The Perils of Isaiah 66 for the Lay Reader

On Sunday (7th July 2019) I went to evening mass and arranged a swap with the reader at that mass so he would do my reading on the 21st.  I then had a look at the readings for that evening in the Church bulletin and saw that it was from Isaiah 66, probably my least favourite reading as a lay-reader.

Here it is.

Isaiah 66; 10-14

Rejoice , Jerusalem, be glad for her, all you who love her!  Rejoice, rejoice for her all you who mourned her.

That you may be suckled, filled, from her consoling breast,  that you may savour with delight her glorious breasts.

For thus says the Lord:  Now towards her I send flowing peace, like a river, and like a stream in spate the glory of the nations.

At her breast will her nurslings be carried and fondled in her lap.  Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you.  And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.

At the sight your heart will rejoice, and your bones flourish like the grass.  To his servants the Lord will reveal his hand.

 

Yes, it’s the reading with all the breasts.  So then how to read it.  Do I go for deadpan?  Do I try to avoid either undue emphasis by a rise in volume or a sense of embarrassment by going quiet on the problematic word?  I opt for a straight reading in the same manner to the way I always read with an emphasis on peace, like a river.

The Psalm was Psalm 65 with the response, Cry out to God all the earth and the second reading was from Galatians 6:14-18, The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…

I return to my seat with a sense of relief.  That won’t come around again for another three years and hopefully it won’t be my turn then.

The Gospel was from Luke 10:1-12,17-20 and about the sending out of the 72.  The sermon was preached on this and not, noticeably, the reading from Isaiah.  The study on the Word on the front page of bulletin was also about the sending out of the 72.

 

So what then to make of the reading from Isaiah 66.  Here, Jerusalem, the holy city whose very name means “City of Peace”, is personified as a women, a nursing mother from whom we receive comfort and nurture, rest and peace, teaching and instruction..  The name Jerusalem can also be expanded to mean God’s dwelling place from which peace flows.

This could take us to other scriptures such as Isaiah 2;3;

People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.

And Revelation 21:2-4

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Then as we come to mass we see Jesus Christ, Emmanuel “God with us”, dwelling among us.  We receive him in the Blessed Sacrament and he is housed in the tabernacle.  Peace flowing like a river, from the Church out into the world just as the 72 took the message out into their world.

So there we are, Isaiah 66:10-14, a problematic reading no longer problematic.

Praise God!

 

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Is Belief in the Resurrection Essential to be a Christian?

During Lent this question was raised in a discussion on Radio 4.   It led to me wonder if, in seeing people as being on a faith journey, we could accept as Christians those who did not believe in the resurrection on the basis that we hoped they would later.

This took me to St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15.  It is wonderfully clear and answers the question.  In my Jerusalem bible it has the heading “The fact of the resurrection”.

I Corinthians Chapter 15: 1-2 – Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Here it comes now, the Gospel of Paul.

verse 3-4 , Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures;

The terminology reminds me of the Creed….For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Then Paul gives the proof.

verse 5-8,  that he appeared first to Cephas (Peter), and secondly to the Twelve.  Next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

Paul is saying, to the Corinthian church, there are people alive and among you who have seen the Risen Christ, including himself.  For Paul this was a transforming experience.

verse 9-11,  I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless.  On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

Now we come to the nitty-gritty and it looks like people then were asking the same question about the resurrection which heads this blog.

verse 12-19,  Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of  you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life.  For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins.  And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

People have often said to me,  “Your faith must be a great comfort”, but if that is all it is then it is completely useless and I am seriously deluded.  This faith has to be founded on a fact, the fact of the resurrection.  Paul continues;

verse 20,  But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

A first fruits offering is an offering in anticipation of a greater harvest.  Jesus has risen and because of this so will we.  Cue for some eschatology (end times stuff).

verse 21-28,  Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man.  Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ, but all of them in their proper order:  Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.  After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power.  For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.  Though when it is said that everything is subjected, this clearly cannot include the One who subjected everything to him.  And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

So, to Paul then the fact of the resurrection is not negotiable, it is absolutely crucial.  The firm foundation of his Gospel and our faith.  For our faith is not in our faith but in a person, Jesus Christ, who died, was buried and rose again.

In answer to the opening question then, it is essential for a Christian to believe in the resurrection.  As we say in the mystery of faith during the Mass, “We proclaim your death oh Lord and profess your Resurrection until you come again” and “Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free”.

The Mash Potato Christians

Lenten Lunch – Holy Souls 19th March – An ecumenical soup and roll lunch with an act of worship for Churches in North Scunthorpe (CINS)

 Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12   By saying this scripture out loud we proclaim it to the world and into the heavenly realms.  (aside – We might consider who we are speaking it too, who we are speaking it with and who, or what, we are speaking it against.  This is spiritual warfare.)

52:13 See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

14 As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human-

15 So will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him, for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before.

53:1 ‘Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

2 Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground.  Without beauty, without majesty (we saw him), no looks to attract our eyes;

3 A thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces, he was despised and we took no account of him.

4 And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried.  But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God and brought low.

5 Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.  On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.

6 We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us.

7 Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.

8 By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?  Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living; for our faults struck down in death.

9 They gave him a grave with the wicked, a tomb with the rich, though he had done no wrong and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

10 The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.  If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

11 His soul’s anguish over he shall see the light and be content.  By his suffering shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.

12 Hence I shall grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.

 

Brief Word

At the cross we see the great gift of salvation that Jesus has given to us and all that it cost him.  Once we receive this gift no-one can take it away from us, whatever the world might try to do or throw at us.  We have a new-found freedom in Christ.  How might we become better disciples of Jesus Christ?  Better “followers of the way” as those early Christians called themselves.

Here’s an extract from the book “Disciple” by Juan Carlos Ortiz a South American Pastor.  This is what he has to say about unity.

We are in many groups. We are Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals of many kinds, Nazarenes, Salvation Army, Episcopalians, Plymouth Brethren, Baptists of many kinds, and others as well.  (Catholics, Anglicans and Congregationalists)

God is regrouping us.  He has already begun.  He is not using our categories however, God has only two groups – those who love one another and those who don’t.

But listen – God is doing even more than regrouping his people.  He is uniting them.  I can illustrate this with potatoes.  Each potato plant in the garden has three, four or five potatoes under it.  Each individual potato belongs to one plant or another.

When the harvest comes, all the potatoes are dug up and put into one sack.  So they are regrouped.  But they are not yet united.  They may say, “Oh, praise the Lord!  Now we are all in the same sack.”  But they are not yet one.

They must be washed and peeled.  They think they are closer yet.  “How nice is this love among us!”  they say.

But that’s not all.  They must be cut in pieces and mixed.  They have now lost a lot of their individuality.  They really think they are ready for the Master now.

But what Jesus wants is mashed potatoes.  Not many potatoes – one mashed potato.  No potato can stand up and say, “Here I am!  I’m a potato.”  The word must be we.  That’s why the Lord’s Prayer begins, “Our Father….

 

What is my take on this?  Even within our separate denominations we can, and do, acknowledge each other as Christians – followers of the Way.  Mash potato Christians with mash potato love, a force for good in the world, in Christ.

 

Intercessions

Lord of Lent, come to your church and ask your hard questions. Are we proclaiming the Gospel faithfully? Are we showing in our life together the justice of your kingdom? Have we welcomed the weak and given help to the poor?

Come to our church to spring clean our ways. Point out the cobwebs and the dirt. Create in us a clean heart and a right spirit.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of Lent, come to our country and all the nations and challenge our idolatries. Spring clean the sordid cupboard of this world’s false gods. Sweep out the false pride, the self- seeking, the deceit, the corruption and lies. May the nations of this world seek justice, peace and the integrity of creation. May the rulers of this world be drawn to the common good as a lark to the dawn.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of Lent, help us to remember what you have taught us, that everyone needs good neighbours, especially those in broken homes, in scattered families, and those who are living alone. We pray with particular concern for the young and very young. Bring our youth to a hatred of knives and weapons of violence. Grant all young people a sense of being needed, being worthwhile and loved. If not by those around them then most certainly by you.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of lent, look upon the bereaved and the injured in Christchurch, New Zealand. Give them healing and peace. Change the hearts of all those who would carry out such dreadful acts of murder and disruption. We ask you to deliver this earth from bigotry and prejudice.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of Lent, in the face of these terrible things help us continue as faithful disciples, following the way of love and having forgiveness ready for all who ask for it.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of lent, turn your healing love towards those who are sick and in pain today.   We pray for Father Neil who is recovering from back surgery, may he be with us again soon.

May they all receive a healing touch from You.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of Lent, lord of compassion and source of all goodness, in the order of things we all must die. We remember those who have recently reached this stage in their pilgrimage.  Grant that they may join you in your eternal kingdom where there will be no more sorrow, or crying, nor any more pain. May they rejoice in your presence.

Lord, in Your mercy.

Hear our prayer.

Lord of lent, we pray that you will renew our churches, renew our world and renew our hearts.

 

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.  Amen.        (From the Divine Mercy Chaplet of St Faustina).

 

Book ref) Disciple by Juan Carlos Ortiz, Publisher- Lakeland, Marshall Morgan and Scott 1978.  ISBN 0 551 00586 6

 

Through a Glass Darkly

1 Corinthians 13: 12  For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. King James Version (KJV)

A very beautiful verse in the old King James Bible.  For clarity though let’s look at how it is given in other translations.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know as I also am known.  New King James Version (NKJV)

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  New International Version (NIV)

Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face.  The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.  Jerusalem Bible (JB)

Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.  Living Bible (LB)

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely.  New Living Bible (NLB)

I wonder where this verse leaves us in the matter of ecumenism?  After all, if we believe that as Catholics we have a particular fullness of truth and still see through a glass darkly, where does that leave other denominations and, indeed, other faiths?

I can remember some years ago taking a Pentecostal friend of mine to morning mass in an attempt to share with him what I got out of it,  You can imagine my dismay when the priest gave a short sermon about the Catholic Church being the one true church.  My friend took it all in good part though.   This instance reminded me of Catholics being accused of having an “Imperial mind” and even a certain smugness as the parent body from which others have split.  This forgets, of course, that in a split both parties are damaged.

Indeed rather than using this scripture to prepare some kind of ranking for who has the darkest glass a recent teaching by Rick Joyner (Morning Star Ministries) on the God channel took a different view.  This was that none of us has a complete view in our glass and so we need to get together in order to get more of  a complete view.  The old fashioned mirrors were of polished metal and gave a rather dim reflection.  When silvered mirrors came in they initially gave a very good view but as they aged and bits of the silvering wore off they gave a patchy view.  I think this is more what Rick Joiner was thinking of.  If our patchy mirrors/glasses have different bits missing we would need to come together to get a complete view.  This would certainly be the case across the Christian denominations.

What does the Catechism say?

ccc838 – “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptised who are honoured by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”  Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptised are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”  With the Orthodox churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.

ccc839 – The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People.  When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the word of God.”  The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant.  To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

ccc840 – And when one considers the future, God’s people of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming of the Messiah.  But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

ccc841 – The Church’s relationship with the Muslims.  “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

ccc843 – The Catholic Church recognises in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved.  Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they at length have life.”

ccc845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church.  The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation……

So, the Catechism presents us with a mature attitude to acknowledge truth wherever we find it.  Instead of smugness we are presented with the awesome responsibility of sharing the Gospel without putting peoples’ backs up, remembering that 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 is mainly about love.  Ours is not an easy message, as St Paul puts it; “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  1 Cor 1:23 (NIV), but it has a simplicity  “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”  Romans 10: 9 (JB)

By way of contrast have a look at St Peter sharing the Gospel with Jews at Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2) and Paul sharing the Gospel with Greeks in Athens (Acts 17: 16-33).

Cleaning our Glass – Have a look at Revelation Chapter 4 and think of the Mass.    The Mass is our window into heaven and the mass is often described as heaven on earth.  Scripture becomes for us a lens rather than a mirror.  Familiarity with scripture is our polish.

If the task ahead of us still seems too daunting then consider this; “We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.”  2 Cor 4:7 (JB)

Our message is – “If God can save me, He can save anyone.”

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

 

I Corinthians 2:9  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 

 

 

 

When God shows up

1 Kings 8: 1, 6, 10 – Then Solomon called the elders of Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord up from the Citadel of David, which is Zion.

The priests brought the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to its place, in the Debir of the Temple, that is, in the Holy of Holies, under the cherubs’ wings.

Now when the priests came out of the sanctuary, the cloud filled the Temple of the Lord, and because of the cloud the priests could no longer perform their duties: the Glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s Temple.

Imagine that, when Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem God showed up and no one could go in.  Further imagine if you came to Mass one morning to find everyone outside because God had showed up and the brightness of His presence was so powerful that no one could go in.

I was saying this to my parish priest and he pointed out that in the Mass we believe that God shows up and we can go in – so that was me told.

Now the parallels with the Temple don’t end there.  In our churches we have the Sanctuary with the Altar.  We have the Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is kept and where Christ is truly present.

Here’s a little bit from the book “Catholicism for Dummies” by Trigilio and Brighenti, Wiley Publishing 2003.

St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Dominican theologian, said that the Holy Eucharist, particularly at Mass, reminds the faithful of what Jesus did for mankind in the past, makes him present in the Real Presence, the consecrated bread and wine, and promises the faithful the future glory of heaven by giving food for eternal life.  Therefore, Catholics see the Mass as the summit and zenith of all Christian worship.  To Catholics, the Mass incorporates the inspired Word of God in Scripture, and it makes present the word made flesh in the Holy Eucharist.

The essence of Christmas is this, that ‘God shows up’ and lives among us.  We aren’t left on the pavement outside, we can go in and enjoy His presence.

Isaiah 7: 14  The virgin will conceive a child.  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel which means God with us.

John 1:4  So the word became flesh and dwelt among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen His Glory, the Glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

St Peter bears witness to this  when he says, “We saw His Majestic Splendour with our own eyes, when He received honour and Glory from God the Father.  2 Peter 1, 16-17

St Francis, St John of the Cross and St Theresa of Avila were aware of the Lord’s Glory in such a way that they could enter into His presence in a moment, whilst still be able to live very practical lives.

I wonder if we, too, can see beyond the problems and difficulties of this world and into the Glory of God,  Immanuel, God with us, in a way that leaves us forever changed.

You Tube clip – Be exalted O God above the heavens.  May your glory shine over all the earth.  Psalm 57: 11

 

 

 

The Little Apocalypse

Bible Study – 33rd Sunday in ordinary time

1st reading – Daniel 12: 1-3

Psalm 15

2nd Reading – Hebrews 10: 11-14,18

Gospel – Mark 13: 24-32

The notes on the front of our church bulletin tell us that Chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel is called the “Little Apocalypse”, while the Book of Revelation is known as the “Great Apocalypse”.

As Jesus’ words about the “end times” should take precedence over any human thoughts and interpretations on the matter I will type out Chapter 13 with some sub-headings of my own to see if a sequence of events can be determined.   I may put some other comments in brackets by way of explanation.   I will be using the Jerusalem Bible.

Mark Chapter 13

Prophesy of the Destruction of  the Temple in Jerusalem

As he (Jesus) was leaving the Temple (in Jerusalem), one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look at the size of those stones, Master!.  Look at the size of those buildings!’  And Jesus said to him, ‘You see these great buildings?  Not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’

(In 70AD the Roman army under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and it’s Temple to suppress the first Jewish Revolt.  A Roman colony ‘Aelia Captitolina’ was built on the site by Hadrian circa 130AD leading to the second Jewish revolt which was finally suppressed in 136AD.  Judea was then renamed Syria-Palestina and the Jewish population was dispersed throughout the Roman empire.)

And while he was sitting facing the Temple, on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John and Andrew questioned him privately, ‘Tell us, when is all this going to happen, and what sign will there be that all this is about to be fulfilled?’

The Birthpangs – deceptions, wars, earthquakes and famines

Then Jesus began to tell them, ‘Take care that no one deceives you.  Many will come using my name and saying, “I am he”, and they will deceive many.  When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed, this is something that must happen, but the end will not be yet.  For nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes here and there; there will be famines.  This is the beginning of the birthpangs.’

Persecution and the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations

‘Be on your guard: they will hand you over to sanhedrins: you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them, since the Good News must first be proclaimed to all the nations.’

Spirit-filled witnesses

‘And when they lead you away to hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what to say; no, say whatever is given you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking: it will be the Holy Spirit.’

Betrayal

‘Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.   You will be hated by all men on my account; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.’

(We might consider how this applies to the apostles at that time, to all Christians down through the ages, to us now, and those believers at the end times.  Remember that of all the Apostles, only John died a natural death and he suffered torture and imprisonment.  All the others were martyred.  They all had the promise and assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as do we.)

The Desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem

‘When you see the disastrous abomination (the abomination that causes desolation) set up where it ought not to be, let the reader understand, then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains; if a man is on the housetop, he must not come down to go into the house to collect any of his belongings; if a man is in the fields, he must not turn back to fetch his cloak.  Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come!  Pray that this may not be in winter.’

(ref 1 Maccabees 1: 54 – Antiochus Epiphanes IV desecrated the Temple in 167BC, a forerunner of this end times desecration. See also Daniel 9: 27.  For this to happen again would imply that the Temple needs to be rebuilt.  Although us Catholics might wonder if this could involve a Church in Jerusalem where mass (the daily sacrifice – that is the sacrifice of Jesus – re-presented) is said, just a thought.)

(Incidentally, if you look at Luke 21: 5-36  verse 20 says, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you must realise that she will soon be laid desolate.’ – Before the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD the Jewish Christians left to seek refuge in the city of Pella.  They saw the signs and acted accordingly.  We can see in this a partial fulfillment of the prophecy with every prospect of a greater fulfillment in the future.)

The Great Tribulation aka The Big Trouble

‘For in those days there will be such distress as, until now, has not been equalled since the beginning when God created the world, nor ever will be again.  And if the Lord had not shortened that time, no one would have survived; but he did shorten that time, for the sake of the elect whom he chose.  And if anyone says to you then, “Look, here is the Christ” or, “Look, he is there”, do not believe it; for false Christs and false prophets will arise and produce signs and portents to deceive the elect, if that were possible.  You therefore must be on your guard.  I have forewarned you of everything.

(Remember, forewarned is forearmed.)

Signs in the heavens

‘But in those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.’

The coming of the Son of Man

‘And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.

(In order to see the Son of Man, the lights must be back on – this could be a supernatural light.)

When? – there are signs, but only the Father knows the day and hour

‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.  So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates.  I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  But as for that day and hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’

(The generation Jesus was speaking to has passed away, though some will have seen the destruction of the Temple in 70AD.  So this means, if I stick my neck out, that it is the generation that sees the signs, beginning with the birthpangs, that will not pass away before Jesus returns.  It may or may not happen in our lifetime.)

“I say to all, Stay Awake!”

‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.  It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake.  So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly he must not find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Summary  This chapter can be very distressing for those of us who have relatives and friends who aren’t saved, but that, perhaps, should only be a spur to evangelism.

The overall scenario is;  for a short time things get worse and worse until they are the worst they have ever been, then they very suddenly get better than they have ever been and stay that way forever.

We need to be saying that the gift of salvation is free, you can’t earn it and you don’t deserve it but Jesus wants to give it to you anyway.  You only have to accept it.

Romans 10: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that god raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Now go through it again and just read the sub-headings.

Graham Kendrick song on this album “Make it Soon” move on to 32mins 42 sec.

 

This site is very good for the Catholic view on these things;

https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/endtimes.htm

Here is an extract;

The Catechism provides us with a general order of events at the End [CCC 673-677]. Chronologically they are,

1. the full number of the Gentiles come into the Church

2. the “full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles” (#2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, #1)

3. a final trial of the Church “in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” The supreme deception is that of the Antichrist.

4. Christ’s victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgment.

Nuff said!

 

 

A Superior Priesthood

Bible Study – November 16th 2018 – 32nd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

Opening Prayer – from the Divine Mercy

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

 

For a number of weeks, the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews has been on the priesthood of Jesus.  This has been presented as superior to the Jewish priesthood of those times.  The letter was written to a Christian Church of Jewish believers and the letter considers themes those Jewish believers would be familiar with, such as the Levitical priesthood established by Moses on God’s instructions in the old testament.  The job of this priesthood was to offer animal sacrifices on behalf of the people to take away their sins, albeit temporarily.  In the time of Moses their duties were centred on a portable temple called the Tabernacle and after Solomon their duties were centred on the Temple in Jerusalem.

In Exodus 3: 6 – God speaks to Moses from the burning bush;

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

In Genesis 32: 26-29 – Jacob is given the name Israel by God.

From Jacob come twelve sons who form the twelve tribes of Israel;

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher  (Genesis 35:23-26)

Moses and Aaron, his brother, are of the tribe of Levi and from the tribe of Levi come the priests of Israel serving the other tribes.  (Numbers Ch 3)

From the tribe of Judah comes David and his line of kings.  Jesus, from his genealogy in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, is of the tribe of Judah and often referred to as “Son of David”.

We often refer to Jesus as “Prophet, Priest and King”.  We can see that he is the messiah, the promised King of David’s royal line.  We can see that he is prophet by the way he speaks into peoples’ situations, as he does with the women at the well. (John 4: 20)  But how can he be priest when he is of the tribe of Judah and not of the tribe of Levi?

In answer we had it two weeks ago in the second reading from the letter to the  Hebrews 5:1-6, when the writer referred us to an earlier priesthood and a superior one.  That is the priesthood of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was King of Salem (peace) and Priest of God Most High – he was both Priest and King, and he was acknowledged by Abraham.  He brought a sacrifice of bread and wine and received a tithe from Abraham.  (Genesis 14:17-20)  This is the only time we hear of him, he is a man without beginning or end.  (Hebrews 7: 1-3)  He is a type of Christ, he prefigures and points to Jesus.

On Sunday in the second reading the writer to the Hebrews reaches a liturgical peak.

Hebrews 9:24-28 – It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf.  And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have to suffer over and over again since the world began.  Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself.  Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will be not to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

 

A superior priesthood indeed.

 

Let’s see what the catechism has to say;

CCC1544 – Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfilment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.” (1 Tim 2:5)  The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”,  (Heb 5:10, 6:20;  Gen 14:18)  “holy, blameless, unstained,”  (Heb 7:26)  “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”  (Heb 10:14)  that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

CCC1545 – The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church.  The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood:  “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.”

CCC1546 – Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”  (Rev 1:6, 5:9-10; 1 Peter 2:5-9)  The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly.  The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king.  Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be …. a holy priesthood.

 

Jesus dies for us, he takes our sins and gives us his righteousness.  He also gives us his Sonship, making us heirs with him and that’s not all;

He loves us and has washed away our sins with His blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to Him then be glory and power for ever and ever.  Revelation 1:6

What Jesus has, he gives to us.

What Jesus is, he shares with us.

 

 

Jesus – Son of David

Jesus – Son of David

Mark 10: 46-47   They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus) a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me’.

What is the importance of the title “Son of David”?

A promise was made by God to King David through the prophet Nathan;

2 Samuel Ch 7: vs 16 – Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established forever.

This is called the Davidic Covenant.

 

Let’s have a look at Jesus’s lineage as given in Matthew and Luke.

Matthew Ch 1: vs 1-17 Luke Ch 3: vs 23-38
Adam (son of God)
Seth
Enos
Cainan
Mahalaleel
Jared
Enoch
Methuselah
Lamech
Noah
Shem
Arphaxad
Cainan
Shelah
Eber
Peleg
Reu
A genealogy of Jesus Christ Serug
son of David, son of Abraham Nahor
Terah
Abraham Abraham
Isaac Isaac
Jacob Jacob
Judah Judah
Perez Perez
Hezron Hezron
Ram Arni
Admin
Amminadab Amminadab
Nahshon Nahshon
Salmon Sala
Boaz Boaz
Obed Obed
Jesse Jesse
David David
Solomon Nathan
Rehoboam Mattatha
Abijah Menna
Asa Melea
Jehoshaphat Eliakim
Joram Jonam
Azariah Joseph
Jotham Judah
Ahaz Symeon
Hezekiah Levi
Manasseh Matthat
Amon Jorim
Josiah Eliezer
Jeconiah   Joshua
            (Babalonian deportation) Er
Shealtiel Elmadam
Zerubbabel Cosam
Abiud Addi
Eliakim Melchi
Azor Neri
Zadok Shealtiel
Achim Zerubbabel
Eliud Rhesa
Eleazar Joanan
Matthan Joda
Josech
Semein
Mattathias
Maath
Naggai
Esli
Nahum
Amos
Mattathias
Joseph
Jannai
Melchi
Levi
Matthat
Jacob Heli
Joseph, husband of Mary of her was Joseph
             Born Jesus who is called Jesus (son of Joseph, as was thought)
             Christ

 

 

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus runs from Abraham and Luke’s starts with Jesus and reaches back to Adam.

Both genealogies run parallel for a while and then diverge after David.  For a time, the thinking was – so they’re different, get over it.

Now the thinking is they are different because they are two separate genealogies, after all, don’t we all have two genealogies – one paternal and one maternal.

So, Matthew’s genealogy is of Joseph – Jesus’s guardian or legal father.

Luke’s genealogy is of Mary and Heli then is father-in-law of Joseph.

 

Ref) Ignatius Catholic Study Bible – New Testament, footnote to Luke 3:23-38;

There are several differences between the generations of Jesus in Luke and Matthew that make it difficult to reconcile them in every detail.  Two considerations should be noted to put their differences in perspective.

  1. Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage forward from Abraham, the forefather of Israel (Mt 1:2), while Luke traces his ancestry backward to Adam, the father of humanity (3:38). Thus, while Matthew is stressing the kingship of Jesus over Israel, Luke is stressing his qualifications to be the Saviour of Mankind as a whole.
  2. The two genealogies are substantially the same from Abraham to David, but diverge significantly in the generations that span from David to Jesus. It is quite possible that Matthew records the ancestry of Jesus’ legal father, Joseph, and Luke records that of his biological mother, Mary. In this case, Matthew gives us the dynastic line that passes from David to Joseph through Solomon (Mt 1:6), and Luke gives us the Davidic line more generally as it passes from David to Mary through Nathan (3:31).  As with his Infancy Narratives, Luke may have obtained information about Jesus’ family traditions from Mary herself.

 

In conclusion then we have a double emphasis that Jesus is ‘Son of David’.

Why is this important?  You may have noticed that I have put some of the names in the table above in purple.  This is because they were kings.  One name has also been written in scarlet italic – Jeconiah.

Jeconiah was a bad king and the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah pronounced this curse on him;

Jeremiah 22: 30 – The Lord says this, ‘List this man as: Childless; a man who made a failure of his life, since none of his descendants will have the fortune to sit on the throne of David, or to rule in Judah again.

So, it could be said that Jesus could not occupy the throne of David by Joseph’s line in Matthew, but he can through Mary’s line in Luke.

Jeremiah 23: 5 says – ‘For the time is coming’, says the Lord, ‘when I will raise up a righteous descendent (branch) from David’s line.  He will be a King who rules with wisdom.  He will do what is just and right throughout the land.’

 

Conclusion – Some of the apparently driest pieces of scripture contain great truths.

“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”

Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Lord have mercy.

 

Who was Melchizedek?

Bible Study – October 30th 2918 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Who was Melchizedek?

Hebrews 5:6 – You are a priest of  the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

Melchizedek makes one appearance in the bible in Genesis 14:17-20.

When Abram came back after the defeat of Chedor-laomer and the kings who had been on his side, the king of Sodom came to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is the Valley of the King).  Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine: he was priest of God Most High.  He pronounced this blessing:

Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High for handing over your enemies to you.

And Abram gave him a tithe of everything.

From this we are told five things about Melchizedek;

  1. He is king of Salem, that is the king of peace (shalom). (The church fathers associated him with Jerusalem.)
  2. He was priest of God Most High, in Hebrew El Elyon, one of the names of God used in the Old Testament.
  3. He brought an offering of bread and wine, an offering unique in the Old Testament.
  4. He pronounced a blessing.
  5. Abram gave him the tithe which is reserved for the Lord.

There are some parallels with Christ here which makes Melchizedek a type of Christ.

When we say that someone is a type of Christ, we are saying that a person in the Old Testament behaves in a way that corresponds to Jesus’ character or actions in the New Testament.  https://www.gotquestions.org/typology-Biblical.html

Melchizedek is mentioned again in Psalm 110:4.

You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever.

Which is quoted in the letter to the Hebrews.

Hebrews 7:1-3 goes on to explain;

You remember that Melchizedek, king of Salem, a priest of God Most High, went to meet Abraham who was on his way back after defeating the kings, and blessed him; and also that it was to him that Abraham gave a tenth of all that he had.  By the interpretation of his name, he is, first, ‘king of righteousness’ and also king of Salem, that is, ‘king of peace’; he has no father, mother or ancestry, and his life has no beginning or ending; he is like the Son of God.  He remains a priest for ever.

It’s always helpful when the bible interprets itself.

So, Melchizedek is a type of Christ.  He prefigures and points to Jesus.

He is a man without beginning or end.

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be forever.

As it says in Eucharistic Prayer No 1;

Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance,  and to accept them as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offerings of your high priest Melchizedek,

And in the previous liturgy of 1975;

Look with favour on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchizedek.

 

 

Bible Study 23rd October 2018 – 29th Sunday, Focus – Isaiah 53

Bible Study – October 23rd 2018 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Opening Prayer – from the Divine Mercy

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Readings – Isaiah 53:10-11,  Psalm 32,  Hebrews 4:14-16,  Gospel – Mark:10:35-45

The old testament reading takes us to one of the most wonderful chapters in the entire bible.  It is of the utmost importance to Christians and the words really leap off the page.

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

52:13 See, my servant will prosper, he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

14 As the crowds were appalled on seeing him – so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human-

15 So will the crowds be astonished at him, and kings stand speechless before him, for they shall see something never told and witness something never heard before.

53:1 ‘Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

2 Like a sapling he grew up in front of us, like a root in arid ground.  Without beauty, without majesty (we saw him), no looks to attract our eyes;

3 A thing despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces, he was despised and we took no account of him.

4 And yet ours were the sufferings he bore, ours the sorrows he carried.  But we, we thought of him as someone punished, struck by God and brought low.

5 Yet he was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.  On him lies a punishment that brings us peace, and through his wounds we are healed.

6 We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us.

7 Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.

8 By force and by law he was taken; would anyone plead his cause?  Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living; for our faults struck down in death.

9 They gave him a grave with the wicked, a tomb with the rich, though he had done no wrong and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

10 The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.  If he offers his life in atonement, he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

11 His soul’s anguish over he shall see the light and be content.  By his suffering shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.

12 Hence I shall grant whole hordes for his tribute, he shall divide the spoil with the mighty, for surrendering himself to death and letting himself be taken for a sinner, while he was bearing the faults of many and praying all the time for sinners.

 

Questions

  1. Who is this passage about?
  2. What does he look like?  (There are 2 descriptions)
  3. What does a shoot in arid ground mean?
  4. What event does this passage describe?
  5. What is it that he takes upon himself?
  6. What is the purpose of his doing this?
  7. What does he shall be lifted up mean?

I’m deliberately not answering these questions.  I am more interested in what you make of it.

Exercise

Take a highlighter (or underline) all the references to the crucifixion.

 

Tie in with the Gospel

Mark 10:45 – ‘For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.’