Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Once Again: Is God Fair? 26th Sun in OT

Apparently Holy Mother Church wants us to learn something about God’s justice and mercy, because the themes of this Sunday’s Readings repeat, with variation, those of last week’s.

Last week we had to deal with the difficult Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, which raised the issue of whether God is “unfair” in his merciful generosity

This week the topic of God’s “fairness” rises again at the beginning of the First Reading:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Douglas Campbell, John Paul II, and Christ's "Substitutionary" Death

I've been reading much from Pauline scholar Douglas Campbell's work on Paul. In particular, Campbell has written much on the topic of the atonement imagery in Romans 3.

Without saying too much, Campbell is very uncomfortable with the way Christ's work of atonement is often presented. Like many, he criticizes the way language of "substitution" is used and the way the cross is typically explained in Christian churches:
"Wrongdoers are separated from the appropriate desert for their action, and the innocent Christ, in a supremely unjust action, is punished in their place" (Deliverance of God, 49). 
It seems to me that Campbell and John Paul II would have made interesting conversation partners.

Consider what John Paul II has to say about atonement (h/t to my colleague Douglas Bushman for bringing this text to my attention). The following is a remarkably rich passage that merits much reflection:
What confers on substitution its redemptive value is not the material fact that an innocent person has suffered the chastisement deserved by the guilty and that justice has thus been in some way satisfied (in such a case one should speak rather of a grave injustice). The redemptive value comes instead from the fact that the innocent Jesus, out of pure love, entered into solidarity with the guilty and thus transformed their situation from within. In fact, when a catastrophic situation such as that caused by sin is taken upon oneself on behalf of sinners out of pure love, then this situation is no longer under the sign of opposition to God, but, on the contrary, it is under the sign of docility to the love which comes from God (Gal 3:13-14). Christ, by offering himself "as a ransom for many," put into effect to the very ultimate his solidarity with man, with every man and with every sinner. The Apostle Paul indicates this when he writes, "The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died" (2 Cor 5:14). Christ therefore is in solidarity with everyone in death, which is an effect of sin. But in him this solidarity was in no way the effect of sin; instead, it was a gratuitous act of the purest love. Love induced Christ to give his life, by accepting death on the cross. His solidarity with man in death consists in the fact that he not only died as every man dies, but that he died for every one. Thus this “substitution” signifies the “superabundance” of love which overcomes every deficiency of human love, every negation and contrariety linked with human sin in every dimension.
--John Paul II, General Audience, October 26, 1988

The Parable of the Two Sons (The Mass Readings Explained)

My latest video is now out for this upcoming Sunday.

Thank you to all who have subscribed to Year A.   Year B is right around the corner!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Is God Fair? Readings for 25th Sunday of OT

The Gospel Reading for this Lord’s Day raises the issue of the
fairness of God.  Jesus, being a good teacher, wants his students to think.  He teaches in parables that—on the one hand—do indeed communicate truth and answer questions, but—on the other—do raise new, puzzling questions that require the student (disciple means student, after all) to think. 

1.  Our First Reading emphasizes the distance between God’s perspective and ours:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Aquinas Would Give For A Copy of Chrysostom's Commentary on Matthew

Happy Feast Day of St. John Chrysostom! 

Chrysostom was one of Thomas Aquinas' favorite commentators on Scripture. 

In fact, the following story was told at the inquiry for his canonization in 1319. Accounts of this episode can be found in different forms in some of the earliest accounts of Aquinas' life.  
"Once Thomas was returning to Paris from St. Denis with a number of brethren, and when the city came into view they sat down to rest a while. And one of the company, turning to Thomas, said: 'Father, what a fine city Paris is!' 'Very fine,' answered Thomas. I wish it were yours,' said the other; to which Thomas replied, 'Why, what would I do with it?' 'You would sell it to the king of France, and with the money you would build houses for Friar Preachers.' 'Well,' said Thomas, 'I would rather have Chrysostom on Matthew.' This story, the witness said, he had from—among others—brother Nicholas Malasorte of Naples, who had been an advisor to the French king and a particular friend and pupil of his own; he told it when he came on a mission from the same king of France to King Charles II of noble memory . . . ; saying that it was well known in Paris."
For more sources go here.

By the way, the episode is also mentioned in a new book I want to plug by Romanus Cessario, O.P. and Cajetan Cuddy, O.P., entitled, Thomas and the Thomists: The Achievement of Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017). 

You need this short but important little book!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Forgiveness: The 24th Sunday in OT


The Readings for this Lord’s Day are unified around the theme of forgiveness.  We begin and end with the words of “Jesus” on this topic: the First Reading records the words of Jesus, son of Sira, and the Gospel records the words of Jesus, Son of God.

One of the last books of the Christian Old Testament to be written, Sirach (also known as Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus) often seems to anticipate the teachings of Christ himself:

1. Reading 1 Sir 27:30-28:7:

Stylistic Differences between Mark and Luke

Yesterday in my Luke-Acts course at the Augustine Institute we examined some of the stylistic differences between the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

As is well known, Luke seems to smooth out some of the features of Mark.

I thought this might make for a brief but interesting blog post. Here are some examples - obviously, much more could be said!

Luke's Smoother Renderings of Awkward Constructions

Mark's Greek can be a bit awkward in places. Luke's expressions are a bit easier to read. 

For example, 
  • Mark 2:7: “Who can forgive sins except one, God?” (literal; likely alluding to the Shema)
  • Luke 5:21: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Parable of the Merciless Servant (The Mass Readings Explained)

The video for this Sunday is now out.  Please like and share with your friends for all of you who are subscribed if you'd like to help us spread the word about this series.  Thanks!

Friday, September 08, 2017

Hoffmann on Why God's Love Makes 'Sin' Possible

"The specifically Christian core of sin is grasped only when sin is conceived as the rejection of the call to that sonship whose innermost nature consists in being the continuation of Christ’s eternal sonship within the realm of creation, which is the 'other' that stands over against God. Sin means the refusal of the grace of allowing the creaturely 'I' to become the earthly abode of the trinitarian act whereby Father and Son turn toward one another. From this it becomes evident that man is not capable of 'sinning' in this way all on his own. In the sense of revelation, 'sin' becomes a possibility—to put it quite crudely for the sake of clarity—only on account of God’s paternal love for man, which opens wide to man down to its most intimate depth."

--Father Norbert Hoffmann, "Atonement and the Ontological Coherence Between the Trinity and the Cross," in Towards a Civilization of Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985), 241. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Watchman on the Walls: Readings for the 23rd Sunday of OT

I don’t like personal conflict.  I try to avoid it as much as possible.  Probably most Americans do.  I’m not sure what it’s like in other cultures, although I’ve heard of others where open social confrontation is more common.

This Sunday’s readings deal with situations in which Christians have a duty to confront one another.  They don’t make for comfortable reading in a culture that puts a high value on keeping the peace and minding one’s own business.

1. The First Reading is the great “Watchman” passage from the prophet Ezekiel:

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Harnack on Luke's Paul vs. the "Paul of the Epistles"

As I continue to teach Luke-Acts this semester at the Augustine Institute, I'm working through various issues related to the study of that corpus.

This week in class we tacked the question of whether the author of Luke-Acts is indeed the same Luke mentioned by Paul in his letters (cf. Phlm 24; cf. Col 4:14; 2 Tim 4:11).

Of course, one of the arguments many have found compelling against such an identification is that the Paul of Acts seems different from the Paul of the Epistles. For some, the differences are so pronounced it precludes the possibility that the "historical Luke" is the actual author.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Jesus and the Authority of the Church (The Mass Readings Explained)

The video for this upcoming's Sunday's Mass Readings is now out over at Catholic Productions.  Please like and share if you can.

Thank you.