Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faithfulness to the Word of God: Readings for the 22nd Week

The Plains of Moab (Deuteronomy)
The Readings for Mass this week call us to purify our walk with God, and make an examination of conscience: are my "religious" practices helpful, or are they distracting me from what is central in my relationship with God?

1.  The First Reading is from Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8:
Moses said to the people:
"Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

And the Answer Is ...

A few days ago I posted this quote, asking for guesses as to the author:

"How great, therefore, the wickedness of [fallen] human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God! Indeed, some spouses who marry and live together…have various ends in mind, but rarely children."

The speaker is Martin Luther.  I found the quote in an article about the history of birth control and contraception within Protestantism.  It's a fascinating read, available here.

More on Fathering and the Bible

Here are some other striking quotes from John W. Miller, Biblical Faith and Fathering (Paulist, 1989):

"The God of Judaism is undoubtedly a father-symbol and father-image, possibly the greatest such symbol and image conceived by man.  Nor can there be any doubt as to the psychological need answered by this image.  This, together with the great moral imperatives, was the unique contribution of prophetic Judaism to mankind."  --Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess (New York: Avon Books, 1967), 9; quoted in Miller, p. 41.
"The assumption that biblical father religion is simply continuous with wider ancient near eastern patriarchalism is unsupported by a comparison of the portrait of God as father in the Bible with divine father figures in several contemporary ancient near eastern mythologies.  Only in biblical tradition is it believed that a father-god truly worthy of being hallowed is fully in charge of the cosmic home." (Miller, 43)
Miller proceeds to substantiate this statement with illustrations from the Enuma Elish, the Ba'al Cycle from Ugarit, and the myths of Oris and Isis from Egypt.  He argues that son and daughter deities were typically in charge of the cosmos, with fathers having a background role.  This is contrary to the usual charge that the Hebrews just picked up their paternal image of the LORD from surrounding cultures.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are You In, or Are You Out? A Call for Decision

The Readings for the 21st Week of Ordinary Time

It's an election year, and the news networks are already covering "Decision 2012."  The campaign rhetoric is getting cranked up, as each paints the upcoming vote as an ultimate choice between Good and Evil.  Last night I saw an online add for one campaign asking its supporters, "Are you in?"
The readings for this upcoming Sunday are some of the most difficult and challenging in the Lectionary.  The Church is calling us to make a decision.  There can be no more sitting on the fence.  Are we going to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Son of God, and therefore submit to his Word—even if it seems difficult to understand or accept?  Or are we going to move on and seek some other guru in life, some other bodhisattva, novelist, psychologist, sociologist, theologian, philosopher, talk show host, or politician who will tell us right from wrong and show us the way to salvation?  

In the Readings this week Jesus asks us, "Are you in, or are you out?"

1.  The First Reading is Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Who Said It?

Who said this?

"How great, therefore, the wickedness of [fallen] human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God! Indeed, some spouses who marry and live together…have various ends in mind, but rarely children."

No fair googling it!  Or at least, guess in the comments before you google.  I'll post the answer tomorrow evening.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Biblical Faith and Fathering

Quotes from John W. Miller, Biblical Faith and Fathering: Why we call God “Father,” (Paulist, 1989):

“Too little attention has been paid in recent critiques of biblical patriarchy to the fact that the father-involved family is a fragile cultural achievement that cannot be taken for granted. When this and other still neglected matters are taken in to consideration, the precise nature of the contribution of biblical faith to a high culture of fathering can better be appreciated.” (page 5)

Miller argues that the model of God as loving father in the Old and New Testaments helped create a cultural ideal of fatherhood in Christianity and Judaism that was profoundly beneficial to mothers and children when lived out. 

“Due to the marginality of males in the reproductive process, fathering is a cultural acquisition to an extent that mothering is not. Hence, when a culture ceases to support a father’s involvement with his own children (through its laws, mores, symbols, models, rituals) powerful natural forces take over in favor of the mother-alone family.” (page 13)

This is the general trend in America, where out-of-wedlock births and female-headed households steadily increase year after year. If trends continue, the intact, father-lead nuclear family will be an anomaly within twenty-five years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

VIDEO: Scott Hahn on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary

The Feast of Wisdom: Readings for the 20th Week of Ordinary Time

A couple of months ago I finally had the chance to watch "Babette's Feast," a beautiful movie about a french cook in Denmark who wins the lottery and spends her entire earnings to throw a lavish feast for the two old spinsters she works for and all their friends.

Babette's Feast was an obvious and intentional Eucharistic allegory, and I couldn't help thinking of it while reflecting on the the readings for this Sunday (20th of Ordinary Time), which are all closely united by the themes of eating, wisdom, and thankfulness.

1.  Our first reading is taken from Proverbs 9:1-6:

Monday, August 13, 2012

What We're Reading: Biblical Faith and Fathering by J.W. Miller

I just finished one of the most arresting books in biblical studies I've come across in some time.  John W. Miller's Biblical Faith and Fathering: Why we call God "Father" (Paulist, 1989) is an exploration of patriarchy in the Bible from the perspective of biblical studies as well as sociology and psychology. 

Feminist critics have charged that the Bible uses exclusively masculine language for God, and therefore is oppressive to women.  One typical response by Christians has been to deny that biblical God-language is exclusively masculine, by placing great emphasis on a small number of passages that use feminine imagery for the LORD.  Miller's response is different.  He concedes that biblical God-language is masculine, but argues that the masculine language--in particular, the language that characterizes God as father--has important cultural-social effects that are beneficial for both men and women.  In short, Miller argues that women need a loving Father as much as men do. 

This short summary doesn't do Miller justice, so I hope to post a few of the more striking quotes from his book over the next several days. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord: Readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[I am going to start posting these reflections on the Sunday readings on Tuesday morning rather than Friday, because some have asked to have them available for use at biblestudies or parish groups that meet earlier in the week.]
I've been involved in some form of church ministry--either training for it, practicing it, or training others for it--for over twenty years now, and I know one of the major challenges we face in ministry is burnout.  At Franciscan University we train a large number of prospective youth ministers.  The attrition rate in this field is very high.  I don't have exact statistics, but would not be surprised if half of new youth ministers leave the field for some other line of work within three to five years.

Burnout is a problem for spiritual leaders, but its also a problem for Christians in general.  Following Christ can be difficult, and he warned us clearly and up front: "In this world you will have trouble,"  he said, "But take heart, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).  Again, he told us of the seed that fell on rocky soil that sprouts quickly yet withers, representing those who fall away when trouble or persecution arises.  Likewise, St. Paul had to encourage even the first generation of Christians, "Let us not grow weary in well-doing" (Gal 6:9).

The readings for this Sunday's mass encourage us to find strength and sustenance in Jesus' gift of himself to us in the Eucharist as a remedy for the spiritual weariness that can grow in the Christian life.

Our first reading comes from 1 Kgs 19:4-8:

Monday, August 06, 2012

Conference in Louisiana this Weekend

This weekend, please join Brant Pitre and me in Covington, LA (greater New Orleans) for a conference on Peter, the papacy, and the keys!  This one-day conference on Saturday will provide a well-rounded look at Peter and the papacy from Scriptural, theological, historical, and pastoral perspectives.  Click here for more info.

Join Us in San Antonio for Fullness of Truth

At the end of the month, the whole Sacred Page team (Brant, Michael, and I) together with Dr. Scott Hahn, will be in San Antonio, Texas, at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort presenting a conference entitled "Why the Cross?  Salvation and Suffering in Scripture."  This promises to be one of our most powerful conferences ever, as we get at the heart of the meaning of life and the message of Christ's cross that gives us the strength to carry on.  This will be a weekend of spiritual healing and transformation.  Some space is still available: click here for the Fullness of Truth website.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

TSP 27: The Religious Roots of the Olympics

This week I did something a little different on The Sacred Page Podcast. Here we look at the historical and religious roots of the Olympics. The topic was discussed in a recent USA Today article.

Here we expand on this, asking, What makes the Olympics so popular?

Did you know that the Olympic motto, "citius, altius, fortius," is attributed to a Roman Catholic priest?

Did you know that Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was educated by Jesuits and said, "The first essential characteristic of the Olympics, both ancient as well as modern, is to be a religion . . . above and outside the churches."

Learn much more in this podcast.

Listen on iTunes or click the link below.

Feel free to leave your comments below.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Recognizing True Food: Readings for the 18th Week of Ordinary Time

What does it mean to be a human being?  What are we really?

The answer our children are taught in school is that we are just animals, the result of a long process of accidents in which an amoeba became a fish, became a lizard, became a monkey, became us.  So all we are is a material body, a fluke of the universe, a "selfish gene," and when we die, that's it.

Of course, virtually no one can or does live consistently with this "materialist" view of human beings.  Even radical atheists like Richard Dawkins get "mad" at Christians for the supposed "wrong" things they do.  But getting "mad" and moral concepts like "right" and "wrong" make no sense if we are simply material beings, biological robots.

Jesus Christ, and before him all the prophets of Israel, emphatically renounced the view that all we are is animals.  The readings for this Sunday point relentlessly to the fact that we are something more: spiritual beings, personal beings, made for communion with God and eternal life.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

VIDEO: Discovery of seal dating back to King Hezekiah

Bob Cargill has an amazing video up detailing the discovery of a jar handle containing the impression of a seal dating back to the time of King Hezekiah. He took the video at the site. Specifically, this is an LMLK seal impression (more on that here).

What's fascinating about this is that the video records the supervising archaeologist identifying the piece for the first time just as it is being brought out of the ground. In the video you can see him actually blowing the dust off the find! Great stuff! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Have the remains of first-century Jews killed in the war that destroyed the temple been found?

A number of bloggers (Jim West, Antoni LombattiDavid Meadows) have been writing on a potentially huge discovery made in Israel. Apparently, skeletons of Jews massacred in the war that destroyed the temple in A.D. 70 may have been found in Jerusalem.

Stress should be placed on the may there. Tests still need to be performed to confirm that the bones found can be dated back to the first century.

Nonetheless, that they are actually the remains of those who died in the war seems plausible.

Of course, the destruction of the temple marked a major moment in history--and had huge theological implications. For one thing, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in the Gospels (cf. Mark 13:1-2).  

Here's the summary from Israel Hayom:
Veteran journalist Benny Liss releases movie he filmed of underground cave on Temple Mount where he found a mass grave He believes the skeletons are the remains of Jews massacred by the Romans when they destroyed the Temple Mount, but urges the authorities to properly examine the area.