Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jesus in the Old Testament, From A to Z


My favorite Easter story has always been when Jesus appeared incognito to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After listening to them share their disappointment over how His ministry ended and their bewilderment at the news Mary Magdalen and the other women brought about His Resurrection, Jesus took them to task, "'How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Lk.24:25-27).  Below are some of the passages our Lord would have showed them:


A.        First Promise of Redeemer (Genesis 3:15)

B.        Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20)

C.        Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18)

·         Isaac is his “one and only son”

·         Isaac carries the wood for the sacrifice on his own shoulders

·         “God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice”

·         A ram is provided instead – a temporary substitute

·         Abraham named that place “The Lord will provide”

·         At some point in Abraham’s future a sacrificial lamb would be provided on that mountain (at the time of Jesus the region wasn’t known as “Moriah” but was the region of Jerusalem)

D.       Celebration of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-3, 6-8, 11-13)

·         Blood on doorposts and lintel (trace sign of cross)

·         Israelites had to EAT the lamb

·         If they didn’t eat the lamb then they would be struck down with the Egyptians

E.        Manna from Heaven (Exodus 16:1-4) / Water from the rock (Exodus 17:3-6)

F.         Sealing the Covenant / Covenant Meal (Ex.24:3-9)

G.       Daily Offering (Exodus 29:28-42)

H.       The Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)

I.          The Everlasting Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:8-17)

J.          Messiah (Psalm 110:1-4)

K.         “My God, My God” (Psalm 22:1, 7-8, 16-18, 23-28)

·         Jesus’ prayer on Cross

·         Gambling for his garments

·         Pierced hands and feet

·         Saved and offers thanksgiving (eucharist) sacrifice

L.         Resurrection (Psalm 16:8-11)

M.     Third Day (Hosea 6:1-2)

N.        Suffering / Resurrected Servant (Isaiah, Chp.53)

O.       Servant will bring Salvation to Gentiles (Isaiah, 49:5-6)

P.        Messiah to Regather God’s people from Gentiles (Jeremiah 23:3-8)

Q.       New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

R.        New Covenant / Cleansing Water/ Gift of Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-27)

S.         Messiah to Rule Forever (Ezekiel 37:22-27) 

T.        Those Marked with Sign of Cross will be Saved (Ezekiel 9:2-6)

U.       Guilt of Land removed in a single day (Zechariah 3:8-9)

V.        Look on Him Whom They Pierced / Cleansing Water (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1)

W.     Ruler to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-5)

X.        The Messenger/”The Lord” will purify Temple (Malachi 3:1-5)

Y.        Righteous Man (son of God) condemned to torture and death (Wisdom 2:12-20)

Z.        Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14)

What Do You Mean Jesus "Descended Into Hell"? (Holy Saturday)

 For those of us who recite the Apostles' Creed in English, the article "He descended into hell; on the third day rose again from the dead," can cause confusion.  It can lead to interesting thoughts such as: 
  • "How can God descend into Hell?  If Hell is separation from God, and Jesus is divine; then it wouldn't be Hell anymore," and
  • "On the Cross, Jesus truly became accursed and was separated from the Father.  He actually suffered the pain of Hell - separation from God, on behalf of sinners."
The first notion suffers from a misunderstanding of what the Creed means by "hell," and the second from a deficient understanding of both the Trinity and how Christ atones for our sins.

You see, when we recite the Creed in English, the word we translate as "hell" in English is the Latin word inferos, meaning "those below."  Jesus descended to the realm of the dead - Sheol in Hebrew, Hades in Greek (and Hell in Old English).  St. Paul wrote of this in Ephesians 4:9, "He had also descended into the lower parts of the earth;" and we read of it in Peter's first epistles:
  • "[Jesus,] being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah." (1 Pet.3:18-19)
  • "This is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God." (1 Pet.4:6 )
Prior to Jesus' resurrection, the realm of the dead (Sheol/Hades/"hell") was populated by both the righteous and unrighteous, awaiting judgment.  Because of sin, both had been denied the vision of God in Heaven, but their lot was not identical - the righteous dwelt in what Jesus called "Abraham's Bosom," similar to purgatory (Lk.16:22-26), while the unrighteous experienced a foretaste of the punishment to come.   

After Jesus' death, He sojourned among the righteous in "Abraham's Bosom," and announced the salvation they would soon experience - with His resurrection Heaven would be opened to them.  Some would even physically rise with Him! (See Mt. 27:52-53) Jesus' announcement of salvation to the dead is what we see portrayed in icons of the Resurrection - Jesus has kicked down the doors of Hades and is pulling Adam, Eve, and all the righteous dead up from the grave.

If you would like to read more, I invite you to check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  A happy Holy Saturday to you.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

So What's With the "Stations of the Cross"?




This devotion, also called the Way of the Cross, goes back to the early centuries of the Church.  Egeria, a third century pilgrim from Spain to the Holy Land, recorded how people gathered with the bishop late Holy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane; and, over the next several hours processed from there, through Jerusalem, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb.

Over time, specific places came to be identified with episodes in Jesus’carrying of the cross – meeting Simon of Cyrene, the women mourning, etc.  The Franciscans, to whom guardianship of the holy places was entrusted in 1342, fostered the devotion of tracing Jesus’ journey to Golgotha.  The number of stations varied depending on which friar led the group, but the path quickly became known as the Via Dolorosa, or Sorrowful Way.


Because many Europeans couldn’t hope to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Via Dolorosa was recreated on the grounds of European monasteries and convents.  Some religious orders sent members to measure the exact distance between stations!  Artistic representations of the events were then painted or chiseled as an aid the faithful.    In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended an indulgence to those who made a way of the cross consisting of fourteen stations, and from that point on fourteen has been their number. Clement’s successor, Benedict XIV, encouraged all priests to have the stations erected in their parishes.  We see the success of his efforts whenever we attend Mass.


Making the Way of the Cross is a way for us to meditate on Jesus’ Passion.  Ideally we should bring our own “crosses” to the devotion and unite our difficulties to Jesus’.  At each point in his journey there is a lesson for us, some element to which we can connect our lives.    The fourteen traditional stations are:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death
  2. He receives the cross
  3. He falls the first time
  4. He meets his mother
  5. Simon of Cyrene helps carry the cross
  6. Veronica wipes his face
  7. He falls the second time
  8. He meets the mourning women
  9. He falls the third time
  10. He is stripped of his garments
  11. He is nailed to the cross
  12. He dies
  13. He is taken down from the cross
  14. He is laid in the tomb
At the beginning of each it is traditional to pray, “We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee, because by thy holy cross thou has redeemed the world.”  We then make an effort to visualize the station as best we can, to place ourselves within our Lord’s body and heart, or within the heart of the Blessed Mother watching these events.  It is common to finish the meditation with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.


Those familiar with Scripture will of course wonder about the inclusion of events not narrated therein: three falls, Jesus meeting his mother, Veronica wiping of his face.  The first two points are merely matters of deduction:  To require Simon of Cyrene’s help carrying the cross, Jesus had to be in a weakened condition, and undoubtedly suffered falls.  John’s Gospel tells us that the Blessed Mother was at the foot of the cross.  Wouldn’t she and Jesus have exchanged words, or at least have locked eyes, at some point during his carrying of the Cross?  Veronica wiping Jesus’ face however, does not appear in the written record until the third century.  While it could be historical, a surviving unwritten tradition, I tend to view it as naturally flowing from we Christians’ love for our Lord – our desire to give him some measure of relief during his way of sorrow.

You are certainly free to develop your own stations of the cross too.  In both 1991 and 1994, John Paul II departed from the traditional fourteen:

  1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
  2. His betrayal by Judas
  3. Condemnation by the Sanhedrin
  4. Peter’s denial
  5. Condemnation by the people
  6. Crowning with thorns and clothing in purple.
  7. Carrying the cross.
  8. Simon of Cyrene
  9. Meeting the women of Jerusalem
  10. Nailed to the Cross
  11. Words to the thief
  12. Jesus’ words to his mother
  13. Jesus dies
  14. He is buried.

May the Lord grant you a profitable Good Friday, my friends.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

If Wrong, We Catholics Are SERIOUS Heretics (Holy Thursday Reflection)

Being Holy Thursday, I am thinking about the Eucharist, and it struck me anew how earth-shattering our Eucharistic Faith truly is.  My high school theology teacher, Mr. Burns, nailed it, "After the priest prays Jesus’ words, “This is My body…This is My blood,” you don’t have bread and wine there anymore; it is Jesus!  People, you don’t fall on your knees in the kitchen when you pass by the Wonder Bread.  You go down on our knees in church because that’s not bread anymore, it is Jesus Himself!"

If we Catholics are wrong on this point, then we are not just making a simple mistake; we are guilty of the grossest kind of idolatry - of worshiping a piece of bread as God!   But that is our faith in the words of Jesus - our faith in His power to do absolutely anything!  Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat [“phogein” in Greek, the usual verb for “eat”] the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life within you; 
he who eats [“trogein” in Greek, meaning “to munch or gnaw”] my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56, NIV)
The Apostle Paul took Jesus at His word.  Look at what Paul wrote the Corinthians:

"Whoever, therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died."
(1 Corinthians 11: 27-30)  
And the early Church understood Jesus and Paul every bit as literally as Catholics today.  Listen to my man Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, writing in 107 A.D.: 
“I desire the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ, Who was of the seed of David, and for drink, His Blood, which is love incorruptible.”(Epistle to Romans)

Use one Eucharist so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar as there is one bishop with the presbytery and the deacons.”  (Epistle to Philadelphians)

"Take note of those who hold heterodox [or heretical] opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which comes to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes." (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans)
That's bold; we Catholics are "all in."  We are not simply another Christian denomination.  Either we have preserved the Faith established by Jesus, or we are idolaters.  For someone who truly wants to live as a disciple of Jesus, it is impossible to be indifferent to the claims made by the Catholic Church.  Either she is the Church founded by Jesus and the Eucharist is literally His body and blood, or she is misleading over a billion people.  But if she's right ... then it is the fullness of the Christian Faith.  Don't you think it's worth a serious study?