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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Trinity Sunday - Who is God? Beyond the Baltimore Catechism

At St. Joseph School (St. Joe's) in Fond du Lac  growing up on the early 1960's  I was in the last class to have The Baltimore Catechism (1891).   One of the questions for memorization was, "Who is God? "  The answer:  "God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things."   We learned that God is one God, in the three persons of the holy trinity.  We had this question on the trinity: "How many Persons are there in God?"  The answer:  "In God there are three Divine Persons, really distinct, and equal in all things-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."   I'm grateful for  this childhood  teaching.   But the trinity  is a mystery that is more than dogma, creed and abstract truth.   It is a mystery to see and experience.  That takes Bible study.

Mix the Bible study with this foundation of doctrinal (catechism)  teaching and many things come together for the student who seeks God.  If you do Bible study without theology which comes from learning doctrine  you will miss issues and themes which God has revealed.  If you learn doctrine without Bible study, the study of the things of God becomes lifeless.

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday.  In Fr. Tom Biersack's  homily he gave some great advice.  He said that there is a lot of talk and proper instruction about understanding the trinity,  but better yet is to experience the trinity.   This scripture quoted below  which I have read over the last two days expands on  Fr. Tom's point by showing how the revelation of God is an experience, for both God and for his people.   What I see from these four sections is God  on the move.  God is living and active.  He deals with nations and winds up human history in Isaiah 2, and he reaches out  ('the lifter of my head') to one struggling individual in Psalm 3.   Who is this amazing God of  Isaiah 2 and Psalm 3?  Go to the Gospels for a visual answer to this question.    A beautiful example of this revelation of God is in Matt. chapter 3 which describes the opening of the ministry of Jesus.  There we see God in three persons  not as explained  in a doctrinal book or a creed, but we see him coming out of the cold waters of the Jordan river, with the Father and and the Holy Spirit.

He rules the world and the course of human events, and in the end many peoples shall come to him:

[1] The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 
[2] It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
[3] and many peoples shall come, and say:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Is 2:1-3 (RSV).

Here God comes to the aid of King David:

[4] But thou, O Lord art my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.

Ps. 3:4  (DRA). 

And here God reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

[16] And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him;
[17] and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." 

Matt 3:16 (RSV).

Where is a direct promise that the believer may experience the trinity?  We find that in yesterday's Trinity Sunday  Gospel reading:

[12] "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
[13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
[14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
[15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
[16] "A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me." 

John 16: 12-16 (RSV).

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Sadducees Were Cruel

The Sadducees were cruel:

Paul was taken before the high council in Jerusalem, he found sympathy among his hearers by appealing to the Pharisees (Acts 22:30-23:10). When in 62 A.D., the Lord’s brother James, and apparently other Christians, were illegally put to death by the Sadducean high priest, the Pharisees appealed to the king, and the high priest was deposed. Taking the last case along with the two earlier ones, we can hardly avoid the impression that the Pharisees regarded the Sadducean hierocracy’s persecution of the early Christians as further proof of the manifestly unjust cruelty of this group.

Jesus, by David Flusser at 39-40 (Jerusalem: Magnes Press 2nd ed., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1998). 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Yoke of Jesus - G Mac III

[28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
[30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

Matt. 11:28-30  (RSV).  

This post is on G Mac's discussion of Matthew 11:28-30, a much loved saying of Jesus so precious that  even some Catholics  have it  memorized chapter and verse.    To review, the first post dealing with MacDonald discussed the need to throw off sin to be able to pray.    Next came a post on those making progress in sending away sin, those poor in spirit  who experience a close relationship with God to whom  they "cling" as their Father in heaven.

G Mac creatively  discusses this Matt. 11  passage in the context of the father and child relationship, and in doing so he  raises this issue:  What help comes to the child from the Father?  

Giving our Father the opportunity, he will help and not fail us. He is helping us every moment, when least we think we need his help; when most we think we do, then may we most boldly, as most earnestly we must, cry for it.  What or how much his creatures can do or bear, God only understands; but when most it seems impossible to do or bear, we must be most confident that he will neither demand too much, nor fail with the vital creator-help. 

George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel  (Ward, Lock, Bowden & Co. 1892).  All quotes highlighted in the green text are from  The Hope of the Gospel. 

God  is  "helping us every moment" as our loving father, and as creator of the universe he has the power to do it, to deliver this "vital creator-help."    Psalm 121 ("our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth") immediately comes to mind, and that  has been the subject of a previous post.  If God is helping every moment the yoke of daily life is easy and the burden is light.  What exactly is this yoke and burden that Jesus calls us to?

Here is where G Mac surprised me.   I have always thought of the yoke of Jesus in Matt 11 as a call from Jesus to those who would obey him in all ways,  but G Mac does not read Matt 11 that way.  Again, the focus is on the father and child relationship.  Jesus calls us to give ourselves up to the Father.    Jesus took  that yoke upon him, and now he asks us to do the same:

When we give ourselves up to the Father as the Son gave himself, we shall not only find our yoke easy and our burden light, but that they communicate ease and lightness; not only will they not make us weary, but they will give us rest from all other weariness. ... 'The yoke I bear is easy; the burden I draw is light'; and this he said, knowing the death he was to die. The yoke did not gall his neck, the burden did not overstrain his sinews, neither did the goal on Calvary fright him from the straight way thither. He had the will of the Father to work out, and that will was his strength as well as his joy. ...
Whoever, in the commonest duties that fall to him, does as the Father would have him do, bears His yoke along with Jesus; and the Father takes his help for the redemption of the world ....    ... 

And taking on this  yoke of Jesus the believer finds rest. G Mac the poet and visionary pictures Jesus saying:

I have rest because I know the Father. Be meek and lowly of heart toward him as I am; let him lay his yoke upon you as he lays it on me. I do his will, not my own. Take on you the yoke that I wear; be his child like me; become a babe to whom he can reveal his wonders. Then shall you too find rest to your souls ....

Yes, but the believer wants to know what the Father expects.   He expects more than words, intellectual speculations and pleasant interpretations.   God is looking for obedience in our deeds, the "doing" of his will:

These wise and prudent, careful to make the words of his messengers rime with their conclusions, interpret the great heart of God, not by their own hearts, but by their miserable intellects; and, postponing the obedience which alone can give power to the understanding, press upon men's minds their wretched interpretations of the will of the Father, instead of the doing of that will upon their hearts.  ...
They are cautious, wary, discreet, judicious, circumspect, provident, temporizing. They have no enthusiasm, and are shy of all forms of it—a clever, hard, thin people, who take things for the universe, and love of facts for love of truth. They know nothing deeper in man than mere surface mental facts and their relations. They do not perceive, or they turn away from any truth which the intellect cannot formulate. Zeal for God will never eat them up: why should it? [H]e is not interesting to them ....    ...
Their sagacity labours in earthly things, and so fills their minds with their own questions and conclusions, that they cannot see the eternal foundations God has laid in man ....   ...
[Jesus] said,—'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.'

The next post will discuss the kinds of deeds that Jesus has in mind for those who would give themselves up to the Father.