (Thurs), Jan 10 (Tues), and Jan 17 (Tues).

In the first session, we looked at the Mass as re-presenting the last events of Christ’s early life, from his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (in the Entrance Procession) through the Crucifixion (the Eucharistic Prayer) and the Resurrection (the Communion Rite) and finally his Ascension into heaven (the Final Blessing and Dismissal).

In the second session, we looked at four ways to prepare for the prayer of the Mass (“warming up” with personal prayer, familiarizing ourselves with the readings, abiding by the Eucharistic fast, and making sacramental Confession when necessary). Then we walked through the Mass from the Entrance Procession through the Creed, unpacking meaning found in the words, symbols, and gestures. We spent close to an hour on the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed together.

In our third and final session, we will pick up where we left off, starting at the Prayer of the Faithful and going through to the Dismissal. Close attention will be paid to the Eucharistic Prayer. If there’s time, we’ll look at the meaning behind the vestments and gestures of the priest.

If you’re interesting in bringing this series, or one like it, to your parish or small group, please contact me by leaving a comment below.

lll-flyer

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): 2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14 • Luke 20:27-38

For November 3, 2016

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Heavenly Father,
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
Amen.

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

First Reading – 2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14 (NAB) (RSV)

📕  The two books of the Maccabees are deuterocanonical. They relate the occupation of Israel by the Greek Seleucid dynasty. They are named for “Maccabeus”, the nickname of Judas son of Mattathias (1 Maccabees 2:4), who was the leader of the rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his persecution of the Jews. 1 Maccabees covers the years 175—135 BC, while 2 Maccabees focuses on the first 14 years, giving a theological interpretation to the events which took place. The second book explains the feast of the Dedication of the Temple (Hannukah) and contains explicit evidence for belief in a bodily resurrection and prayer for the dead in late pre-Christian Judaism.

📖 Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading spoke mostly of God’s mercy. This Sunday’s reading speaks mostly of God’s justice. The excerpt from this chapter that we hear at Mass mentions the resurrection. We’ll read the skipped verses in the middle; the whole account of the martyrdom of seven brothers and their mother at the hands of Antiochus is worth reading.

👤  Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the 8th Seleucid emperor and reigned from 175—164 BC. After the plundering of Jerusalem under his predecessor, he sought to forcibly Hellenize the Jews – that is, to make the Jews renounce their religion and become like the Greeks.

Gospel – Luke 20:27-38 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).

📖 The Lectionary jumps to Luke 20:27. We skip over the parable of the “talents” (19:11-27), Jesus entering Jerusalem and driving money-changers out of the Temple (19:28-48), and the chief priests and scribes testing Jesus (20:1-26). Our reading begins with another group, the Sadducees, testing Jesus by asking him about marriage and the resurrection.

👤  The Sadducees were a Jewish sect of priests. Their teachings differed from the Pharisees on a number of issues: they only accepted the first five books of the Scriptures (the Torah or Law) and they denied any concept of resurrection or even of the soul. Despite their dislike of the Pharisees, they united with them in opposition to Jesus.

Study Questions

🗣  What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?

🗣  What belief does the first brother profess (verses 2 and 6)?

🗣  What belief does the second brother profess (verse 9)?

🗣  What belief does the third brother profess (verse 11)?

🗣  What belief does the fourth brother profess (verse 14)?

💪 What attitudes can we learn from these brothers?

❤️ What can we hope for in the resurrection, according to the faith of these brothers?

🗣  What did the Sadducees hope to accomplish by their question?

🗣  How would you answer the Sadducees question?

🗣  Why does Jesus say there is no marriage after the resurrection (verses 35-36)?

💪 What does Jesus’ response tell us about virginity and about marriage?

🗣  Why does Jesus refer to Moses and “the passage about the bush” (verse 37) in order to answer the Sadduceees?

🗣  How does Jesus’ answer show that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are “alive” to God?

🕊   Is Jesus’ answer, that there is no marriage in heaven, discouraging for married people?
What positive message can we get from it?

Commentary

You think yourself to be forsaken, because He does not rescue when you wish. He delivered the three children from the fire (cf. Daniel 3:29-30); did He, who did this, desert the Maccabees? God forbid! He delivered both of these: the first bodily, that the faithless might be confounded; the last spiritually, that the faithful might imitate them.

St. Augustine (d. 430), On Psalm 91, 19

God revealed the resurrection of the dead to his people progressively. Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body.

Catechism 992 on 2 Maccabees 7

Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.

Catechism 1619 on Mark 12:25 (parallel to Luke 20:35)

Consider This

The seven brothers were martyrs; the Greek word martyros means “witness”. How are you a witness to your faith in God in your daily life? What challenges or temptations do you face?

Reflection

🗣  What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?

🕊   What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?

💪  What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?

❤️  How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
as we remember your holy saints, and all our faithful departed,
we look with hope to the promise of the resurrection.
May our desire for life with you in the world to come
compel us in this world to love you above all things,
and to love all things for your sake.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): Wisdom 11:22—12:2 • Luke 19:1-10

For October 27, 2016

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Heavenly Father,
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
Amen.

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

First Reading – Wisdom 11:22—12:2 (NAB) (RSV)

📕  The book of Wisdom, like Sirach, is another deuterocanonical book belonging to the “wisdom literature” of the Old Testament. It is sometimes called the “Wisdom of Solomon” because some of its verses use language evocative of the reign of King Solomon in Israel. It was written in Greek, but in the style of Hebrew poetry, and was composed either in the 2nd or 1st century BC, many centuries after the death of Solomon. The book describes Wisdom in ways that associate it with creation, salvation, and instruction (thus, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), possibly expressing a first glimpse of a Trinitarian view of God (see especially Wisdom 9:9-18).

📖 Wisdom 10:1—11:20 speaks of the role of Wisdom from the creation of Adam and Eve through to the exodus from Egypt. Our reading picks up immediately after this, where the text becomes more general and describes God’s patience and mercy with His creation. We will include verse 21, which is omitted from the Mass reading.

👤  King Solomon, whose reputation is evoked in the book of Wisdom, was the third king of Israel. Saul was the first king, followed by David, followed by David’s son Solomon. Solomon was visited by God in a dream (1 Kings 3:1-15), in which God told Solomon to ask for anything. Solomon, despite his youth, realized that he needed the gift of wisdom to justly govern the kingdom and its people. This request pleased God exceedingly, that Solomon did not ask for a long life, or the deaths of his enemies, or for riches, so God gave him these things in addition to great wisdom, such that there would never be another king like him.

Gospel – Luke 19:1-10 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).

📖 After the two parables about prayer, Luke records four more scenes in chapter 18: a) people bringing their children to Jesus to bless them (15-17); b) a rich man asking Jesus how he can inherit eternal life, and Jesus’ challenge to him to give up everything and follow him (18-30); c) one of Jesus’ prophecies of his impending arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection (31-34); d) and a miracle of restoration of sight to a blind beggar (35-43). Chapter 19 finds Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, arriving at Jericho, around 20 miles to the northeast.

👤  Zacchaeus (whose name means “pure”) was a chief tax collector. Remember tax collectors? They were hated for their service to the Roman occupiers and for extorting more money than was owed in taxes. Zacchaeus was particularly wealthy, which implies he collected far more money than was due.

👤  Abraham was the man God chose to inaugurate His covenant with after the time of Noah. Originally named Abram, he lived in the land of Ur (probably in modern-day Iraq) and was called by God to leave his homeland and travel to Canaan, which would eventually become the land of Israel. God made three important promises to Abraham: he and his descendants would have land, they would become a great nation, and all the world would find blessing through him (Genesis 12:1-3). These promises were elevated to covenants through Moses (land), David (kingdom), and Jesus (blessing). Since Abraham was the forefather of Judaism (being the great-grandfather of Judah for whom Judaism is named), the Jews considered themselves heirs of the promises he received.

 

Study Questions

🗣  What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?

🗣  Why is God is merciful, according to Wisdom 11:23 and 12:2?

🗣  Why is God’s mercy unexpected, according to Wisdom 11:21-22?

🗣  Recall what God said after every stage of creation in Genesis 1.
How does that confirm the claim of Wisdom 11:24?

💪 Does God’s mercy toward us give us the right to keep sinning?
What is a better response to His mercy?

🕊   What are some examples of Jesus being patient and merciful with His disciples?

💪 How can we imitate God’s patience and mercy?

❤️ If God loves every soul He has created, what is His ultimate desire for each person?

🗣  Why was the crowd an obstacle to Zacchaeus seeing Jesus?

🗣  What is ironic about the crowd’s reaction to Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:7)?
Does it remind you of a recent parable of Jesus? (See Luke 18:9-14)

💪 What does Zacchaeus do in response to receiving Jesus?

💪 Recall the reading from Sirach 35. Is Zacchaeus trying to bribe Jesus and buy forgiveness?

🗣  Compare Luke 18:18-30 (Jesus and the rich man) with this passage.

❤️ What does Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus mean (Luke 19:9-10)?
What is the importance of being “a son of Abraham”? (See Luke 3:8)

❤️ In order to receive salvation, what two things were required of Zacchaeus?
How does this apply to us reaching heaven?

Commentary

Christ exhorts us to imitate this long-suffering goodness of God, who makes the sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust; that we may be careful not to revenge, but may do good to them that hate us, and so may be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect.

St. Augustine (d. 430), Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, XIX:28

Those who, directly or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all who in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it … are obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.

Catechism 2412 on Luke 19:1-10

Consider This

What obstacles do you encounter that try to keep you from Jesus?  What do you need to rise above, like Zacchaeus, in order to see Jesus clearly?

How do your encounters with or experiences of Jesus change you?

Do you seek to right the wrongs you have committed?

Reflection

🗣  What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?

🕊   What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?

💪  What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?

❤️  How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
we thank you for patience with us,
and for the great gift of mercy that you extend to us.
May we imitate Zacchaeus, by responding to mercy with great love,
and learn by your example to be patient and merciful with others.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): Sirach 35:15b-22b • Luke 18:9-14

For October 20, 2016

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Heavenly Father,
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
Amen.

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

First Reading – Sirach 35:15b-22b (NAB) (RSV)

📕  The book of Sirach belongs to the “wisdom literature” section of the Old Testament. It was written in Hebrew at the beginning of the 2nd century BC by a man named Joshua, either the son or grandson of Sirach. The book begins with a prologue written by Joshua’s grandson, who translated his grandfather’s Hebrew text into Greek in the late 2nd century BC. The Catholic Church considers this book canonical (inspired) Scripture although it was not part of the accepted Hebrew scriptures.

📖 In the New American Bible (NAB), this reading is verses 12-19a. In the Revised NAB, it’s verses 15b-22b. In the Revised Standard Version (RSV), this reading is verses 12b-18a. This is due to differences in splitting up the sentences of this chapter into verses. If there is any confusion, this passage begins with “For he is a God of justice” (NAB) or “For the Lord is the judge” (RSV), and concludes with the words “will not delay” (NAB and RSV).

📖 This chapter admonishes the reader to keep the commandments, to be kind, to be generous in charity, to avoid bribes; in general, to act with justice. From there it describes the most just one of all, God, which is where our reading begins. The themes in the reading are very similar to Jesus’ parable about the widow and the judge (Luke 18:1-8).

📖 This whole chapter is worth reading, but we’ll stick to what we’ll hear at Mass. For some reason, the reading at Mass skips the verses about the tears of the widow, but we’ll include those too.

Gospel – Luke 18:9-14 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).

📖 This reading picks up immediately after last Sunday’s reading, about perseverance in prayer. The theme of prayer is continued, but the emphasis is now on one’s attitude in prayer.

📖 A parable is usually a brief story that teaches a lesson by way of comparison or allegory. The word comes from the Greek parabole meaning “to throw (bole) alongside (para)”, just like hyperbole (an exaggerative expression) means “to throw (bole) beyond (hyper)”.

👤  Pharisees were a religious sect in Judaism; their name means “separated ones”, and they were so named for two reasons. First, they were so concerned to keep the Jewish faith free from foreign religious practices that they demanded strict separation from Gentiles (non-Jews). Second, they considered themselves set apart from other Jews because of their strict adherence to priestly laws concerning ceremonial purity, despite not being priests! They looked down on other Jews who did not live up to their observances. Jesus considered them to be good teachers of the Law, but not good doers of the Law. He recognized that they were more focused on exterior purity than interior purity, and on adhering to the tiniest parts of the Law while actually overlooking the most important parts. (Read Matthew 23 for his rant against them.) Because of this conflict, the Pharisees considered Jesus an enemy and sought to have him discredited, and they eventually arranged for his arrest, trial, and execution.

👤  Tax collectors (or “publicans”) on the other hand, were notorious among the Jews for being allied with their Roman rulers and for extorting additional money on top of the taxes that were owed. Pharisees despised the tax collectors (and all other sinners, for that matter), and were outraged that Jesus would speak and dine with them. One of the apostles and evangelists, Matthew (also named Levi), was a tax collector (see Matthew 9:9).

Study Questions

🗣  What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?

🗣  What does it mean to be “partial” or to “show partiality”?

💪 What does the First Reading teach us about what God thinks of justice?

💪 How should we conduct ourselves in prayer if we wish to be heard by God?

🗣  What does Jesus say about the manner in which the Pharisee prayed (see Luke 18:11)?

🗣  What is the content of the Pharisee’s prayer? To whom does he compare himself?

🕊   What type of person might the Pharisee represent?

🗣  What is the content of the tax collector’s prayer? To whom does he compare himself?

🕊   What type of person might the tax collector represent?

💪 Is righteousness displeasing to God, and sin pleasing to Him?
Do fasting and tithing displease God?

💪 What positive lessons can we learn from both the Pharisee and the tax collector?

💪 How do we exalt ourselves? How do we humble ourselves?

❤️ What are some prayers we know that ask God for forgiveness?

💪 What can some of these prayers teach us about forgiving others?

❤️ Consider what both readings say about prayers reaching God in heaven.
What can they teach us about ourselves reaching heaven?

Commentary

When we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer.

Catechism 2559 on Luke 18:9-14

Consider This

When reading or hearing this parable, do you ever stop and think to yourself, “I’m glad I’m not like the Pharisee”? If so… read the parable again.

When a class takes a test, if the teacher grades on a curve, it usually means the student who scores the highest on the test, no matter what their actual score is, is considered to have scored 100%, and the other students are graded in proportion to that student. Its opposite is grading the students without comparing them to each other, but to a perfectly taken test.

How did the Pharisee believe God “grades” humanity? What did the tax collector believe?

And you?

Reflection

🗣  What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?

🕊   What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?

💪  What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?

❤️  How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
grant us the grace to be humble in your presence,
to confess our sins and strive for righteousness in your sight.
Keep us from becoming proud and setting ourselves apart;
rather, may our witness to your great love for mankind
encourage all to approach you and be welcomed into your kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C): Exodus 17:8-13 • Luke 18:1-8

For October 13, 2016

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Heavenly Father,
your Son commanded us to love one another as he has loved us,
and he taught us that he loves us as you love him.
We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us as we read your word,
so that as we come to understand your love for us
we may better love you, and all you have created, in return.
Amen.

St. Jerome: pray for us.
St. David: pray for us.

First Reading – Exodus 17:8-13 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 Exodus is the second book of the Bible, and one of the five books of Moses, collectively called the Torah (which means “the law”) and the Pentateuch (which means “the five books”). The book of Genesis ends with the families of Jacob’s twelve sons living in Egypt, and the book of Exodus begins by mentioning that their descendants (Hebrews/Israelites) became so great that the Pharaoh in Egypt enslaved them (c. 1600 BC), and records the events of their rescue by God through Moses and his brother Aaron (c. 1450 BC).

📖 In chapter 14, the Israelites cross the Red Sea; their song of victory is recorded in chapter 15. Their journey in the desert from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai (where they will receive the Ten Commandments) is in chapters 16 through 19. God feeds them miraculously with manna and with water from a rock, and then the encounter with the Amalekites occurs.

🌎 Rephidim is somewhere near the southern end of the Sinai peninsula, to the east of Egypt. It was the Israelites’ last recorded stop before they reached Mount Sinai.

👤  Moses was an Israelite who was raised by the Egyptians during the Israelites’ slavery. He eventually fled Egypt after killing a slave-master, and God chose him to lead His people out of Egypt, along with his brother Aaron.

👤  Joshua was the chief assistant of Moses, and would become the leader of the Israelites after Moses’ death. Joshua was originally named Hoshea, but Moses renamed him; his new name (Yehoshu’a in Hebrew, meaning “Yah[weh] is salvation”) is essentially the same name as Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew, meaning “he saves”, is an abbreviated form of Yehoshu’a).

👤  Aaron was the older brother of Moses; he eventually became the first high priest of the Israelites. Hur was a companion of Moses and Aaron, but there is not much about him in the Bible.

👤  In Genesis we read about Adam and Eve, Noah, and then Abraham. Abraham’s son Isaac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. There was often strife between Esau and Jacob, and between their descendants as well. Amalek was a grandson of Esau; his descendants were a nomadic people called the Amalekites. The Israelites are descendants of Jacob (whom God renamed “Israel”). Amalek himself was dead long before the events of Exodus 17; the use of his name in this passage is an example of metonymy, a figure of speech where a thing or concept is called by the name of something associated with it, such as in the expressions “the White House responded to reports…” or “Boston will be playing New York”.

Gospel – Luke 18:1-8 (NAB) (RSV)

📕 St. Luke was the author of both a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke reports at the beginning of his gospel that many others had already compiled narratives of the life of Jesus, and that his is “an orderly account” intended to assure you (the reader) of the truth of the things you have heard. Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus”, which may have been a person, but it may just be a generic term (because it is Greek for “lover of God”).

📖 After his encounter with the ten lepers, Jesus talks about the kingdom of God and the day when the “Son of Man” is revealed (Luke 17:20-37). Luke 18 begins with this Sunday’s reading. This parable concludes with Jesus referring again to the “Son of Man”.

👤  “Son of Man” is an Old Testament expression meaning “mortal human”. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel, God calls Ezekiel “Son of man” nearly 100 times. The phrase is often used in the Psalms in conjunction with just the word “man” in a poetic couplet:
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)
In the book of the prophet Daniel, it is used twice; once as in Ezekiel, but once in a vision that Daniel has, where he sees “[coming] with the clouds of heaven … one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days … and to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom” (Daniel 7:13-14). In his final days, Jesus applies that description to himself (see Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, and Luke 21:27); he speaks of himself as the “Son of man” dozens of times. He is described as “one like a son of man” on two occasions in St. John’s Revelation (1:13; 14:14). This title emphasizes both his true human nature and his divine majesty as God’s Son and anointed one (both “Messiah” and “Christ” mean “anointed”).

Study Questions

🗣  What links can you find between the Old Testament and Gospel readings?

🗣  How, and why, is the Israelites’ victory over Amalek dependent upon Moses?

🕊   What event is foreshadowed by Moses, Aaron, and Hur on the hill?

🕊   Who do the Israelites represent?
Who do the Amalekites represent?

🕊   How do both Moses and Joshua symbolize Christ?

❤️ How can prayer help us in overcoming sin?

💪 What do Moses, Aaron, Hur, and Joshua teach us about the Christian life?

💪 What is the lesson Jesus is teaching by this parable (see Luke 18:1)?

🗣  What sort of picture do you get of the judge, based on his description?

🗣  Why does the judge hear the widow’s case?

🕊   Who do the judge and the widow represent?

🗣  Is the dishonest judge really a good model or example of God?
What is Jesus actually teaching about God here?

❤️ Why do we need to persevere in prayer? Why pray for something more than once?

🗣  What does Jesus’ question mean? Why does he ask it after this parable?
(What does faith have to do with the lesson of the parable?)

Commentary

A sign of Him that was to be crucified was made … in the type of the extending of the hands of Moses, and of Hoshea being renamed Jesus (Joshua). … God enjoined that the incident be recorded, and the name of Jesus laid up in your understandings.

St. Justin Martyr (d. 165), Dialogue with Trypho, 131

See how the type was “given by Moses,” but the “Truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). When the Amalekites warred, the hands of Moses were supported by Aaron and Hur standing on either side of him; but when Christ came, He of Himself stretched forth His Hands upon the Cross.

St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), Homilies on the Gospel of St. John, John 1:16

Amalek shall be conquered, not with arms alone, but with the hostile hand of the righteous forming both prayers and the invincible trophy of the Cross.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (d. 390), Second Oration on Easter, 21

If he then heard her prayer, who hated to be asked, how must He hear who exhorts us to ask? … [But] if faith fail, prayer perishes. For who prays for that which he does not believe?

St. Augustine (d. 430), Sermons, LXV

Consider This

What is the “Amalek” in your life? Who are your Aaron and Hur? To whom can you be an Aaron or a Hur? Who is the Joshua to your Moses: who are you supporting with prayer?

Reflection

🗣  What have I learned about who God is,
so that I can love Him better?

🕊   What have I learned about Christ,
so that I can recognize his love for me better?

💪  What have I learned about the Christian life,
so that I can show my love for God and neighbor better?

❤️  How can I incorporate into prayer what I have learned,
so that I can express my gratitude for God’s love?

Closing Prayer

Almighty God,
teach us to persevere in prayer,
and grant us patience to wait for your word.
Give us eyes that we may see our brothers and sisters in need of prayer,
and strength so that we may support them if they grow weary.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Hindsight is 20/20

Last night’s St. David the King young adult Bible study went well. We had a great crowd, 14 in all, just able squeeze around the large table in the Spiritual Reading Room.

Our series looks at the Old Testament and Gospel readings that we’ll hear on Sundays, because they’re thematically related. In the interest of time, I leave out the Second Reading because it is often not thematically related: it’s usually just sequentially chosen from the epistles.

But upon reading the Second Reading for this coming Sunday (2 Timothy 2:8-13), I immediately saw a connection:

This saying is trustworthy:
If we have died with him
we shall also live with him. (verse 11)

The imagery of dying and rising (or living) with Christ is embodied in the sacrament of baptism, and baptism is prefigured in the Old Testament reading, in Naaman’s plunging into the Jordan to be cleansed of his leprosy.

It’s a shame that I don’t include the Second Reading, since it would also introduce a different form of Scripture (that is, the epistle). But there’s always the next series.

10 Tips for Reading the Bible

The web site of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a list of ten points for fruitful reading of Scripture. Here are a few of them, with a link to the rest:

  • Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
  • Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church’s complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
  • The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
  • Reading isn’t enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be “living and effective.”(Hebrews 4:12).

Two Common Myths about the Bible

There are two popular myths about the Bible that prevent a lot of people from reading and studying it.

The Bible is too hard

Some people have the nation that the Bible is too difficult to understand unless you are a degree-holding theologian with years of training. They might say, “Every time I try to read the Bible, I don’t understand it.” Maybe they’re hoping to hear, “Yeah, you need to take classes at a seminary if you want to study the Bible.”

But God hasn’t chosen some obscure and difficult means of having His revelation recorded for generations. The revelation found in the Bible was given to and written down by ordinary people, not some small group of elite scholars who are the only ones who can understand it. If you can read a blog post, you can read and understand the message of the Bible.

The Bible is too boring

Some people can understand what they’re reading, but it doesn’t excite or interest them. For whatever reason, the content of the Bible just doesn’t meet their reading preferences.

But the Bible is full of all sorts of characters who portray the whole range of human emotion, and who go through all types of the human experience. Their lives are dramatic. There is hate, love, anger, joy, fear, courage, death, life, revenge, forgiveness. There are words of wisdom and wit, of regret and rebuke, of contrition and comfort. The Bible contains more than just the story of God: it contains the story of humanity.