The Eschatology of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again”

The singer Vera Lynn died on the 18th June 2020 at the age of 103.  She was important in boosting British morale during WW2 with her songs which looked forward to a better time when the dark days of war were over.  They captured the essence of soldiers leaving their families to fight so there could be future peace.  Her most famous song is “We’ll Meet Again”  within which it is easy to see that departure of soldiers from their loved ones and all those teary farewells which must have taken place at railway stations and docks all over Britain at that time.

Speaking as someone who has been recently bereaved, my wife died on the 3rd March, this song has a particular resonance in a Christian sense as one day we will meet again.

The when of this is unknown as it says in Matthew 24:36 – But as for that day and hour , nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father only.

When I speak of eschatology, that is the study of the end times, that part of theology concerned with death, judgement and the final destination of the soul and of human kind.

The New Testament tells us that we are living in the last days.  Hebrews 1:1-2 puts it like this, “At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, but in our own time, the last days, He has spoken to us through His Son.

This interval then, this two thousand years so far, from Jesus’ first coming, the church age, and looking forward to his second coming, is the last days.

Why such a long interval?  To provide a precious time to be saved.  As John 3:16 says “Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone that believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”  And in Romans 10:13 it says “For everyone, without exception, who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This gives us a confidence that, being in Christ, We will meet again.

To the bereaved St Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13  “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve, like the rest of mankind who have no hope.”

(There must have been some anxiety in that Church about those have died.  Maybe because they were expecting Christ to return soon they thought you had to be alive when he returned.)

Paul continues (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18)  “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him.  We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died.  At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.  So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as these comfort one another.

We Will Meet Again!

 

The Gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah – Chapter 11

With it being Pentecost (or thereabouts) I decided to do something on the Holy Spirit.  But then I found my blog going off at a tangent, so here it is for what it’s worth.

Isaiah 11: 1-2  A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion from his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Jerusalem Bible)

The Catholic church says there are seven gifts of the spirit in Isaiah, but if you count above you will find six.  This is because there are seven in the Old Testament Greek translation called the Septuagint dating from the 3rd century BC.  This translation was made from the Hebrew by 70 Hebrew scholars (Septuagint – got it?) in Alexandria and commissioned during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus in 285-247 BC.

Isaiah 11:1-2  And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root: and the Spirit of God shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and Godliness shall fall on him.  The spirit of the fear of God.  (Septuagint)

Does it matter?  Perhaps not, but it is important to remember that Hebrew often has nuances which are lost in translation.  Hence seven gifts of the Spirit in the Greek conveying what was expressed in six in the Hebrew.  Also there is often a preference for sevens, amongst theologians and bible scholars, as seven  is God’s number of holiness and completeness, as in seven days of creation.

The Septuagint was regarded as a very good translation in the lingua franca of the ancient world.  It may also be that it was present in those times in a more portable form than the Hebrew scrolls which were kept in the synagogues.  When Jesus quotes from the scriptures he is quoting from the Septuagint most of the time.

Nowadays modern translations pay more attention to the Hebrew but the Catholic church also makes use of the Septuagint.  This is particularly noticeable in the book of Esther.  In a non-Catholic bible there is no mention of God in this book.  In a Catholic bible – there is.  It is worth doing a study with both bibles open side by side to see this.

Back to the Gifts of the Spirit.  Here they are listed;

From the Greek (Septuagint)                                 From the Hebrew (Jerusalem Bible)

Wisdom                                                                                   Wisdom

Insight                                                                                      Knowledge

Counsel                                                                                    Counsel

Power                                                                                       Strength

Knowledge                                                                              Knowledge

Godliness

The fear of the Lord                                                              The fear of the Lord

When the gifts of the Spirit are referred to the Catholic church often refers to these gifts in Isaiah 11.  It is important to remember that there is another list of gifts in the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 12:7-11  The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.  One may have the gift of preaching with wisdom given him by the Spirit; another may have the gift of preaching instruction given him by the same Spirit; and another the gift of faith given him by the same Spirit; another again the gift of healing, through this one Spirit; one, the power of miracles; another, prophecy; another the gift of recognising spirits; another the gift of tongues and another the ability to interpret them.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, who distributes different gifts to different people as he chooses.

In summary these could be listed as;

Wisdom

Knowledge

Faith

Healing

Miracles

Prophecy

Discernment of spirits (very Ignatian)

Tongues

Interpretation of Tongues

 

I would suggest that the list from Isaiah is a comfortable one and the list from Corinthians is more challenging.  (e.g. Send me any gift Lord except tongues.)

The other thing to remember about the list in Isaiah is that these gifts are exhibited by a particular person described as a shoot from the stock of Jesse.  Who might this be?

Jesse (1 Samuel 16;1-13) was the father of David who is anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel.  David later receives the promise, through the prophet Nathan, of a descendent who will have an everlasting Kingdom. (2 Samuel 7:1-17).

Who is this person?  Jesus, of course!  Have a look at the lineage of Jesus given in the Gospel of St Matthew 1:1-16 and the Gospel of St Luke 3:23-38 and find the names of Jesse and David.  Note – There are differences in the 2 lineages thought now to be because Matthew gives Joseph’s lineage and Luke gives Mary’s.  Both lineages are royal lines of the House of David and the tribe of Judah.

“A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse”

What Jesus is he shows us and what he has he shares with us.  Being in Christ we can see how those gifts of the Spirit were poured out at Pentecost over the Apostles and the baby church  (Acts chapter 2) including those particular gifts mentioned by Paul in First Corinthians.  These gifts are still being poured out to this day.

Additionally we can see the great comfort of the Fruits of the Spirit listed by St Paul in the letter to the Galatians 6:22  “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfullness, Gentleness, Self-control.”

We can see how the gifts and fruits of the Spirit are given to build up the church and transformed the apostles from frightened men hiding in the upper room, into bold witnesses for Christ.

We can also see those gifts in Jesus the “author and perfector of our faith”.  Hebrews 12:2.

 

 

 

The John 3:16, or thereabouts, game

As originally set down the Bible texts did not have chapter and verse divisions.  These were added later, around the twelfth century for the Chapters and the sixteenth century for the verses, for convenience of reference.

The drawback to this is that we get used to pulling out verses with no reference to their context, i.e. what went before and what came after.  The Baptist preacher and teacher David Pawson speaks of our bibles being ‘damaged’ by being divided up into chapters and verses.  He has a point.

I did notice recently some coincidences thrown up by the chapter and verse system.  My starting point is this famous verse in John’s Gospel;

John 3:16 – For, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.

When it comes to memorising verses this is a good one to memorise.

I began to notice that there a number of other 3:16(ish) verses in other books of the bible which also say very important things.  Could this be a useful way of memorising verses and opening up the bible?

For example:

Genesis 3:15 – I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offsping and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.

In this verse God pronounces a curse on the serpent for deceiving Eve and also promises a  future saviour.  This is called the Protoevangelium or First Gospel.  This is also a good verse to memorise.

Exodus 3:14-15 – God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘ I AM has sent me to you.’  God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to you’; This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.”

God reveals His name to Moses.  This name is regarded as so Holy that it shouldn’t be said and Lord is substituted for it.  For a time us Catholics said the name as Yahweh, but we are now told to use Lord out of respect for the Jews.  Some bibles put Lord in capital letters so that we know that it is God’s revealed name that is referred to.  My Jerusalem Bible has Yahweh and I substitute Lord both when I read it and speak it, but I appreciate that I am being pointed to God’s revealed name.  For memorising I would stick to Exodus 3:14 – God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,”

Judges 3:15 – But when the Israelites cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man.  The Israelites sent tribute by him to King Eglon of Moab.

The LORD raised up for them a deliverer.  This principle, of a deliverer, runs throughout the Old Testament and finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.

Matthew 3:16-17 – And when Jesus had been baptised, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is My Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased.”

John 3:16 – John (the Baptist) answered all of them saying, “I baptise you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to to untie the thong of his sandals.  He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For no one can lay any other foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.  If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Methinks there is something of purgatory in these verses.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

1 Peter 3:15 – Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone that asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

2 Peter 3:15-18 – Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved: our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that is his special gift.  He always writes like this when he deals with this sort of subject, and this makes some points in his letter hard to understand; these are the points that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture – a fatal think for them to do.  You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground you are standing on.  Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory, in time and eternity.  Amen.

 

 

So there you are, a number of verses on the theme of John 3:16 or thereabouts.  If a particular verse jumps out at you have a look at it and what came before and what comes afterwards.  The verse then becomes a springboard for personal bible study.

 

 

All our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before the Lord. (My own paraphrase on Isaiah 64:6)

Every so often I come across a verse in the bible which is deeply disturbing.  Isaiah 64:6 is one of those.

Let’s have a look at a number of English translations of this verse courtesy of Bible Hub.

New International Version
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

New Living Translation
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

English Standard Version
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

King James Bible
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And we are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Jerusalem Bible                                                                                                                                 We are all like men unclean, all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.  We have all withered like leaves and our sin blew us away like the wind.

 

Now, when I go to confession and make an examination of conscience I am concentrating on the things I have done wrong, my sins; bad thoughts, bad words, bad actions.

According to this verse I should also say I am sorry for the good that I do and that runs contrary to everything I have been taught right back to when I was a child when I was encouraged to be “good”.

What exactly is the problem with being good and doing good?  After all we want to do this and be this rather than be bad.

So here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth, and I’ll stick to talking in the first person so as not to make any assumptions about the reader.

Because of the good I have done a number of things have happened;

People have patted me on the back and said what a fine fellow I was.

I may have patted myself on the back and thought I was a fine fellow as well.  That is to say that I have believed my own press.

I may have acquired a status in society, because of the good I have done, which I didn’t truly deserve.

All my good deeds are tainted with self.  (There is a solution to this which I will cover in a footnote at the end.)

For Scripture says;

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8

A good illustration of this is found in Luke 18: 9-14;

He (Jesus) spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else, ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you God, that I am not grasping , unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.”  The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”.  This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.

Over the years every time this reading crops up we see the pompous, arrogant, self-righteousness of the Pharisee and identify with the humility of the tax collector.  But being the Pharisee, who believes his own press, is an easy trap to fall into.

So this Easter we might say to the Lord that we apologise for the good that we have done, the status we have gained, and the times when we were like the Pharisee and forgot about the tax collector.

I’m not necessarily saying we should incorporate this into our confession in the sacrament of reconciliation.  If we do the poor priest will never get out of the box and it is possible to beat ourselves up a little too much.  It’s just something to bear in mind and rejoice we have a great Saviour who;

Died for us while we were yet sinners.  (my paraphrase)

Romans 5:8 – what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Useful Website – Bible Hub

https://biblehub.com/

If you search a verse using this website you will get a number of different translations of that verse.  Then you can look at the original Hebrew or Greek for that verse and without being able to read either language you can access a lexicon (Strong’s) to get a fuller meaning in English.  It’s never been easier to do an in-depth bible study.

 

Footnote – The Resolution of the Problem of Self and Good Deeds

At the back of Church (Holy Souls) I found this booklet.

marianconsecration (2)

On pages 8 and 9 of this book there are two Marian prayers of Louis De Montfort which get over the problem of self and good deeds.

Prayer 1 – “I, (name), a faithless sinner, renew and ratify today in thy hands the vows of my Baptism; I renounce forever Satan, his pomps and works; and I give myself entirely to Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after Him all the days of my life, and to be more faithful to Him than I have ever been before.”

Prayer 2 – “In the presence of all the heavenly court, I choose you this day for my Mother and Queen.  I deliver and consecrate to you, as your slave, my body and soul, my goods, both interior and exterior, and even the value of all my good actions, past, present, and future; leaving to you the entire and full right of disposing of me, and all that belongs to me, without exception, according to your good pleasure, for the greater glory of God, in time and eternity.”

There is also this note about De Montfort’s consecration to Our Blessed Lady;

“This devotion consists, then, in giving ourselves entirely to Our Lady, in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her.  We must give her (1) our body, with all its senses and its members; (2) our soul, with all its powers; (3) our exterior goods of fortune, whether present or to come; (4) our interior and spiritual goods, which are our merits and our virtues,  and our good works, past, present, and future.”

The problem of self is dealt with if the “good works” no longer belong to you.

I have to admit to often struggling with things Marian, probably because of many years of association with non-Catholic Christians, but I am arriving at a better understanding of what is meant here.  Although the prayers are essentially Marian, the purpose is to draw nearer to Christ.  When we come to the foot of the cross and see what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, who do we find there? – Our Blessed Lady.

So, come to the cross this Easter;

 

Laudato Si – for Lent

Laudato Si – Care for our common home (a letter from Pope Francis)

Pope Francis refers to the following verses and how ‘have dominion and subdue’ fed into the days of empire.

Genesis 1: 26-28

26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (English Standard Version)

We seem to have gotten hung up on ‘have dominion and subdue’ and have forgotten what comes next.

Genesis 2: 15

The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. (New Living Translation)

Then the LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it. (Good News Translation)

The Lord god took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.  (Jerusalem Bible)

Here the instruction is to tend and protect the environment.

 

If I then combine these, then the instruction to ‘have dominion and subdue’ is in order to ‘tend and protect’. 

 Why does the Lord God put these terms in this order?  Because the Lord God in his foreknowledge knows that Adam and Eve will fall, and the whole human race with them, and will then be sent out into a fallen world capable of biting them back.  They will need to ‘have dominion and subdue it’ in order to ‘tend and protect it’ and their model will be the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps this is why we like creating beautiful gardens and then enjoying them. 

 If we fail in this, as we do in pursuit of short-term gain, then the environment will bite us back and this seems to be what is happening with climate change.

As Greta Thunberg said in Bristol ‘The world is on fire’.  Even if in Britain at the moment it looks more like it is drowning.

Pope Francis points out in Laudato Si that it is the poor that suffer disproportionately because of climate change and environmental exploitation.

So, this Lent we have a lot to take on board and repent of.

We have a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, let’s work to save the world.

 

Let us pray.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

A Prayer for our earth from Laudato Si.

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.

Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives,

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognise that we are profoundly united

with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day.

Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle

for justice, love and peace.

This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

 

 

Year of the Word – Bible Study

1)  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (KJB) (some bibles as Psalm 118)

 Let’s see how this verse can open the bible for us by looking at the words; word, light and path.

 Word

God creates with words;

2) Gen 1:3 – God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. (JB)

The formula is repeated, God said, “Let….”, 7 more times culminating in;

3) Gen 1:26 – God said, “Let us make man in our own image”, (JB)

Jesus, the Living Word

4) John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the word was God. (JB)

5) John 1:9 – The Word was the true light that enlightens all men, and he was coming into the world. (JB)

6) John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and lived among us,… (NRSV)

7) 1 John 1:1 – Something which has existed from the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word, who is life- this is our subject. (CTSNCB)

The word of God achieves its purpose.

8) Isaiah 55:10-11 – Yes, as the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what is was sent to do. (JB)

9) John 19:30 – After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, “It is accomplished”, and bowing his head he gave up his spirit. (JB)

10) Mark 10:45 – “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (JB)

Jesus, our Blessed Lord, the Word made flesh, succeeds in what he was sent to do.

An active word;

11) Hebrews 4:12 – The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. (JB)

12) Ephesians 6:17 …and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword. (JB)

13) Revelation 1:13&16 – I saw…. a figure like a Son of Man….out of his mouth there came a sharp sword, double edged, and his face was shining like the sun with all its force. (JB)

 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (KJB)

Light

We’ve already seen in Gen 1:2 that God created light, a supernatural one in verse 2 and then the natural ones, the sun, moon and stars, in verse 14-16.

14) John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world, anyone who follows will me will not be walking in the dark, he will have the light of life.” (JB)

15) Isaiah 2:5 – O House of Jacob come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (JB)

16) 1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)

17) Colossians 1:12-13 – thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.  Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. (JB)

18) Isaiah 9:2 – The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. (JB)

19) Isaiah 9:6 – For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NRSV)

 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105 (KJB)

Path or Way or Walk

20) Psalm 23:3 – He restoreth my soul, he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (KJB)

In the Bible there are a number of people who were said to have walked with God;

21) Gen 5:21-24 – When Enoch was sixty-five years old, he became the Father of Methuselah.  Enoch walked with God.  After the birth of Methuselah, he lived for three hundred years and he became the Father of other sons and daughters.  In all, Enoch lived for three hundred and sixty-five years, Enoch walked with God.  Then he vanished because God took him. (JB)

22) Gen 6:9 – Noah was a good man, a man of integrity amongst his contemporaries, and he walked with God. (JB)

23) Isaiah 30:21 – Whether you turn to right or left, your ears will hear these words behind you, “This is the way, follow it”. (JB)

24) John 14:6 – “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” (JB)

25) Acts 9:2 – He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find. (JB)

26) Acts 11: 26 – …. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’. (JB)

27) Galatians 5:25 – If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (KJB)

28) Micah 6:8 – This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God. (JB)

Useful Exercise – Write the Bible reference on a strip of paper.  Find the reference in your bible and put the strip of paper in as a marker.  Your bible will have a decidedly hedgehog appearance as well as a visual show of how much of the bible you have looked at.

For further study;

Seven “I am” statements of Jesus

John 6:35 – “I am the bread of life.”

John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world.”

John 10:9 – “I am the door.”

John 10:11 – “I am the Good Shepherd.”

John 11:25 – “I am the resurrection and the life.”

John 14:6 – “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

John 15:5 – “I am the vine.”

 

A bit more about Enoch.

Hebrews 11:5 – It was because of his faith that Enoch was taken up and did not have to experience death: he was not to be found because God had taken him.  This was because before his assumption it is attested that he had pleased God. (JB)

Someone else who was taken up to heaven was Elijah.

2 Kings 2:1 – When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. (NLT)

2 Kings 2:11 – As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. (NLT)

As Catholics we believe, by sacred tradition, that our Blessed Lady was also taken up into heaven, though this is not mentioned in the bible there are precedents for it.

Abbreviations

KJB – King James Bible, JB – Jerusalem Bible,  

NRSV – New Revised Standard Version,

CTSNCB – Catholic Truth Society New Catholic Bible

NLT – New Living Translation, NIV – New International Version

 

Why are Catholics so fond of the word “Mystery”?

Mystery (notes from an RCIA course)

A Reading from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians Ch 3:2 – 3:5-6

You have probably heard how I have been entrusted by God with the grace he meant for you, and that it was by a revelation that I was given the knowledge of the mystery.

This mystery has now been revealed through the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets was unknown to any men in past generations; it means that pagans now share the same inheritance, that they are parts of the same body, and that the same promise has been made to them, in Christ Jesus, through the gospel.

Definitions

Mystery – something beyond human understanding.

Mystery – something which is hidden until God chooses to reveal it.

Mystery – As used in Catholic theology, a mystery is a divinely revealed truth whose existence cannot be known without revelation by God and whose inner existence cannot be understood by the human mind even after revelation; for example, the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the Eucharist.   A mystery, in this sense, is said to be above reason but not contrary to reason; even though it cannot be fully understood, it can be understood to some degree, and for that reason the Church encourages all to reflect upon and study the mysteries God has revealed.  (The Essential Catholic Handbook)

A very Catholic word

Mystery is a very popular word with Catholics.  During mass we profess the Mystery of Faith.

  1. We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.
  2. When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death O Lord, until you come again.
  3. Save, us Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.

When I was looking up the use of the word mystery in the bible, my Young’s Concordance gave me the following references and they are all New Testament.mystery

As can be seen the use of the word mystery is particularly popular with St. Paul, from whom most of our theology comes, and is also used by Jesus and by St John in the Book of Revelation.

 

Who do you say that I am? (A mystery revealed)

Matthew 16:15-17 –  Jesus said, “Who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

When we come across things in the Old Testament which relate to Jesus, we find something hidden (secret) now revealed. E.G. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

Have a look at page 4-5 from the book How to Survive being married to a Catholic for more about mystery (MrE).

 

A Mystery is something to be entered into

The Church does not say “It’s a Mystery so don’t worry your little head about it”, though it can give this impression, for this would make God out to be a great patroniser.  The Church, rather, says “It’s a Mystery come and enter into it” even if we only get glimpses of these deeper and greater realities.  Mass becomes a window into the heavenlies.

“Further up and further in”, as C.S.Lewis says in his book The Last Battle.

By way of some light relief here’s Toyal singing “It’s a Mystery”.

 

A Little Christmas Bible Study

Christmas in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Isaiah 1:3  The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib

Luke 2:6-7  While they (Mary and Joseph) were there (Bethlehem) the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.   Full passage – Luke 2:1-26

 

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Luke 1:31-34  ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour.  Listen!  You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.                    Full passage Luke 1:26-38

 

Isaiah 9:5-7  For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.   Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity.  From this time onwards and for ever.

2 Samuel 7:12  (God speaks through the prophet Nathan to King David)  ‘And when your days are ended and you are laid to rest with your ancestors, I will preserve the offspring of your body and make his sovereignty secure.’  Verse 16 – ‘Your house and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me

 

Isaiah 11: 1-9  A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts from his roots: on him the Spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord……

Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (after Joseph his guardian) – Mt 1:1-17.

Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (after Mary his mother) – Luke 3:23-38

(Have a look for David and Jesse in these long lists of names.)

Mark 10:47  When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

Isaiah 60:6 -Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the LORD.

Matthew 2:11  They (the wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.   Full passage Mt 2:1-12

 

We can also see John the Baptist in the book of Isaiah;

Isaiah 40:3  A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord.’

Matthew 3:1-3  In due course John the Baptist appeared: he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’.  This was the man Isaiah spoke of when he said:  ‘A voice cries in the wilderness: prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 1:5-25 and 57-66 –  The birth of John the Baptist

 

We can also see Easter in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 53: 5 – But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.    Full passage Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12.

 

To finish then, the Nativity story is given in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.  John’s Gospel gives a very good Nativity summary when he says:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  John 1:14

The Book of Isaiah – One Isaiah or Several? The Thorny Problem of Authorship

The book of Isaiah opens with this verse;

The vision of Isaiah, son of Amos concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 

This gives us a good way to anchor Isaiah in time. The dates of the reigns of these kings were as follows;

Uzziah 781-740 BC

Jotham 740-736 BC

Ahaz 736-716 BC

Hezekiah 716 – 687 BC

Tradition has it that Isaiah was born about 765 BC and was martyred under the next King, Manasseh, who reigned from 687-642 BC, by being put inside a log and sawn in half.  This is alluded to in Hebrews 11:37;  Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 

The scope of the prophesy, however, covers a much longer period, from the year of King Uzziah’s death of 740 BC, when Isaiah received his call (Isaiah ch 6), through the decline of the Assyrian empire and the loss of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the rise of the Babylonian empire, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 598 BC and 587 BC and the exile of the inhabitants of Judah and so the loss of the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  Then to the return of the Jews from exile to Jerusalem after the decree of king Cyrus in 538 BC, who is named in Isaiah ch 44 vs 28.  This gives the book  an overall span of 202 years.  The book of Isaiah also has two distinct parts one from chapter 1 to 39 and the other from chapter 40 to the end.  There are differences of perspective; pre or post-exile, apocalyptic.  There are differences in style; poetic, lyrical, historical narrative.  All these things have led to speculation that the book of Isaiah is the work of more than one hand and you may come across mention of first or proto-Isaiah, second or deutero-Isaiah, third or trito-Isaiah and even a fourth editorial hand, knocking it all into shape, which I might call editorial Isaiah.  This is a theory rather than a fact and was rather slow to be embraced by the Catholic Church.  It has held sway till fairly recently when problems with it have been acknowledged and support for single authorship has re-emerged.  Which view you hold rather depends on your view of what a prophet is and whether or not they can function in the future prophetic.

I, myself, am of the view that there is only one author, Isaiah, acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit and, after all, this is the claim of the book as it says in the opening verse.

It also makes it much easier when, as a reader, I go to the lecturn and say “A reading from the Prophet Isaiah”.  It would be very awkward to have to add, “only it’s not really.”

I would add that the Jews were good at naming their prophets.

Also; when Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament, by Jesus and the Apostles, there is no suggestion that there is more than one.

So I am making a nod to the scholars, because you will come across this multiple authorship theory,  but my own position is single authorship.  I think it gives reading the book far more immediacy.

For a time it was even wondered if any parts had been added after Jesus because the passage Isaiah ch 52 vs 13 to ch 53 vs 12 is such a good fit to Jesus and we didn’t have a BC copy of Isaiah till the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Among these was what is called the Great Isaiah Scroll  which confirms the accuracy of the book of Isaiah as we have it.  This was dated to about 200 BC and so confirms that the passage(s) relating to Jesus have not been added at a later AD date.

What then makes the book of Isaiah such a good and important  read?

It is like the bible in miniature.

You can find Christmas in it.

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 1:3 – The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Isaiah 60:6 -Vast caravans of camels will converge on you, the camels of Midian and Ephah. The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the LORD.

You can find Easter in it.

Isaiah 53: 5 – But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

You can find John the Baptist in it.

Isaiah 40:3 – A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

You can find God as Father in it.

Isaiah  63: 16 – But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

You can find the foundation of ecology in it.

Isaiah 40: 6 – All flesh is grass.

You can find verses which speak to you on a personal level.

Isaiah 58: 7 – ..and not turn from your own kin.  (Think on that when you are glowering at each other over the Christmas turkey.)

Overall then, give it a read.  Parts of it will wash over you, but parts of it will leap out at you.  That’s what makes reading it fun.  You will also find parts that are very moving and parts which lend themselves to prayer very easily.  Enjoy!!

The Abominable Prawn

So far in looking at homosexuality in my previous two blogs I have cited various scriptures and the catechism, but have left out the most obvious and frequently quoted scripture.

It is this;

“Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination.”  Leviticus 18: 20 (King James Version).  In other translations detestable is used instead of abomination.

I can recall, a few years back, Jeremy Hardy commenting on Radio 4’s News Quiz that people often quote the above scripture to say that homosexuality is an abomination.  He then pointed out that according to the bible so is eating prawns.

That is found in Leviticus chapter 11 which is about dietary laws.  It says;

“These shall you eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.  And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:  They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.    Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.”  Leviticus 11: 9-12

As prawns have neither fins nor scales they would come in the abomination category.  Mr Hardy was quoting this as a sort of argument stopper or trump card, and quite a successful one it has been.

But then I made this discovery.  I looked up the word ‘abomination’ in Strong’s exhaustive concordance of the bible and saw this;

P1020808(1)

P1020809(1)

Now James Strong gave each of the Hebrew words used in the bible a number, called a Strong’s number, so that they could be looked up in a Lexicon.  You will notice that the word abomination used in Lev 11: 10-12, and that used in Lev 18-22 have different Strong’s numbers.  That used in relation to diet being 8263 and that in relation to homosexual practice being 8441.  This means that these are two different Hebrew words which have been translated into English with the same word, abomination.

Here are the two different words from Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon;

P1020811(1)

P1020810(1)

In transliteration the Hebrew word seqes/sheqets is used for the abominable prawn (Lev 11:9-12) and the Hebrew word to’eba is used in relation to homosexual practice.

Why use two different words?  Have a look back at the citings in the extract from Strong’s concordance.  There are occurrences of seqets ( Strong’s number 8263) with the phrase unto you, and occurrences of to’eba (Strong’s number 8441) with the phrase unto the Lord.  I would suggest that one word is a lesser abomination, the prawn one used in Leviticus chapter 11, and the other a greater abomination, the sexual one used in Leviticus chapter 18.

By way of emphasis here is an extract from another concordance, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible;

P1020816(1)

What then is the purpose of these dietary restrictions, lesser abominations, which we, who are non-Jews, no longer follow.

That is given in Leviticus 18: vs 1-5 which says:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them; “I am the Lord your God.  You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you.  Do not follow these practices.  You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees.  I am the Lord your God.  Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them.  I am the Lord.”  (New International Version)

The purpose then of these Old Testament Laws, for the Israelites and the Jews, is for them to be a people set apart and different from all others, to be an example and a blessing to others.

How do you go about overturning an Old Testament prohibition?

Look for anything that Jesus said or did which enables you to do that.

For instance, in relation to the dietary laws, the abominable prawn, we have Jesus saying this in Mark 7:14-23.

He (Jesus) called the people to him again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand.  Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.”  When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowds, his disciples questioned him about the parable.  He said to them, “Do you not understand either?  Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean,  because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?”  (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.)  And he went on, “It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.  For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”  (Jerusalem Bible)

Here, we have a clear setting aside of the dietary laws and a reinforcement of the sexual laws, amongst others.

We also have Peter’s vision in Acts 10: 9 -16;

Next day, while they were still on their journey and had only a short distance to go before reaching Jaffa, Peter went to the housetop at about the sixth hour to pray.  He felt hungry and was looking forward to his meal, but before it was ready he fell into a trance and saw heaven thrown open and something like a big sheet being let down to earth by its four corners; it contained every possible sort of animal and bird, walking, crawling or flying ones.  A voice then said to him, “Now, Peter, kill and eat!”  Nut Peter answered, “Certainly not, Lord; I have never yet eaten anything profane or unclean.”  Again, a second time, the voice spoke to him, “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane”.  This was repeated three times, and then suddenly the container was drawn up to heaven again.  (Jerusalem Bible)

Here we have a definite move on the dietary laws in order to bring the message of salvation to the gentiles, non-Jews.

But remember that on things sexual Jesus emphasised that marriage was between a man and a woman and was for life.  Divorce had only been allowed, by Moses, because of the hardness of men’s hearts. (Matthew 19:1-9)

Jesus also took a much harsher approach to the matter of adultery saying that even to look at a woman lustfully was to commit adultery in one’s heart. (Matthew 5:28).

We have then, examples of the dietary laws being set aside or loosened and examples of the sexual laws being tightened.  This corresponds with the matter of a lesser and greater abomination which I have covered earlier in this blog.  The abominable prawn is not so abominable.  Though the wisdom of eating filter feeders if water quality is dubious is questionable.

How then should we regard the law?

There are 10 commandments given by God which were expanded into 613 laws for the Israelites to live by, through discussion between God and Moses, and now even though we are “not under law but under grace”  (Romans 6:14), Jesus gives us over 1100 imperatives in the New Testament about how we are to behave and all we are called to be.   Have a read of the Gospels and look for every time that Jesus gives an instruction which is essentially a command, an example would be “love your enemies” Luke 6:27.

This is the third blog I have done on this subject and it is a difficult one.  You may be asking the question – just where is he going with this?

The Church is under pressure to change its teaching on this issue in the name of fairness and inclusivity.  Unfortunately I can’t find a reason to do that in Scripture, looking across the whole bible, or in the Catechism.  I say unfortunately because the humanist in me, and some left wing politics, might make me want to be more liberal on this.

So, what to do?

I think I will follow the example of those nuns I can remember who worked in various parishes I have been in over the years.  They got alongside people, they did’t judge, they didn’t condemn, they didn’t condone, they ministered.

This weekend I found a good example from a Church within our diocese.  There was a little note in our bulletin.  Here’s what it said;

LGBT Mass – Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 2.00pm, at the Sacred Heart Church, 25 Mere Road, Leicester, LE5 3HS, to remember those who have been tortured, died and killed because of their gender/identity/sexuality.

In summary then I would see this as a matter of being true to Scripture, being true to the teachings of the Church and reaching out to others, irrespective of background, with the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

 

Next Blog – The Book of Isaiah – The thorny problem of authorship