Studies and Meditations on this Sundays Scripture Readings: August 11, 2013


#1

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival."

To help us prepare for this coming Sunday, here are the readings, studies and reflections for this coming Sunday's Scripture readings.** This Sunday is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.**

Here are the Scripture readings from the U.S. Catholic bishops website.

My own weekly study on the Sunday Readings can be found here at my website.

Here are three short audio reflections on the readings by Sister Ann Shields, Dr. Scott Hahn, and Fr. Robert Barron.

Scripture scholar Fr. Francis Martin's video meditations on the Sunday Scripture readings can be found here.

Further study resources for the Readings: St. Charles Borromeo Bible Study can be found here, Catholic Matters can be found here, the Catena Aurea ("Golden Chain") of St. Thomas Aquinas can be found here, and the Haydock Commentary can be found here.

Please consider supporting those who provide these free resources.

Discussion, questions and charitable comments are always welcome. Have a blessed week!

       http://www.templeinstitute.org/day_in_life/day_images/night_shift.jpg

#2

**From the Navarre Bible Commentary

First Reading - From: Wisdom 18:6-9
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[6] That night was made known beforehand to our fathers, so that they might
rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.
[7] The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were
expected by thy people.
[8] For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies thou didst call
us to thyself and glorify us.
[9] For in secret the holy children of good men offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the fathers.
*


Commentary: *

18:5-19:21. The book of Wisdom closes with a section devoted to the night of the Passover, the culminating moment of God’s actions in the salvation history of his people. In the light of that situation the sacred writer reviews the wondrous events that took place during the Exodus.

19:5-9. Once again a contrast is drawn between the severe way God dealt with the Egyptians and his kindness towards the Israelites; there now takes place an exceptionally important event – the Passover. The Egyptians had decreed that all the first-born Hebrew males should be put to death (cf. Ex 1:15-22). To escape this fate, Moses, a newborn child, is left out (v. 5) on the waters of the Nile in a basket and rescued by the pharaoh’s daughter (Ex 2:1-10). With the law of retaliation as a background, the crime committed by the Egyptians must be punished by the death of their own first-born, “at midnight” (Ex 2:29) and by the later destruction in the Red Sea of those sent to pursue the Israelites (Ex 14:26-29).

On the Passover night, two contrasting things happen: the first-born of the Egyptians are smitten, which forces the pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave forthwith, thereby obtaining the deliverance promised to their forebears (cf. Gen 15:13-14) and to Moses (Ex 11:4-7). But on the very same night, the Hebrews, “the holy children of good men” (v. 9) celebrate the Passover meal in their houses, as a festive sacrifice, all of them committing themselves to share both “blessings and dangers”; in this way they act as a people consecrated to the Lord and sing “the praises of the fathers” (v. 9). In due course, these original hymns came to form the Hallel, a group of psalms that were recited on Passover night and on the great feast-days (cf. Ps 113-118) – hymns that Jesus will recite with his disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26).


#3

**From the Navarre Bible Commentary

Second Reading - From: Hebrews 11:1-19 [red text not included in Sunday's Reading]

The Good Example of the Patriarchs
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[1] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [2] For by it the men of old received divine approval. [3] By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. [4] By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, Gen 5:24 God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but Sir 44:16 through his faith he is still speaking. [5] By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. [6] And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [7] By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith.

[8] By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. [9] By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. [10] For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. [11] By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. [12] Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

[13] These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. [14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. [16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

[17] By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, [18] of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." [19] He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.


Commentary:*

  1. Although the text does not aim to provide a precise definition of faith, it does in fact very clearly describe the essence of that virtue, linking it to hope in future things and to certainty concerning supernatural truths. By means of faith, the believer acquires certainty concerning God's promises to man, and a firm conviction that he will obtain access to heaven. The Latin translates as "substantia" the word the RSV translates as "assurance"; "substantia", which literally means "that which underlies", here refers to the solid basis provided by hope.

This verse indicates that faith, which is a type of knowledge, is different from other types of human knowledge. Thus, man can know things by direct evidence, by reasoned proof or by someone else's testimony. As regards knowledge based on information provided by
someone else, that is, knowledge based on faith, we can distinguish two types--human faith, when it is another human being whose word one relies on (as in the case of pupil/teacher, child/parent), and supernatural faith (when the testimony comes from God himself, who is Supreme Truth). In this latter case the knowledge provided is most certain.

However, the object of supernatural faith, that is, what one believes in (God and the unchanging decrees of his will), is not something that is self-evident to man, nor is it something that can be attained by the use of unaided reason. That is why it is necessary for God himself to bear witness to what he reveals. Faith, then, is certain knowledge, but it is knowledge of things which are not self-evident, things which one does not see but which one can hope for.

The verse also says that faith is "conviction" concerning things not seen. It is therefore different from opinion, suspicion or doubt (none of which implies certainty). By saying that it has to do with things unseen, it is distinguishing faith from knowledge and intuitive cognition (cf. "Summa Theologiae", II-II, q. 4,a. 1).

Summing up, we can say that "when God makes a revelation, we are obliged to render by faith a full submission of intellect and will. The faith, however, which is the beginning of human salvation, the Catholic Church asserts to be a supernatural virtue whereby, with the inspiration and help of God's grace, we believe that what he has revealed is true--not because its intrinsic truth is seen by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God who reveals it, of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived" (Vatican I, "Dei Filius", chap. 3).

Continued...


#4

It is, therefore, a feature of faith that it makes as certain about things which are not self-evident. That is why in order to believe one must want to believe, why the act of believing is always free and meritorious. However, faith can, with God's help, reach a certainty greater than any proof can provide. 'This faith", St John of Avila comments, "is not based on reasons ...]; for when a person believes on the basis of reasons, he is not believing in such a way that he is totally convinced, without any doubt or scruple whatever. But the faith which God infuses is grounded on divine Truth, and it causes one to believe more firmly than if one saw it with one's own eyes, and touched it with one's hands--and to believe more certainly than he who believes that four is greater than three, the sort of thing that is so obvious that the mind never hesitates a moment, nor can it even if it wants to" ("Audi, Filia", chap. 43).

The faith which God gives a person--supernatural faith--is necessarily the point of departure for hope and charity: it is what is usually called "living faith".

When one lives with this kind of faith it is easy to see that the three "theological" virtues (faith, hope and charity) are bound up with one another. Faith and hope lead a person to unite himself to God as the source from which all good things flow; charity unites us to God directly, by loving affection, because God is the supreme Good. Faith is as it were the first step: it means accepting what God says as true. We then unite ourselves to him through hope, insofar as we rely on God's help to attain beatitude. The goal of this process is charity, the fullness of which is eternal possession of God, the Supreme Good. "Let us grow in hope, thereby strengthening our faith which is truly 'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen' (Heb 11:1).

Let us grow in this virtue, let us beg our Lord to increase his charity in us; after all, one can only really trust what one loves with all one's might. And it is certainly worthwhile to love our Lord" (St J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 220).

Continued...


#5

If hope in general is the conviction of being able to obtain something worthwhile in the future, something difficult to obtain, theological hope is the conviction of being able, with the help of God, to attain heaven. And faith is precisely what provides certain knowledge of those two truths--that heaven is our goal and that God wants to help us to get there (cf. "Summa Theologiae", II-II, q. l7, a 5 and 7). Therefore, nothing should dishearten us on this road to our ultimate goal because we put our trust in "three truths: God is all-powerful, God has a boundless love for me, God is faithful to his promises. And it is he, the God of mercies, who enkindles this trust within me, so that I never feel lonely or useless or abandoned but, rather, involved in a plan of salvation which will one day reach its goal in Paradise" (John Paul I, "Address", 20 September 1978).

  1. The creation of the world from nothing is one of the first articles of faith. The text is reminiscent in a way of v. 1, in that faith gives conviction about things we cannot see; that is how we know the origin of all created things and discover God from things we can see.

Essentially the text is emphasizing the importance of belief in God as Creator and in Creation as coming from nothing. This is a truth found in all the creeds and it has been often defined by the Church Magisterium (cf., for example, Lateran IV and Vatican I). "We believe in one God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Creator of what is visible-such as this world where we live out our lives-and of the invisible-such as the pure spirits which are also called angels" (Paul VI, Creed of the People of God, 8).

  1. The Book of Genesis (4:3-5) tells of the offerings made to Yahweh by Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, God was pleased with Abel's offering but not with Cain's. God said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door ready to waylay you" (Gen 4:6-7). Many Jewish commentators saw this as meaning that Cain's sin may have been one of meanness because he did not offer the best of his crop. Additionally there would have been a sin of envy towards Abel (Wisdom 10:3 speaks of Cain's evil and his fratricidal hatred). In contrast to Cain, the prototype of the envious, selfish, violent and fratricidal man, Jewish literature extolled Abel as an example of generosity, uprightness and piety.

Against this background of Jewish religious thought come the words of Jesus (Mt23:25) and St John (1 Jn 3:12) who describe Abel as "righteous", that is holy and devout. The Hebrews text stresses that what made Abel's offering the better one was his faith, commitment to God and generosity. That was why God bore witness to his righteousness by accepting the victims he offered and perhaps -- according to an ancient oral Jewish tradition -- sending fIre down upon them to bum them. For God "looked more to the offerer than to what he offered, because the acceptability of an oblation is determined by the righteousness of the offerer, in cases other than of a sacrament," as St Thomas Aquinas says (Commentary on Heb, ad loc.). The text says literally that "God himself
bore witness to his offerings", as if to imply that he "came down" or that he "sent down fIre" to consume them (cf. the famous oblation of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:38; that of Moses and Aaron in Leviticus 9:24; and that of Gideon in Judges 6:21).

"He died, but through his faith he is still speaking": this is reminiscent of the passage in Genesis where God tells Cain that "the voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground" (Gen 4:10). Abel is God's witness, his "martyr", because he confesses God's greatness by his faith, sacrifice and generosity. "By leading others towards virtue, Abel proves to be an eloquent speaker. Any words must be less effective than (the example of) this martyrdom. So, just as heaven speaks to us by simply revealing itself to us, this
great saint exhorts us simply by impinging on our memory" (Hom. on Heb, 22).

It is comforting to know that the first example of faith in God was given by the son of Adam and Eve, and that it took the form of a sacrifice. It is understandable therefore that Fathers have, in fact, seen Abel as a figure of Christ: he was a shepherd, he offered an oblation pleasing to God, he shed his blood, and was therefore a "martyr for the faith".

When renewing Christ's sacrifice, the Liturgy asks God to look with favour on the offerings and accept them as once he accepted the gifts of his "servant Abel" (cf. Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer I).

Continued...


#6
  1. There was also quite an amount of Jewish tradition about Enoch, one of the Patriarchs from the pre- Flood period; this stemmed from the fact that the Book of Genesis, instead of rounding off mention of him with the usual words "and he died" (as is the case with the other patriarchs), says that he "walked with Elohim, and he was not, for God took him" (cf. Gen 5:21-24). This led people to think that Enoch did not die and that therefore he was in the presence of God preparing the way for the Messiah who would set man free: that is, he must be one of the Messiah's precursors, like Elijah, of whose death also there is no mention. The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) elaborates a little on the Hebrew text of Genesis 5:23: it says, "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for the Lord took him", and theRSV Genesis passage reflects this. It might also be pointed out that the Book of Sirach mentions Enoch with great respect, proposing him as an example to all generations; it says that "Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up" (Sir 44: 16), and elsewhere it adds that "no one like Enoch has been created on earth" (Sir 49:14). In apocryphal Jewish writing Enoch came to assume great importance: he was attributed great power as an astrologer and described as engaging in a series of fantastic exploits to prepare the way for the Messiah. It therefore became widely believed that Enoch would return to the world prior to the coming of the Anointed.

The Epistle to the Hebrews uses the Sirach texts and the Greek version of Genesis as its ground for stating that Enoch "was attested as having pleased God", and therefore it proposes Enoch as an example of faith.

The sentence "Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death" is not just referring to his being an upright man: it connects him with the coming of the Messiah and with the end of the world. The text is not saying or denying that Enoch died, but simply that he was "taken up". In view of the fact that it is decreed that all men should die (cf. Heb 9:27), for death is a consequence of original sin (cf. Rom 5: 12), most probably the words "was taken up" should be seen as a reference to death, and the following words, "so that he should not see death," should be taken either in a moral sense -- that is, "not experience the spiritual death of sin " -- or else as meaning that he arose immediately after our Lord's death, as happened in the case of some saints (cf. Mt 27:52-53).

  1. Faith is a virtue which is necessary for salvation, but faith alone is insufficient; it must be "faith working through love" (Gal 5:6). However, faith is of decisive importance because it is "the beginning of man's salvation" (St Fulgentius, Defide ad Petrum, 1) and because it is "the foundation and source of all justification" (Council of Trent, De iustificatione, chap. 8); we are referring not only to faith in the sense of a personal act-the act of faith-but also to faith in the sense of a body of truths which one holds as certain. Thus, theology says that two things are necessary-the faith by which one believes (the attitude of the believer) and the truths of faith which have to be believed (articles of faith). The verse speaks of both, but it dwells mainly on the second-the content or "object" of faith-whereas earlier (11: 1) it looked more at the importance of the act as such. No one can please God unless he draws near him; but it is not possible to do that without faith; therefore no one can please God unless be has faith. God himself moves us and helps us to approach him, but man needs to respond freely to God's action; it is by the act of faith that he does so: faith is that position of soul "by which we yield our unhesitating assent to whatever the authority of our Holy Mother the Church teaches us has been revealed by God; for the faithful cannot doubt those things of which God, who is truth itself, is the author" (St Pius V Catechism, I, 1, 1).

That is why, among truths of faith, we distinguish those which are accessible to human reason and those which man could never come to know on his own; the latter are called "mysteries". The former can be reduced to three – the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of a moral order established by God.

It is clear that if one does not believe in the existence of God and in the moral order established by him there is no possibility of salvation. What does the passage mean when it says that "whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him"? We might reply, with St Thomas, that, after original sin, no one can be saved unless he have faith in the promised mediator (Gen 3:15). For pagans, who have received no revelation, it was and is sufficient to believe that God rewards good and punishes evil (cf. Commentary on Heb, ad loc.).

Continued...


#7

The words of the sacred writer also pose another problem: how can those be saved who do not know Christ? The first thing to bear in mind is the absolute necessity of true and upright faith. Man has an obligation to seek truth, particularly religious truth, and he must not content himself with just any religion, as if all religions were more or less equal (cf. Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, 15 and 16). That is why adult pagans who request Baptism when they are in danger of death or in a situation of dire need must be given before Baptism a short instruction (adapted to the situation and to their intellectual capacity) on the main mysteries of faith-the Trinity and the Incarnation (cf. Reply of the Holy Office, 26 January 1703).

All this, however, does not mean that people who are not Christians cannot be saved. What it means, Vatican II teaches, is that "they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it" (Lumen Gentium, 14). "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience-those too may achieve eternal salvation. Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowlege of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life" (Lumen Gentium, 16).

Therefore, when in its apostolic and missionary work, the catholic Church encounters other religions, it "rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. It has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from its own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. Yet it proclaims, and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (In 14:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5: 18-19), men find the fulness of their religious life" (Vatican II, Nostra aetate, 2). In the last analysis, "although in many ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel to that faith without which it is impossible to please him (Heb 11 :6), the Church, nevertheless, still has the obligation (cf. 1 Cor 9: 16) and also the sacred right to evangelize. And so, today as always, missionary activity retains its full force and necessity" (Vatican II, Ad gentes, 7).

Similarly every Christian should always desire to seek God and have others seek him also. "If there is someone who is going to reward us, let us do everything possible not to lose the reward that is given to virtue . . .J. But, how can one find the Lord? Think of how gold is found-by much effort and trouble . . .J. So, we must seek God in the same way as we look for something we have lost. Is it not true that we rack our brains? Don't we look everywhere? Don't we look in out of the way places? Don't we spend money searching? If, for example, we have lost a child, what will we not do? What regions, what seas, will we not cross? How much more in the case of God, given that those who seek him have such need of him!" (St John Chrysostom, Horn. on Heb, 22).

  1. When Noah received God's order to build the ark (cf. Gen 6-9; Mt 24:37-39; 1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5), there was as yet no sign of a flood; in other words, he had to rely totally on God's word. He took heed, he acted "reveritus", with religious fear, that is, with a deeply religious attachment to God, an attitude which led him to obey very exactly what God told him to do.

Noah's faith "condemned the world" because the worldly and unbelieving men of his time jeered at him when he was making the ark. "What do these words mean -- 'by this he condemned the world'? They mean that he showed up the world as deserving of punishment, because even though they saw him building (the ark) they did not mend their ways or repent" (Horn. on Heb, 23, 1). By acting in line with his faith Noah condemns, in spite of himself, the incredulity of his contemporaries. Today also the life of a person of faith can be a reproach to those around him, but that should not lead him to act any differently.

Continued...


#8
  1. Abraham, "our father in faith", is the greatest example, in the Old Testament, of faith in God (cf. Gen 12:1-4; Rom 4:1ff; Gal 3:6-9; Heb 6:13ff). It is not surprising that the author pauses to dwell on the faithful life of the father of the chosen people. Putting all his trust in the divine word, Abraham gave up all the security and comfort of his native land in Ur of the Chaldeans, to set out for a distant and unknown place, the land of Canaan, which God had promised to give his descendants. "Neither the love for his homeland nor the pleasure of his neighbors' company nor the comforts of his father's home were able to weaken his resolve. He set out courageously and ardently to where God willed to lead him. What self-abasement and abandonment! One cannot love God perfectly unless one renounces all attachment to perishable things" (St Francis de Sales, "Treatise on the Love of God", book 10). Abraham symbolizes the need for detachment if one is to obtain redemption and to be a good servant of God and of others.

"Never forget that Christ cannot be reached without sacrifice. You have to get rid of everything that gets in the way ...]. You have to do the same in this battle for the glory of God, in this struggle of love and peace by which we are trying to spread Christ's kingdom. In order to serve the Church, the Pope and all souls, you must be ready to give up everything superfluous" (St J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 196).

9-10. Abraham, and his son Isaac and grandson Jacob like him, far from settling down comfortably in a permanent place, lived a nomadic existence a stranger in a foreign land (cf. Gen 23:4). By faith the patriarch "looked forward to the city which has foundations", the city God would build. Instead of the provisionality of tents and the weak foundations of cities built by men, a heavenly city was being established, eternal and permanent, built by God on solid foundations, which Abraham hoped one day to possess. The promised land was a symbol of the definitive fatherland to which God called the father of Israel. There was even a late Jewish tradition which spoke of Abraham being given a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem after he ratified his covenant with God.

Christians live in the world by the will of God, and they love the world, but at the same time they realize they should not settle down in it as if it were the final goal of their lives. "They are residents at home in their own country but their behavior is more like that of
people who are passing through ...]. For them any foreign country is a homeland, and any homeland a foreign country" ("Letter to Diognetus", V, 5).

11-12. Sarah, like Abraham, was very elderly when God announced that she was going to have a child. At first she was puzzled and even sarcastically skeptical (cf. Gen 18:9f), but soon her attitude changed into a faith which God rewarded by her conceiving Isaac. The faith of Sarah and her husband can be said to exceed that of the earlier patriarchs because what God promised could come true only by means of a miracle, since Abraham, like his wife, was old and incapable of begetting children. That is why it says that from one man "and him as good as dead" innumerable descendants were born. God is generous in rewarding man's faith. "'Si habueritis fidem, sicut granum sinapis"!--If your faith were the size of a mustard seed!...'

"What promises are contained in this exclamation of the Master!" (St J. Escriva, "The Way", 585).

The conception of Isaac is also a "type" of that of Christ. "All the miraculous conceptions which occurred in the Old Testament were prefigurements of the greatest of all miracles, the Incarnation of the Word. It was fitting that his birth from a Virgin should be prefigured by other births so as to prepare people's minds for faith. But there is this difference: God miraculously enabled Sarah to conceive by means of human seed, whereas the blessed Virgin conceived without it" (St Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on Heb.", 11, 3).

Continued...


#9

13-16. After speaking about the faith of Abel, Noah and Abraham, the sacred writer goes on to give a brief panoramic account of the entire history of the Patriarchs and the Exodus. It does not deal with events in chronological order. By recalling that the Patriarchs left their own country to journey abroad "seeking a homeland", he brings in the exodus from Egypt. Between Abraham, who left Ur to travel to the land of Canaan, and the people of Israel, who left Egypt for the promised land, there is an obvious parallel, which is even more marked if one bears in mind that neither Abraham nor the Israelites led by Moses were destined to take possession of the land: that was reserved to their descendants. The only thing Abraham managed to do was to purchase the cave of Machpelah, near Hebron, and the land immediately around it, for which he had to pay a very high price in silver. The cave became the burial ground of Sarah, Abraham himself, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. But Abraham publicly admitted he was "a stranger and a sojourner" in Canaan when he bought the cave from the Hittites (Gen 23:4). Nor did the Hebrews of Moses' generation manage to enter Canaan. The nearest they got to it was descriptions brought by their spies; and Moses himself was only able to view it from a distance, from Mount Nebo, just prior to his death (cf. Deut 32:49-52; 33:1-4). Abraham, and later Isaac and Jacob (who led a nomadic existence in Canaan), like the Israelites in the wilderness, prefigure Christians, who are also in search of a land of their own, a better homeland, that is, heaven (cf. Heb 13:14). It certainly is moving to recall the Patriarchs and the Exodus, and very helpful to the faith and hope of Christians amid the difficulties they encounter in this world. Those men of faith are said to have "seen" what was promised: this may be a reference to some special grace God gave them, as was the case with Abraham (cf. Jn 8:56), or else to the intuitive vision of supernatural things which faith provides (cf. "Commentary on Heb, ad loc."). "They greeted it from afar," happy to do so. "They greeted the promises and rejoiced," St John Chrysostom says, "for they already had such faith in those promises that they could make signs of greeting. This comparison is taken from seafaring: when from afar sailors espy the city they are making for, even before entering the port they cheer in greeting" ("Hom. on Heb.", 23).

The Patriarchs' attitude was a true indication of their faith in a future life, for, as St Thomas points out, by describing themselves as strangers and sojourners (Gen 23:4; 47:9; cf. Deut 26:5) they showed they were heading towards their homeland, the heavenly Jerusalem. They did not set their hearts on an earthly homeland, or on their parental homestead, for if so they could in fact have chosen to return to it (cf. "Commentary on Heb, ad loc."). Thus the promises made to them found their fulfillment not in something earthly but in the eternity of heaven: "Therefore God is not ashamed" to be called the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob: seeing their faith and fidelity, he overlooked their sins and faults. And he is disposed to act in the same way towards Christians.

In vv. 14 and 16, in the Greek text and the New Vulgate--and in the RSV--the verbs are in the present tense, as distinct from the past (aorist) used generally in this passage. This is because the whole paragraph is recalling the life of the Patriarchs, but with the
intention of stressing that their faith is an example to all generations. What we have here is a mixture of history and sapiential writing, using verbs which indicate that the action--or at least some of its effects--is still going on.

Concluded on the next post...


#10

17-19. It is very difficult for us to imagine what Abraham thought when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of the promise, his only son, in the mountains of Moriah (cf. Gen 22:2). The Old Testament shows how resolute Abraham was, his absolute docility, his serenity even in the midst of suffering his trust in God (cf. Gen 22:1-18). This is revealed in the touching conversation between the Patriarch and his son, when Isaac asks him where is the lamb for the offering and Abraham replies, "God will provide himself with the lamb for a burnt offering, my son". In St Paul's epistles generally Abraham's faith is proposed as an example (cf. Gal 3:7; Rom 4:3, 11-12; 4:17-22); but that was in the context of his faith in God's promise that he would have a multitude of descendants. Here, however, the Patriarch's faith is to be seen in the way he approaches a commandment which seems to negate that promise: how could God possibly ask him to sacrifice his only son? The answer lies in the fact that God knew that Abraham had faith in his ability to bring the dead back to life.

Abraham's obedience to God in this episode is the most striking proof of his faith. Here most of all the Patriarch "believed against hope ...]; he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God" (Rom 4:18, 21). "The Patriarch hears words which deny the promise; he hears the very author of the promise contradict himself, but he is not dismayed; he is going to obey as if everything were completely consistent. And in fact the two things were compatible: the two things God said were contradictory as far as human logic was concerned; but faith brought them into agreement ...].

"God tested Abraham's faith. Did he not know the strength and integrity of that great man? Undoubtedly he did, very well. Why, then, did he put them to the test? He did not do it to prove to himself the Patriarch's virtue; he did it to show the world how excellent Abraham was. The Apostle, moreover, shows the Hebrews one of the causes of our temptations, so that anyone who is afflicted should not think that God has abandoned him" ("Hom. on Heb.", 25). we know, moreover, that precisely on account of Abraham's generosity and faith, God renewed his promise to him, now ratifying it with an oath (cf. Gen 22:16; Heb 6:13-18).

  1. "Hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol": after offering Isaac, Abraham was given him back, because God stepped in before Isaac was sacrificed (Gen 22:11-12). And he received him as "a symbol" (literally, as "a parable"). Tradition has always seen the sacrifice of Isaac, the only Son, as a symbol of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ; and, particularly, it has seen God's intervention on Mount Moriah as a symbol of the Resurrection. "He saw it as a symbol," Theodoret comments, "that is, as a prefigurement of the Resurrection. (Isaac) was brought to death by his father's will, and then brought back to life by the voice which prevented his death. All this amounts to a prefiguring of the passion of the Savior, and that is why the Lord told the Jews, 'Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad' (Jn 8:56)" ("Interpretatio Ep. ad Haebreos, ad loc.").

Origen, a writer of Christian antiquity, reflects this tradition very beautifully when he says that the sacrifice of Isaac helps us to understand the mystery of Redemption. "Isaac carrying the wood for the burnt offering is a symbol of Christ, who carried his (own) cross. But it is also the function of the priest to carry the wood for the burnt offering ...]. Christ is the Word of God, but the Word made flesh. Therefore, there is in Christ an element which comes from above and another which comes from human nature, which he took on in the womb of the Virgin. This is why Christ experiences suffering: he suffers in the flesh, and he dies, but what suffers death is the flesh, and the ram is a figure of this, as St John said, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (Jn 1:29) ...]. Christ is at one and the same time victim and high priest. Thus, according to the spirit he offers the victim to his father, according to his flesh, he himself is offered on the altar of the cross" ("Homilies on Genesis", 8, 6 and 9).

For all these reasons, Eucharistic Prayer I links Christ's sacrifice with those of Abel, Isaac and Melchizedek.


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**From Navarre Bible Commentary

Gospel Reading - From: Luke 12:32-48

Trust in God's Fatherly Providence (Continuation)
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(Jesus said to His disciples,) [32] "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [33] Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. [34] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Trust in God's Fatherly Providence (Continuation)
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(Jesus said to His disciples,) [32] "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [33] Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. [34] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
**
The Need for Vigilance and the Parable of the Steward
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[35] "Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, [36] and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. [37] Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them. [38] If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants! [39] But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would have been awake and would not have left his house to be broken into. [40] You also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

[41] Peter said, "Lord are you telling this parable for us or for all?" [42] And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? [43] Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. [44] Truly I tell you, he will set him over all his possessions. [45] But if that servant says to himself, `My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, [46] the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. [47] And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. [48] But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more."

Commentary below...


#12

Commentary:

33-34. Our Lord concludes this address by insisting on those imperishable goods to which we should aspire. In this connection the Second Vatican Council concludes its teaching on the universal call to holiness saying: "Therefore all the faithful are invited and obliged to holiness and perfection of their own state of life. Accordingly let all of them see that they direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect love by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty, following the Apostle's advice: Let those who use this world not fix their abode in it, for the form of this world is passing away (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:31)" ("Lumen Gentium", 42).

"When Holy Scripture refers to the heart, it does not refer to some fleeting sentiment of joy or tears. By heart it means the person who directs his whole being, soul and body, to what he considers his good, as Jesus himself indicated: 'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' (Matthew 6:21)" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 164). Our Lord's teaching is quite clear: man's heart yearns to possess wealth, a good social position, prestigious public or professional appointments, which he sees as providing him with security, contentment and self-affirmation; however, this kind of treasure involves endless worry and disappointment, because there is always a danger of losing it. Jesus does not mean that man should forget about earthly things, but he does teach us that no created thing should become our "treasure", our main in life: that should be God, our Creator and Lord, whom we should love and serve as we go about our ordinary affairs, putting our hopes on the eternal joy of heaven. See also the note on Matthew 6:19-21.

35-39. In the preaching of Christ and of the Apostles we are frequently exhorted to be watchful (cf. Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Mark 14:34)--for one thing, because the enemy is always on the prowl (cf. 1 Peter 5:8), and also because a person in love is always awake (cf. Song of Songs 5:2). This watchfulness expresses itself in a spirit of prayer (cf. Luke 21:36; 1 Peter 4:7) and fortitude in faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:13). See the note on Matthew 25:1-13.

  1. To enable them to do certain kinds of work the Jews used to hitch up the flowing garments they normally wore. "Girding your loins" immediately suggests a person getting ready for work, for effort, for a journey etc. (cf. Jeremiah 1:17; Ephesians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13). Similarly, "having your lamps burning" indicates the sort of attitude a person should have who is on the watch or is waiting for someone's rival.

  2. God has chosen to hide from us the time of our death and the time then the world will come to an end. Immediately after death everyone undergoes the particular judgment: "just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment..." (Hebrews 9:27). The end of the world is when the general judgment will take place.

41-48. After our Lord's exhortation to vigilance, St. Peter asks a question (verse 41), the answer to which is the key to understanding this parable. On the one hand, Jesus emphasizes that we simply do not know exactly when God is going to ask us to render an account of our life; on the other--answering Peter's question--our Lord explains that His teaching is addressed to every individual. God will ask everyone to render an account of his doings: everyone has a mission to fulfill in this life and he has to account for it before the judgment seat of God and be judged on what he has produced, be it much or little.

"Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed (cf. Hebrews 9:27), we may merit to enter with Him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed (cf. Matthew 25:31-46) and not, like the wicked and slothful servants (cf. Matthew 25:26), be ordered to depart into the eternal fire (cf. Matthew 25:41)" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 48).


#13

Other resources for this Sunday's Readings:

The Word Among Us

Carl Olsen

Msgr. Charles Pope

Free Republic Catholic Caucus


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