Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Law and the Prophets: Shorthand for the Entire Old Testament

Word Study:  Righteousness

Gk: Dikaiosune:  denotes the uprightness and faithfulness of God and His people.  It is covenant language and is used 7 times in Matthew and 85 times in the rest of the New Testament.

  1. God is righteous because He perfectly fulfills His covenant with Israel as their Divine Father.  In the New Testament, God now demonstrates His righteousness through the saving work of Jesus Christ.
  2. For God’s people, righteousness is a New Covenant gift from Christ.  It is first given in Baptism and received by faith.  (Rom 5: 17)  it denotes that our relationship as God’s adopted children has been restored.  This gift of righteousness can increase through love and obedience to God’s covenant.  (Mt. 5: 6)

The Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets

(Matthew 5: 17-20)

(5: 17) to fulfill them:  Jesus completely fulfilled the Mosaic Law and Old Testament prophecies.  The Greek work that is translated as “fulfill” means “to make complete.”  The New Covenant includes and concludes the Old; perfecting and transforming it.  In the Christian life, the power of the Holy Spirit is necessary if we are to obey the Law (as Jesus refined it) and grow in holiness. (CCC 577-81; 1967)

(5: 18) an iota:  corresponds to the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet (yod.)  a dot: Tiny extensions that distinguish similar-looking Hebrew letters from one another.

(5: 20)  your righteousness:  Jesus inaugurates a new and climatic phase in salvation history.  He introduces a New Covenant standard of righteousness that surpasses the real but insufficient righteousness of the Old Covenant.

     Jesus invites the scribes and pharisees to recognize the Mosaic Law as God’s temporary arrangement for Israel that drew them closer to Him by separating them from the sins of the Gentiles.  Christ’s New Covenant signals the dawning of the great day when God would write His Law on their hearts. (CCC 1963 – 68)

     The Old Covenant formed virtuous citizens in Israel.  The New Covenant generates saints in the Church.

St. Thomas Aquinas (CCC 1964)

There were. . . under the regimen of the Old Covenant, people who possessed the charity and grace of the Holy Spirit and longed above all for the spiritual and eternal promises by which they were associated with the New Law.    Conversely, there exist carnal men under the New Covenant, still distanced from the perfection of the New Law: the fear of punishment and certain temporal promises have been necessary, even under the New Covenant, to incite them to virtuous works.  In any case, even though the Old Law prescribed charity, it did not give the Holy Spirit, through whom “God’s charity has been poured into our hearts.”

Next Time:  Beginning The Six Antithesis  (Matthew 5: 21-48)

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountStudy Question:  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus implements a new level of covenant righteousness that stretches beyond the boundaries of the Old Law.  How?

Meditation:  Pray Psalm 95 and “Harden not your hearts” this Lenten season.

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Alertness to the cross; Being Salt and Light

Some thoughts on the Transfiguration

     When Jesus talks about the cross, the apostles tend to fall asleep.  Luke says that about a week after speaking of His suffering, He took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.  They were “heavy with sleep.”  (Lk 9: 31-32) Some translations of Luke read, “Peter and those with Him had fallen into a deep sleep.”  In Luke 22: 45, when Jesus was suffering agony in the garden, the three apostles He took with Him to pray fell asleep, not once, but twice.

     It appears that the apostles in Luke’s Gospel were using sleep as an escape of the unpleasantness of the cross that each of us is asked to pick up each day.  Are we asleep, too?  Unless we pick up that cross, we will not enjoy the Transfiguration and the glory of heaven.

     Perhaps another Lenten practice would be to thank God for our small sharing in the cross each day; then being alert enough to recognize when it comes and embrace it passionately and gratefully.

The Kingdom of Heaven IV

     The Kingdom of Heaven is ethical, ecclesial, and eschatological.  We’ve already discussed how it is ethical and ecclesial.  Ultimately, the “kingdom of heaven,” will have an eschatological fulfillment in the future.  While it is present here through the Church; this is only a prelude to its full and final manifestation at the end of time.

     We read in Matthew 16:28, the “coming” of the kingdom awaits the return of Christ in glory.  the Church prays with hope for this to the Father (6:10) and makes preparation. (the Wise and the Foolish Virgins 25: 1-13)  Finally, when at last Jesus appears, He will send the righteous and wicked their separate ways.  And the righteio0us will be given the everlasting inheritance of the “kingdom of heaven.” (25: 31-46)

Salt and Light (Mt. 5: 13-14)

     The two illustrations of salt and light show that the disciples must be true to their calling if they are to remain useful to the kingdom.

salt of the earth:  we are to season and preserve the world with peace (Mk 9: 50) and gracious speech. (Col 4:5)

“Salt is good; but if the salt has lost is saltiness, how will you season it?  Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.  (Mk 9: 50)

“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.” (Col 4: 5)

light of the world:  we are to bear witness to Jesus and His message.  (Jn 1: 9; 8:12)

“Again, Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8: 12)

a city set on a hill: this refers to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion and is a visible sign of the eternal city that awaits the saints in heaven.  (Gal 4: 26; Heb 12: 22; Rev 21: 2)

“And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev 21: 2)

your Father:  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls God “Father” a total of 17 times.  God’s Fatherhood is the deepest mystery of His identity.  (Jn 1:1; 1:12; Gal 4: 4-7)

purple-cross_-lent-212x400Next time:  Matthew 5: 17-20  The Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

Study Question:  Read Galatians 4: 4-7.  These verses speak of the Divine Mission of the Son and the Spirit.  What is this mission?

Meditation:  How can I be salt and light to others during Lent?

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Blessed are You when Men Revile and Persecute You

 

 

“You are the Messiah,” Simon Peter answered, “the Son of the Living God.” — Matthew 16:16.

     We are 10 days into Lent and today was a feast day; a “white” day in the midst of the purple.  Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Chair of St. Peter; the fact that Jesus founded a visible Church under the leadership of St. Peter.  Let’s pray today for all of our shepherds especially Pope Benedict XVI.

     Today is the perfect day to talk about the “Kingdom of Heaven” being ecclesial.  I really love it when the Holy Spirit guides my writing.

The Kingdom of Heaven III

  1. the Kingdom’s saving power is made present in the world through the visible Church.
  2. The Gospel of Matthew stresses the importance of the Kingdom of Heaven
  3. The Gospel of Matthew is the only Gospel to make explicit reference to the Church (16:18; 18:17)
  4. Authority to bind and loose in the Kingdom is given to Peter.
  5. Peter is made the Kingdom’s chief steward and guardian of its keys. (16:19)
  6. Similar royal authority is conferred upon the other apostles as a group. (18: 18-19)
  7. Sent forth by Jesus, the apostles extend the Kingdom through their preaching (10:7) and sacramental actions. (28:18-20)

The Beatitudes

(5:9) the peacemakers:  those who sow peace in the world. (Jas 3:18)  Yes, we are to live at peace with one another; however, ultimately we must share the Gospel so others can be reconciled with God and live in the peace of Christ. (Rom 5:1; Phil 4:7)

(5:45)  Children of God:  the gift of divine sonship is both present to believers (Rom 8: 14-16; 1 Jn 3:1) and a future hope linked with the resurrection of the body (Rom 8:23) and the glory of eternal life to come. (Rev 21:7) (CCC 2305)

(CCC 2305)  Christ is the Prince of Peace.  By the Blood of His Cross, “in His own person He killed the hostility,” of men.  He reconciled men with God and made His Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God.  “He is our peace.” (Eph 2:14)  He has declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

(5:10)  those who are persecuted:  these are the ones who are slandered, abused, or oppressed for their public witness to Christianity.  They are targets of the world’s hatred.  (Jn 15: 18-19) because of their commitment to righteousness. (1 Pet 3:14)

(5-12) the Kingdom of Heaven:  persecuted disciples can expect a great reward!

     The reading for Monday is Chapter 5: 13-16. (Salt and Light)

100px-Dürer-Petrus

St. Peter, the First Pope

Study Question:  In honor of the day, read chapter 16: 13-20.

Meditation:  If someone looked at what you did today, would they know that you were a Christian?

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Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

My daughter told me that the discussion of “the kingdom of heaven” was a little deep and hard to follow especially after a long, hard day.  (She had also been discussing Ezekiel for an hour.)  So, I will present the next discussion of the “kingdom of heaven” as bullet points for easier reading.

The Kingdom of Heaven II

     In Matthew’s gospel, the theme: “the kingdom of heaven” develops along lines that are ethical, ecclesial, and eschatological.

     The Kingdom of Heaven is ETHICAL:  It call for a human response to Jesus.

  1. it summons hearers to repentance (4:17).
  2. it demands a lifetime of discipleship
  3. it spends that lifetime seeking the surpassing righteousness of Christ.
  4. Righteousness:
    • spelled out in practical terms (5: 3-10; 5: 21-48)
    • observance of the Golden Rule (7:10)
    • an effort to live with childlike humility (18: 1-4)
    • a willingness to forgive when others offend us (6:14-15; 18: 23-25)
    • a commitment to prayer (6: 5-13)
    • fasting (6:16-18)
    • works of compassion (6: 2-4; 25: 35-40)

This means to me that if we build our lives on the teaching of Jesus (7: 24-27) we will come safely to the blessedness of eternal life (25: 31-46.)  Now I understand why my spiritual adviser always directs me to Matthew (5: 1 — 7:29 and 25: 31-46) whenever I am struggling with any question of what I need to do.  The Gospel of St. Matthew is truly the answer to the question “What Would Jesus Do?

We will look at how “the Kingdom of Heaven” is ecclesial and eschatological on Friday and next Monday.

The Beatitudes

5:6  those who hunger and thirst:  those who yearn to live rightly according to the will of God.  Their first priority is to seek the Lord’s Kingdom and righteousness as the most necessary sustenance of life.  Ultimately they will be satisfied by God in eternal life.

5:7  the merciful:  those who imitate the Father’s mercy by extending forgiveness to others. (Mt 18: 21-11, 33)  The merciful are patient and understanding in bearing with others’ faults AND they are generous in aiding the needy by works of charity and compassion (6: 2-4; 25: 34-40)  When the Final Judgment comes they will receive the mercy that lasts forever. (6: 14; Jas 2: 13) (CCC 2447)

The Works of Mercy (CCC 2447)

The Works of Mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.  These are the spiritual works of mercy:  instructing, advising, consoling, comforting, forgiving, and bearing wrongs patiently.  These are the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying the dead.  Among all of these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity; it is also a work of justice that is pleasing to God. (Cf Tob 4: 5-11; Sir 17:22; Mt 6: 2-4)

St. Jemes

St. James

Study Question:  Read James 2: 13-17.  What does this mean in light of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount?

Meditation:  How can we use this Lent to spread God’s word?

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Who Throughout These Forty Days

Here are few more ideas to put into practice the Big Three:

Fasting:

  1. Fast from music or talk radio in the car.
  2. Give up coffee (or cut it down to one cup?!)
  3. Give up all desserts.

Prayer:

  1. Meditate for 10 minutes a day.
  2. Read the CCC’s 74 page section on prayer.  (less than 2 pages a day)
  3. Read a book on the Life of Christ. (other than the NT)

Almsgiving (Charity):

  1. Visit a nursing home with your children.
  2. Visit an elderly friend or relative.
  3. Say a kind word to everyone you meet.

The Kingdom of Heaven I

     In Matthew’s Gospel, the expression, “the kingdom of heaven” appears more than 30 times.  This phrase is not attested to in Jewish or Christian texts before this Gospel; however it is not an altogether novel idea.  It is rooted in OT expectations of a Messianic age.

     In the Book of Daniel, for instance, it is said that the God of Heaven will triumph over the kingdoms of this world by establishing His royal dominion over the whole earth. (Dan 2:7)  Daniel forsees in a vision that God will exercise His Divine Kingship through “one like the son of man.” (Dan 7:13-14)  Several times in Matthew, Jesus identifies Himself with Daniel’s royal figure. (24:30; 26:64; 28:18)

     There is a historical background to the kingdom of heaven in the ancient monarchy of David and in prophetic hopes for its restoration.  In the Davidic covenant, the Lord swore an oath to establish the kingdom of David forever.(2 Sam 7: 12-17; Ps 89: 3-4)  In the sixth century BC, Davidic kingship was eclipsed, so the prophets envisioned the coming of a new David to restore his kingdom for all time. (Is 9:6-7; 11: 1-5: 55: 3-5; Jer 23: 5-6; Ezek 34: 23-24; Hos 3: 4-5; Amos 9: 11-12)  So Matthew sees Jesus as this messianic “son of David.” (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20: 30; 21: 9,15)  Jesus has achieved a transcendant fulfillment that brings the ancient Davidic ideal to its perfection.  In the risen Jesus, Davidic rule is forever restored and given universal extension over heaven and earth and all nations. (28: 18-19)

Back to the Beatitudes

Blessed are those who mourn:  those that lament the present state of this life.  This includes weeping for sins as well as the grief that comes when the saints are made to suffer for their faith.  In the life to come, they will be comforted by God, Who wipes away every tear.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of Living Water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  (Rev 7: 17)

Blessed are the meek:  Those who appear powerless and insignificant in the eyes of the world.  Far from being weak however, the meek possess an inner strength to restrain anger and discouragement in the midst of adversity.  An exemplar of meekness in the OT is the life of Moses (Num 12:3).  Jesus is the Supreme Exemplar of meekness.  (11:29; 21:5)

Inherit the earth:  This refers either to heaven itself, envisioned as a New Promised Land (Heb 11:16) or to the new creation that is to come. (Rom 8: 21; Rev 21: 1)

Bloch-SermonOnTheMountQuestion of the day:  In Matthew, “the kingdom of heaven” is a theme that branches out, from Christ as its center, in several directions.  One of the directions is ETHICAL in that it requires a human response.  According to Matthew, what are some of these responses?

Meditation for the day:  Lent imitates Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.  Jesus began His “Lent” filled with and led by the Holy Spirit.  Are we letting the Spirit direct us this Lent?

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The Big Three: Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving

Father Ted spoke about these three things at Mass today.  So, before we get into today’s verses, I thought I’d recap what he had to say.

The Catholic Church has a very special way of fasting during the season of Lent.  On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we eat one meal and no meat.  The other Fridays of Lent we can eat as much as we want, however we must abstain from meat.  These are the minimum requirements, so to speak.  Most of us “fast” from other things during all 6 weeks.  And some of us actually fast from food.  Fasting is a way to grow our spiritual self.

Prayer is another way that we can walk closer with God.  Father said to be sure to set aside at least 10 minutes a day for prayer.  Again, this should be a bare minimum.  We should be praying so much that our soul is filled with longing for the Lord since we know that no one else can fill the void in our life.

Finally, all the money we save by all our fasting should be given to the poor.  When I was very young, we would get a little box that we would fill with our pennies during Lent.  Now, Charlie and I have graduated to a jar!  🙂

So there it is:  The Big Three:  Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.  Three ways to have a great Lenten season.

Word Study:  Blessed (Mt. 5: 3-10)

     Makarios (Gk):  An adjective meaning “fortunate” or “blessed.”  It is found 13 times in Matthew and 37 times elsewhere in the NT.

     It is NOT used as an invocation of God’s blessing but as a declaration that a person has either received a blessing from God or can expect to receive one in the future.

     The beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount are eschatological and promise the rewards and consolations of God in the future.  They announce that the blessings of the New Covenant will be fully realized in heaven.  Some do promise blessings that are partly enjoyed in this life but ALL of them look past the struggles and hardships of this life to the eternal blessedness of the life to come. (Mt. 5: 11-12)

The Beatitudes

     The setting of the Sermon on the Mount recalls the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai.  Moses brought the law down the mountain whereas Jesus delivers His teaching to the disciples who have come up the mountain where He sits with the posture of a Jewish rabbi who is speaking with authority.  The mountain can also signify the higher precepts to be given to those who are ready to be set free by love.

     (Mt. 5:3)  the poor in spirit– those who recognize their need for God and His grace.  These are unattached to the world and rely upon God for their security.  They truly rely on His mercy rather than their merits or material wealth.  The spiritually poor can also be materially poor.  Those who are rich in faith will have full possession of heaven at the final judgement.  (Mt. 25: 34)

(CCC 2544-47)

     The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of beauty and peace.  Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor to whom the Kingdom already belongs.  Abandonment to the Providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow.  The poor in spirit shall see God.

Conclusion

     I think this is all for today.  There is so much to think about and pray about in each beatitude that it is best to go slowly and thoroughly.

     On Monday, we will explore the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” and give more suggestions for Lenten practices for those who are inclined and explore “those who mourn.”

Jesus in the GardenQuestion of the Day:  Some translations of Matthew use “happy” instead of “blessed.”  What are your thoughts on this?

Meditations of the Day: 

  • Is there something I can do (or not do), Lord, to be “poor in spirit?”
  • True fasting pierces the clouds and causes our prayers to be heard and answered by God.  Am I fasting in such a way that my world is changing?

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Ash Wednesday-February 13, 2013 Welcome to the Bible Study

LentDuring this Lenten season, we will be studying “The Sermon on the Mount”  beginning with Chapter 5 of Matthew and seeing how far we get as the 6 weeks go on.  I will post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  The structure will be a little loose–however there will be a Question each time, a meditation for each time, and an advance notice of the reading for the next time.  I would appreciate it if you would sign up with your email address so that you can receive notification of when a new post appears.  And I would REALLY appreciate it if you would participate by commenting with your thoughts and questions.

I am a Catholic, so I will be referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) sometimes.  If you have one, read along.  For those who do not, I will summarize the reading from the CCC.  This is a good opportunity for my non-Catholic brothers and sisters to learn about what the Catholic Faith teaches and how very biblical our faith is.  I will not post the Bible verses.  I will expect that you will have read them before or after reading this.

Now, let’s begin:

From the Divine Office for the Day

The Lord says: the kind of fast that pleases me is sharing your food with the hungry and sheltering the poor and homeless.  Do this and I will listen to your prayers; when you call on me I will say: I am here.  —  Isaiah 58: 6, 7, 

Matthew’s Gospel & The Sermon on the Mount (Chaps. 5-7)

Matthew’s Gospel consists of alternating panels of narrative and discourse.  There are five story collections separated by 5 main speeches.  These are framed by an introductory prologue (Chaps. 1-2) and a climatic epilogue (Chaps 26-28.)  The repeated expression “when Jesus (had) finished,” occurs at the end of each of the 5 discourses and serves as a transition back to the storyline (7:28; 11:1: 13:53; 19:1; 26:1.)  It might seem that Matthew presents us 5 books as a new Torah for the new People of God.

     Matthew’s Gospel has as its central theme “the kingdom of heaven.”  More about this later.  For now, it is good to know that this expression appears more than 30 times throughout the Gospel.  (Time for all the OCD readers to get their bibles and count.)

     The Sermon on the Mount (Chaps. 5-7) is the first discourse in the First Book which is about John the Baptist and the Early Ministry of Jesus.  This book begins with Chapter 3.

     The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus’ teaching on Christian living and His perfection of the Old Covenant moral laws. (5:17)  The Sermon envisions our heavenly destiny based upon our rejection or acceptance of Jesus and His teaching. (CCC 1965-68)

Summary of CCC 1965-1968

The Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the Divine Law; natural and revealed.  It is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount.  The New Law is the “grace of the Holy Spirit” given to the faithful through faith in Christ.  This grace uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done to live the New Law and uses the sacraments to give us this grace to do it.

In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the Divine promises of the Old Law by elevating them and orienting them toward the “kingdom of heaven.”  The Lord’s Sermon, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential.  (More on this later, too.)

  • “If anyone should meditate with devotion and perspicacity on the Sermon our Lord gave on the Mount, as we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew, he will doubtless find there. . .the perfect way of the Christian life. . .This Sermon contains. . .all the precepts needed to shape one’s life.”

This is a very good reason to use the Sermon on the Mount during Lent as we pray, fast, and give alms.  God bless you all who are taking this journey with me.

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My husband Charlie with his ashes.

 Question of the Day:  To whom is the New Law specifically addressed in Matthew 5?

 Meditation of the Day:  The New Law is called the Law of Love, the Law of Grace, and the Law of Freedom. How  do you live the New Law so that others see love, grace, and freedom in your life?

 Reading for next time:  Matthew 5:  1-12

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