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:

Identification with Christ

“No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! Therefore do not be afraid of them…” (vss. 24-26a).

Jesus is talking directly to His disciples, who He knows, after Pentecost, will become very much like Himself, teaching, performing miracles, and inflaming the Jews. This will prove that they are of the household of Jesus; why should they expect to be treated any different than He is?

Truth Will Prevail

“For nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (vss. 26b-27).

We can have confidence that in the end truth never disappoints; false teachings always do. The louder the truth is spoken, the more powerful it is because it will always be victorious and those who proclaim it will always be vindicated. Perhaps later than sooner, but it is a certainty.

It’s the Soul that Matters

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (vs. 28).

Affirming the truth publicly is a moral obligation for which being persecuted or even put to death should not be feared as it leads to immortality and eternal bliss in heaven. In a sense, these people are doing you a favor. Fearing men to the point of appeasement, however, will endanger your soul.

God’s Providence

“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. …So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (vss. 29,31).

The Greek text actually says “…not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father,” implying that the Father is aware of the sparrow’s fate and allows it in His providence. When speaking the truth leads to persecution one need not fear because it has been allowed by God through His providential wisdom.

God Knows Us

“Even all the hairs of your head are counted” (vs. 30).

This makes the same point as the previous one, but adds that God has personal intimate knowledge of His children, their feelings, struggles, and weaknesses. In the midst of persecution no aspect of one’s experience will be missed by Him.

Truth has become a hate crime; it’s not hard to foresee where this is headed. But Catholics must not fear to speak the truth loudly, “on the housetops”.

…rjt

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“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)”

Mary’s Search for the Son of God

In a homily a few years back Pope Francis expounded on Luke 2:41-52, the familiar story of finding the 12-year old Jesus in the temple. He adds a detail, however, which he thinks is clearly implied in the text:

“Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little ‘escapade’, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt.” (Link)

Continue reading “Mary’s Search for the Son of God”

Pope Francis, Scripture, and Universal Brotherhood

When I read the Pope’s homilies (I’ve read hundreds) I noticed that he will carefully draw out spiritual applications from that day’s readings that are simple and usually (not always) consistent with the given passage’s meaning. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said regarding many of his other writings and particularly the encyclicals where he cites biblical passages to support his specific instruction.

In the following examples the Pope appears to be manipulating scripture to deemphasize Christian brotherhood and elevate universal brotherhood.

The context of the following is a lesson that spiritual formation of a Catholic is not solely based on doctrinal instruction. But notice how Francis commingles the love commandments:

“…It has to do with ‘observing’ all that the Lord has shown us as the way of responding to his love. 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) (Evangelii Gaudium, 161).

Continue reading “Pope Francis, Scripture, and Universal Brotherhood”

A Costly Misinterpretation of Scripture

While numerous passages in the Bible are ambiguous in meaning and can be validly interpreted in multiple ways, certain passages are so clear one would have to try very hard to get them wrong. One of those is Matthew 25:31-46, the separation of the sheep from the goats and Christ’s judgment upon His return. The ethical imperatives that will form the basis of that judgment are the treatment of those people he regards as His “brothers”. Identifying Jesus’ brothers is the key to understanding the passage:

“‘When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (vv. 37-40).

Throughout Church history the “brothers” were primarily interpreted as referring to Christ’s followers. More recently however, the modern concepts of social justice and universal brotherhood have influenced the way this text is read and most interpreters wrongly identify “brothers” as anyone who suffers hunger, thirst, etc. But that isn’t what Matthew wrote or intended. Continue reading “A Costly Misinterpretation of Scripture”

The Causal Connection of the Love Commandments

It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when they tested him on which is the greatest commandment:

”Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:34-40).

The Pharisees responded with silence because Jesus answered correctly. That the entire Law can be summarized in those same few lines can be found in the Rabbinic literature of the first-century. Continue reading “The Causal Connection of the Love Commandments”