Conflating the Love Commandments

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).

Note the exclusivity in Jesus’ words; this love is reserved for the disciples and is contrasted with “all”, a reference to current non-followers. This exclusivity obviously bothers Pope Francis who decided to reinterpret the passage in a recent address:

“Why does He call it a ‘new commandment’? The old commandment of love became new because it was complete with this addition: “as I have loved you,” “love one another as I have loved you.” The novelty is all in Jesus Christ’s love, that with which He gave his life for us” (link).

The true novelty is the exclusivity expressed in the command. On the following Sunday, God would raise His Son from the dead and the Church would be born; the Holy Spirit would descend on Her and a new family would exist in Christ. The sacrificial love that characterized Jesus’ relationship with His disciples would be the example of the love to be shared within the mystical Body of Christ.

The Pope is determined to conflate the “New Commandment” with the old one, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which is a universal love. In the same address he makes this clear:

“We all have people – I do not know if they are enemies – but that do not agree with us, who are ‘on the other side.’ …Love opens us to the other, becoming the basis of human relations. It makes us capable of overcoming the barriers of our own weakness and our prejudices. The love of Jesus in us creates bridges, teaches new ways; triggers the dynamism of fraternity.”

The Pope tried this before in paragraph 161 of his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, even referring to Jesus’ new commandment as the greatest commandment:

“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 15:12). Clearly, whenever the New Testament authors want to present the heart of the Christian moral message, they present the essential requirement of love for one’s neighbour: ‘The one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the whole law… therefore love of neighbour is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom 13:8, 10)…”

Pope Francis’ doesn’t like the idea there is special love that is only shared among Christians. Perhaps it’s due to his devotion to Liberation Theology, open immigration, or religious pluralism; but a pope should not get away with twisting Jesus’ own words.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14).

“Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” (1 Thess. 5:26).

…rjt

Jesus Before Pilate: Five Observations of Fulton Sheen

Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri c. 1880

Possessing exceptional knowledge and wisdom, the Archbishop uncovers meanings in biblical texts that would be otherwise easy to miss.

1. After Jesus’ arrest and trial by the Sanhedrin, Friday morning He was taken to Pontius Pilate with a demand for his execution; Pilate responded,

“What charge do you bring against this man?” (John 18:29).

Continue reading “Jesus Before Pilate: Five Observations of Fulton Sheen”

Was Jesus’ Temple Clearing on Behalf of Gentiles?

Court of the Gentiles

After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday Jesus headed to the Temple, making a whip out of cords and driving out of the Temple area not just those selling doves and changing money, but sheep and oxen as well. People who’ve studied Temple practices in the first-century find this story curious since this type of commerce was acceptable and necessary. Continue reading “Was Jesus’ Temple Clearing on Behalf of Gentiles?”

Lessons from Psalm 51 for the Summit

“…A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

Psalm 51 was the result of a sex crime. It should have been the theme of the summit of bishops in Rome. The abuse, it’s cover-up, and the pain it has caused cannot be undone. More transparency, apologizing to the victims and their families, offers of compensation, are all the right things to do, but won’t undo the damage.

Only a renewed spirit on the part of the clergy as a result of repentance, contrition, and humility will solve the abuse crisis:

“For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (vss. 18-19).

It is interesting that David’s self-reflection on his transgressions, specifically adultery and murder, do not include a mention of either one. The gravity of killing someone’s husband so you can take his wife was less of a crime against Uriah and Bathsheba than a grievous disobedience of God’s law. God sent the prophet Nathan to David charging, Continue reading “Lessons from Psalm 51 for the Summit”

Five Reasons to Proclaim Christian Truths Fearlessly

 

Emperor Nero used Christians as torches

Author Saul Bellow once wrote that he would occasionally attend a dinner party and would be asked for his opinion on a politically sensitive issue. His standard answer was non-confrontational: “I support all good policies and oppose all the bad ones.”

While the arrogance and moral bankruptcy behind political correctness will eventually lead to its own destruction, the current emerging generation of social engineers are becoming a serious danger to those who publicly proclaim basic Christian truths. Jesus demands, however, that we speak the truth, and courageously.

Breaking down Matthew 10:24-31, Jesus gives five reasons to speak confidently and without fear in the face of opposition: Continue reading “Five Reasons to Proclaim Christian Truths Fearlessly”

“Do sane Christians of the 21st-century really think I wrote that God induces people to sin?!” …St Luke

In art, St. Luke is often accompanied by a winged ox

Following the French, the Italian bishop’s conference recently voted to adjust the wording of the Our Father for liturgical purposes, changing “Lead us not into temptation” to “Abandon us not into temptation”. They had agreed with Pope Francis who had stated that,

“A father does not lead into temptation, a father helps you to get up immediately. …It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation” (Link).

A key point in his public letter correcting Card. Sarah on the new protocol with respect to liturgical translations revealed the pope’s preferred methodology:

“Here we can add that, in light of the MP [Magnum Principium], the “fideliter” of §3 of the canon implies a triple fidelity: to the original text in primis; to the particular language into which it is translated and, lastly, to the comprehension of the text by the recipients” (link).

Continue reading ““Do sane Christians of the 21st-century really think I wrote that God induces people to sin?!” …St Luke”

The Canticle of Simeon and the End of an Era

The Song of Simeon (nunc dimittis) lies within St. Luke’s Presentation narrative (2:21-40) in which he recounts that forty days after His birth, Jesus is presented in the Temple as the first-born male and a sacrifice is offered. Simeon, a devout Jew awaiting the “consolation of Israel”, recognizes Jesus as the Messiah as soon as he sees Him, breaking out in a song of praise.

But St. Luke omits something in the narrative:

“When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth” (vs. 39).

Why does St. Luke skip the Magi, Herod, the murder of the Innocents, and the flight to Egypt, all of which occurred before the Holy Family returned to Nazareth? Since Luke was undoubtedly aware of those events, their omission might reflect a specific purpose in his writing. Recall that Luke’s gospel constituted a letter written to a man named Theophilus:

“…I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, Most Excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Luke 1:3-4).

Continue reading “The Canticle of Simeon and the End of an Era”

On the Trail of the Seed of Eve

Reading the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) as narrative is not just spiritually rewarding but a lot more fun. What I mean by this is to read the text as one would read a novel, experiencing the drama by identifying and connecting broader themes as well as minor ones. Most Old Testament scholars today break the Pentateuch up into diverse source materials which they then analyze individually in light of history and archaeology. In doing this they tend to miss or discount the broader themes that the author of the Pentateuch intended to convey. Tracing the seed of Eve in Genesis is an example of reading the text as narrative.†

In His response to the Fall of Adam and Eve, God charges the serpent with what constitutes, on the one hand, a threat to his “seed”, and on the other, the promise of hope to humankind:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen. 3:15).

Note that the references to the offspring (seed) of the serpent are singular and thus directed at Satan himself; he and his seed are one. Who then constitutes the seed of Eve that will crush the head of Satan? While it is left an open question, the author of the Pentateuch carefully traces this seed through various genealogies and narratives.

In the story of Noah we see how God’s promise develops; He judges the world yet preserves the obedient Noah and his family. After leaving the arc Noah builds an altar and sacrifices to God, who then blesses Noah:

“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen. 9:1).

Now the promise concerning Eve’s seed will be preserved through Noah’s descendants.

Nimrod on the Tower of Babel. From John Huston’s film, ‘The Bible’.

But not through his great-grandson Nimrod. In the genealogy of Noah’s descendants in Genesis 10-11 (the Table of Nations), Nimrod receives an extended comment:

“Cush [son of Ham] became the father of Nimrod, who was the first to become a mighty warrior on earth. He was a mighty hunter in the eyes of the LORD; hence the saying, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter in the eyes of the LORD.’ His kingdom originated in Babylon, Erech and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth to Assyria, where he built Nineveh…” (Genesis 10:8-12).”

Continue reading “On the Trail of the Seed of Eve”

How Did the Disciples React to the First Eucharist?

At the Last Supper, after Jesus consecrated the bread and wine for the first time, is it possible that one or more of the disciples believed upon hearing these words that an actual transformation of the elements of the bread and wine had taken place? I think it’s possible that Judas was probably the only one who didn’t, and for four reasons.

First, at the Last Supper, when Jesus broke the bread and said, “This is my body”, he had said it in Aramaic. Semitic languages do not have words to indicate the verb “to be” in these types of statements. In Hebrew and Aramaic, the verb is implied when a subject and predicate are simply juxtaposed. What Jesus literally said as he held the bread was, “this, the body of me”. The disciples would have understood that the one is precisely identified with the other. Also, there were other expressions Jesus could have used to indicate that the bread was only to be regarded as a symbol.

Secondly, when Jesus said the words of consecration, the disciples would have immediately recalled the incident recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 6. Jesus repeats four times to a large crowd of followers that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. They had thought He was referring to cannibalism, and Jesus did nothing to prevent their deserting Him because they had understood Him correctly, but faithlessly. So Jesus doubles down, demonstrating that this whole dialogue was specifically aimed at the twelve disciples:

“What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (vs. 62).

He puts them in a corner with an obvious dilemma. Let me paraphrase Jesus’ words,

“I just told you that to have eternal life you and anyone must consume my real body and blood. So how will you do that when I’m not here?”

Continue reading “How Did the Disciples React to the First Eucharist?”

Comparing the Two Annunciations (Luke 1:5-38)

Titian, The Annunciation

In reading Luke’s narratives about the birth announcements to Zechariah and Mary, have you ever wondered why Zechariah gets chastised by the angel for his questioning of the notion that a couple their age can conceive, and Mary, who asks a very similar question, does not?

After Gabriel appears and announces the news to Zechariah that Elizabeth will bear a child, he responds:

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

For this he is scolded and struck dumb. Mary responds to the news that she will give birth in much the same way:

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

For this she receives the explanation that her pregnancy will be the work of the Holy Spirit.

Zechariah was a priest and “…righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (vs. 6). But asking how he would “know” reflected doubt, and comes across as a demand for evidence. But he had no reason to doubt; he would have recalled that God made the same promise to Abraham and can make barren women conceive. Gabriel charged, “you did not believe my words”. Continue reading “Comparing the Two Annunciations (Luke 1:5-38)”