Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My God, My God! Why Have You Forsaken Me? Readings for Palm/Passion Sunday

How could the Messiah die?

Despite a few mysterious prophetic texts that seemed to intimate this possibility, the idea that the Messiah could arrive and subsequently be killed was radically counter-intuitive to most of first-century Jews. 

Yet the conviction of the early Christians, based on Jesus of Nazareth’s own teachings about himself, was that the radically counter-intuitive impossibility was actually prophesied, if one had the eyes to see and the ears to hear it in Israel’s Scriptures.

The Readings for this Mass offer us two of the most poignant prophecies of the suffering of the Messiah.

1. Isaiah 50:4-7, the First Reading, is part of one of the several enigmatic “servant songs” characteristic of the second part of Isaiah (Isaiah 40-66).  (I follow Benjamin Sommer in seeing Isa 40-66 as a literary unit.)  The subject of these “songs” or poems is a mysterious “servant” of the Lord, who is described variously in the first, second and third person:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"A Grain of Wheat Falls and Dies": Readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

This Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent before Holy Week. The readings, therefore, lead us into the heart of the mystery of the suffering and death of Christ.

Below are a few thoughts on the lectionary selections.

FIRST READING: Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
The famous "new covenant" prophecy of Jeremiah is found in Jeremiah 31. The prophecy appears in a section of the book of Jeremiah--chapters 30-33--that focuses on future hopes for the restoration of Israel. Some refer to this section of Jeremiah as, "the Book of Comfort."[1] Indeed, many scholars recognize Jeremiah 30-33 as a discreet literary unit within Jeremiah. Among other things, God's covenant oath to David is emphasized in this section of the book, pointing to messianic expectations. Marvin Sweeney, for example, writes:
"Despite the emphasis on the criticism of Judah in the message of Jeremiah, the oracles in Jeremiah 30–33 point ultimately to the restoration of the people to the land under the rule of a righteous Davidic monarch when YHWH makes a new covenant with the people."[2]

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Speaking this Saturday at St. Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in Walnut, CA

This Saturday morning I'll be speaking at St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Church in Walnut, CA. The topic will be intentional discipleship. 

Here's some information.
Cost: FREE. 
Location: Vellucci Hall at St. Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Church, 747 Meadowpass Rd., Wanut CA 91789 
When: Registration begins 8-8:30. The event officially begins at 9am and ends at 12pm. 
 If you're in Southern California, I hope you will consider joining us!

To register in advance or to get more information call: 909-595-9545.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Jesus and the Law of God: 3rd Sunday of Lent

What is the best way to communicate law?  Written law has its limitations, because we are all familiar with the concept of the “loophole.”  There always seem to be methods of interpreting the written law in ways that run contrary to its intent.  In West Virginia, which is across the river for us in Steubenville, they passed a law a few years back allowing cafés to operate some small-time gambling on their premises.  The idea was to allow owners of small eateries a sideline to supplement income during a tough economic time.  Well, now dozens of new “cafés” have sprung up in the old steel towns on the other side of the river, and if you walk in and ask for a cup of coffee, they scarcely know what to do.  The “café” title is just a front for a gambling operation.  What was intended to be small time side business has become the whole purpose of these establishments.  This was not the intention of the law, at least not how it was “sold” to the people and legislature.

So what is the best way to communicate law?  Already in antiquity, the prophet Jeremiah longed for a better way than a written code: ““Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… this is the covenant which I will make: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts.”

One of the themes that arises from this Sunday’s Readings is Jesus as the embodiment of the law, who gives himself to us, that God’s law may be inside of us.