Political Activity is Not the Service of the Kingdom

The account of the feeding of the 5000 as reported in John chapter 6 is really a tragic story; the same people Jesus had miraculously fed eventually rejected Him. Their expectations were for a political solution to their plight, and a king who can produce food instantaneously for thousands of people would have made a good candidate:

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone (vss. 14-15).

He gives them the slip until they catch up to Him in Capernaum:

And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (vss. 25-26).

Commenting on this passage, theologian Ronald Knox affirms that Jesus had come to provide only for their spiritual plight:

[O]ur lord is disturbed by the earthly-minded ambition on the part of his followers which would make a king of him. …Political activity is not the service to which the true kingdom is calling them.†

The temporal/worldly versus the spiritual/eternal is a theme that persists throughout the discourse:

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal” (vs. 27).

This begins the “Bread of Life” discourse, a prophetic description of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus repeats four times to the crowd of followers that they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. When they realized that this was a reference to cannibalism, they deserted Him, and Jesus did nothing to prevent it because they had understood Him correctly, but faithlessly.

It is possible that this whole dialogue was specifically aimed at the twelve disciples, to whom He asks:

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

This question, also prophetic since this is exactly what the disciples would experience, puts them in a corner. Let me paraphrase Jesus’ words,

“I just told you that to have eternal life you must consume my real body and blood. So how will you do that when I’m no longer here?”

Jesus explains:

“It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (vs. 63).

Jesus is reminding His disciples of the distinction between the spiritual and the earthly. They had seen Him change water into wine and feed thousands with a few loaves of bread, etc. That He would provide His body and blood in a spiritual manner should not have been impossible for them to believe.

The dialogue as a whole is a reminder that the mission of Christ and the Church is a spiritual one as opposed to an earthly one. The political issues of today: climate change, the alleviation of poverty, immigration etc., are the latter and are not the priorities of the “true kingdom”, and should not be the priorities of Church authorities today.

…rjt

A Commentary on the Gospels, New York: Sheen and Ward, 1952, p. 225.

Five Reasons to Add Josephus to Your Summer Reading List

The Jewish War is Josephus’ personal account of the Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and is indispensable to anyone interested in the New Testament. Once started, it is very hard to put down.

Josephus had been the general in charge of protecting the Galilee from the Roman legions who were on the march. After his capture by Vespasian, who was not yet emperor, he defected to the Roman side and tried to negotiate with the Jews of Jerusalem on its behalf.

His real name was Joseph Matthew but changed it to Flavius Josephus when he was granted Roman citizenship. Flavius was the family name of his patrons, Emperors Vespasian and Titus.

The first reason to read it is that it sheds light on the nature of “mob rule” in 1st-century Palestine. Jesus was the victim of a mob a week after he was hailed a king by one. In Josephus mobs are everywhere and are the source of much of the instability in the region.

The second reason is that you will learn about the incredible intensity with which the Jews believed that religion was a matter of life and death. This was in stark contrast to the Romans and took them by surprise.

The third is that you will find interesting the difference among the various procurators (governors). Some would try to be accommodating to the Jews while others, like Gessius Florus (AD 64-66), simply despised them. The trouble started when Florus, an appointee of Emperor Nero, believed that the Temple in Jerusalem contained immense wealth and he wanted to get his hands on it. His intentional duplicity was meant to provoke the city to rebellion.

The fourth is that there are insights into the bitter relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. Minor conflicts led to major ones, including massacres and pillage.

Finally, the details in Josephus’ reporting of what happened to Jerusalem in 70 AD are quite shocking, an example of God’s justice and retribution on the scale of that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah. It is also a reminder to the Church today that God will not hesitate to chastise when His people have become unfaithful.

The secret to reading Josephus, in my opinion, is not to start at the beginning, a very dry and detailed accounting of the life of Herod the Great. I would recommend skipping these chapters and start with chapter seven, “Judea Under Roman Rule”. This was when the Jews of Jerusalem started having problems with the Procurators, starting with Pontius Pilate.

…rjt

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Jesus’ Prophetic Parable

Note the words highlighted in bold from the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:41-45):

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’”

In Matthew’s gospel the “least ones” or “little ones” are  references to Jesus’ followers, who, for the purpose of the parable are neither the sheep nor the goats; they represent the ones whose treatment by the world becomes the standard for which the world is judged. The disciples would have understood this. But it also might have disturbed them since the implication is that they should expect to experience misfortunes as hunger, thirst, prison, etc. Otherwise, they would be no basis for the judging of those who either mistreated them or were hospitable toward them while suffering under those conditions.

The prophetic nature of the parable is reflected in St. Paul’s list of his own misfortunes in his letter to the Church of Corinth:

“We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

…rjt

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”

From Yellow Vests to Grey Wolves: Insurrection in France

“Couper la tête du roi!”

“Cut off the king’s head” is a common chant heard by the weekly protesters in France, squarely aimed at President Macron.

The fascinating thing is that the Yellow Vests have no real leaders, or common ideology or politics. They’re middle and lower class people who are struggling to keep up with ever-increasing cost of living, including taxation, the highest in the developed world. They blame the elites in Paris and the other European capitals whose priorities are climate change, massive immigration, globalization, and abandoning France’s common culture and history. Continue reading “From Yellow Vests to Grey Wolves: Insurrection in France”

St Hildegard’s Revealing Vision of the Antichrist

The Antichrist grows up

In the same vision as the five beasts, recorded in Scivias, Book III, Vision 11, Chapters 25-42†, the Doctor of the Church shares what was revealed to her about the Antichrist and offers clues to Christians during the last days on how to identify him.

She starts with the mother of the Antichrist, who begins learning “the arts of the Devil” in her infancy. We are told that she grows up apart from her family, and in the care of “abominable people” living in the “vilest of waste places”. As she matures her parents do not recognize her, nor even the people who raised her. At some point, we are not told what specific age, she will be visited by the Devil in the guise of an angel. She will depart from her community and seclude herself under the guidance of this angel from hell (chap. 25).

At some point after this the devil/angel commands her to engage in intercourse with a succession of men at the same time, with all participants remaining anonymous. She is impregnated by one of the men but she will never know who it was. Hildegard tells us that at this point Satan “…will breath on the embryo. and possess it with all his power”. (At this point we are reminded by the Saint that this is all done with the permission of God). After the baby is born the mother will show the infant boy to the people around her, declaring to them that she does not know who the father is or how she got pregnant. At the same time, although she had been given to a life of debauchery, she begins to observe a chaste lifestyle. The reaction of people to this will be to give her and her baby respect and even consider her a holy woman (Chap. 25). Continue reading “St Hildegard’s Revealing Vision of the Antichrist”

Germany Should Dump the Kirchensteuer (Church Tax)

The mandatory tax on Catholics collected by the state and forwarded to Church authorities (minus a commission) has become a tax like any other tax, nasty things happen if you don’t pay. It’s a vestige from earlier centuries when the German state was a Christian institution and insisted on bearing the responsibility for the custodial needs of the Church. But now this concept of tithing has evolved into the antithesis of that which is taught in the Bible and is destroying the Catholic Church in Germany.

Since hundreds of thousands of German Catholics have opted out of the tax in recent years, the German Bishop’s Conference instituted a formal directive that you have to pay to play: no tax, no Sacraments. So the vast majority of Catholics remain on the rolls, even if they are non-practicing (about 90%). It’s understandable why they choose not to, opting out means acknowledging in writing with a signature that you are not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, something I would not be inclined to do. A gun is being held to your head.

The problem is that for a Christian, giving can never be associated with compulsion, it must be motivated by charity. As St. Paul states: Continue reading “Germany Should Dump the Kirchensteuer (Church Tax)”

Gibson’s Dilemma in ‘The Passion of the Christ’

When he heard that Mel was making a movie on the Passion of Christ, the late Catholic forensic pathologist Frederick Zugibe, an expert on Jesus’ crucifixion as well as the Shroud of Turin, offered his services as a consultant. Curiously, Gibson declined. One would think that if you’re producing a film on the crucifixion of Jesus you might want to take advantage of the expertise of a world’s authority on the subject.

The Shroud. Marks of the scourging

In The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry, the Doctor responds with a less than glowing review of Gibson’s film, finding numerous inaccuracies. A glance at a couple of them uncovers what Gibson might have been grappling with while producing the film.

With respect to the scourging, in the film Jesus’ back and front were completely covered with lacerations from the razor-like pieces of metal attached to the ends of the flagrum. The doctor, however, insists that the scourging as presented in the movie would have quickly resulted in Jesus’ death, and was not supported by the Shroud. It shows that the lacerations were “dumbbell-shaped”; it was common for the Romans to attach lead balls to the ends of the leather whips. Continue reading “Gibson’s Dilemma in ‘The Passion of the Christ’”

William F. Buckley Jr. on Humanae Vitae

The Five Beasts

buckley1Twenty years ago Buckley wrote Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith, sharing his personal thoughts and experiences as a life-long Catholic. Writing in his typical high-brow conversational manner, you might feel as though you were sitting next to him on the panel of Firing Line. And indeed there is a panel; he structured his essays around answers to questions he had posed to his unique “Forum”, a group of intellectuals that had come to the Catholic faith as adults. His insights and outlooks remain relevant and valuable today.

On the subject of contraception (chapter 12), the opinions of his Forum were divided. But Buckley doesn’t bother to engage them; the publication of Humanae Vitae rendered the question pointless. “…[T]he answer, for a Catholic, has got to be: the position of the Pope, as spokesman for the magisterium.” He shifts the conversation to a question he finds more challenging:

“It is that the law against contraception is quite simply ignored. No, not by everyone; but the…

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The Promise that Israel Will be Saved.

I befriended a number of young native Israelis when I lived in the country and was surprised at their indifference upon hearing that I was a Christian. They seemed equally apathetic about Judaism. It was their ethnicity as Jews and connection to the land of Israel as their national homeland that unified them.

Something else that came as a surprise was when one friend gave me a Hebrew Bible published specifically for the Israeli Defense Forces. It was given to her brother when he was conscripted into the army; every soldier gets one and almost all 18 year-old’s are drafted, men and women. He didn’t want it. I was shocked when I  noticed that it contained the New Testament, which in Hebrew is called Haberit Hakhadasha, “The New Covenant”. There’s probably a copy sitting in most Israeli households. Continue reading “The Promise that Israel Will be Saved.”