Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"The Faithfulness of God— Where Justice and Mercy Meet": The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of the perennial questions of humanity is as follows: Is God just? In the readings for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we find a series of passages that address the question of God’s justice, beginning with the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel.

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:25–28
Thus says the LORD:
You say, "The LORD's way is not fair!"
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.

In order to understand the nature of the prophet’s declaration, it is helpful to view it in context, for throughout the first 17 chapters of Ezekiel, the prophet has repeatedly declared that Judah is about to be sent into exile in Babylon as punishment for their sins.

In fact, one of the primary reasons that Judah was to be sent into exile was due to their corporate “heart problem” described by Ezekiel and Jeremiah at length, a problem that centers on failing to circumcise their hearts not just their bodies. As a result, Deut 30:1 states that the exile is the inevitable covenant curse for this inability to follow the law. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bible Trivia for the Day

At 66 chapters, Isaiah is the longest prophet, followed by Jeremiah with 52, and Ezekiel with 48, right?

Wrong.  In Hebrew word count, Jeremiah clocks in at almost 30,000 words, followed by Ezekiel's ~26,000 and Isaiah's ~23,000.  Isaiah is the shortest major prophet.

At 28 chapters, Matthew and Acts are the longest book of the New Testament, followed by Luke with 24, right? 

Wrong.  Luke is longest with ~16,800 Greek words, followed by Acts at ~15,800 and Matthew with ~15,600.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Does God Reward His Workers? The 25th Sunday in 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 (discipulus means student, after all) to think. 

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

Friday, September 05, 2014

Confronting Sin in the Church: 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.

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