Verbum Domini

Verbum Domini is a Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Benedict XVI on  how the Church should approach the Bible, it is like a synthesis of the thoughts from Dei Verbum. It looks at what Dei Verbum said from Vatican II and how we have implemented it in our lives. If you want a real quick overview take a look at the “Table of Contents” before the exhortation begins.

The exhortation itself is broken down into three main parts with an introduction and conclusion. The introduction says that this come from the 12th Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, which focused on The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. Benedict uses the Prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) as a guide. The Word was with God in the beginning and took on flesh to become one of us so that we all might live. This is as Benedict XVI says “a synthesis of the entire Christian faith.”

The first part is titled Verbum Dei, The Word of God. It begins with an analysis of the prologue of John’s Gospel ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” This idea goes into the Incarnation (The Word become flesh) where Jesus is the condensation of God. Since the Incarnation took place within time and space it happened at one point and the writings are “The word of God is thus expressed in human words thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit”  but reflect both the human and divine. Once again Mary is offered as a model for us. This next part we shift our focus on the book itself. Here Benedict gets into hermeneutics and how to exegete scripture.  Benedict directs our attention to opening up the Bible and reading it however he notes that we enter it with a faith-filled approach as this way has been, “practiced from antiquity within Tradition, seeks saving truth for the life of the individual Christian and for the Church. It recognizes the historical value of the biblical tradition. Precisely because of the tradition’s value as an historical witness, this reading seeks to discover the living meaning of the sacred Scriptures for the lives of believers today”, while not ignoring the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres. Scriptures can be used as an Ecumenical building block as well, like with bible study, we can get into the nuts and bolts of religion through discussion of common scripture.  We can look at the lives of the Saints as they have lived truly lived the Word of God.

The second part is entitled Verbum in Ecclesia, The Word in Church. It begins by calling us back to the beginning of John’s Gospel as Augustine puts it “you were created through the word, but now through the word you must be recreated.” How are we recreated? Through the scripture notably by the sacraments and the liturgy. Significance is put on the Liturgy as for many people this is the only place they will hear from the Bible. Benedict notes that Lectors need to be trained since they need to understand what they are reading before they can read it to the congregation. Then the focus turns to the Homily. The quality of homilies need to improve as the faithful need to be able to understand what the priest is talking about and understand that Christ is at the center of it.  We move on to the Sacraments of Healing saying that Scripture is a major aspect of both Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. Next we are given The Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church as a way for us to get closer to the Scripture. Once again Benedict urges us all to read the Bible using Lectio Divina or even just praying the Rosary.

The third part is Verbum Mundo, The Word to the World. This section begins talk of Evangelization and mission. We are called to be not only hearers of the Word but heralds of the world, at the end of Mass we are told to go out into the world and bring what we have heard out into the world. This is has been our mission since baptism, bearing witness to the Gospel in our daily lives. We need to not only evangelize the world but re evangelize it. Next the focus is turned to special interest and how the youth, the migrants, the suffering, the poor and creation are all integral parts that need to be protected and nurtured by all of us but they are also a part of the evangelization. Even within the secular world the Bible is still a source of inspiration as so much of the world can follow the code of rules. We can also learn about the Bible through secular institutions as long as they are properly educated, the Bible can be used as inspiration for artists of all types and we should use all methods available to spread the word of God even this Internet thingy.

At the end Pope Benedict urges us all to read the Bible. One of the great lines in the Conclusion “Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord’s word and to meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives.” As for many of us listening is something that is difficult for us to do.  Let us find quiet moments in our lives where we can listen and explore the word of the Lord.

Trinity Sunday

This week the readings come from Proverbs 8:22-31, Psalm 8, Paul’s letter to the Romans 5:1-5 and John’s gospel 16:12-15.

This week we hear an awful lot about the Wisdom of God and the Spirit of Truth, but we do get some reference to the Father and Son as well. This is the Trinity. It can be seen many different ways from the traditional of Father, Son and Spirit to that of mother, lover and friend or God, His Word and his Wisdom. All three are separate in being but they are One God they are co-equal and co-eternal. St. Patrick we widely believe used a shamrock to illustrate this idea.  I like to look at it as the way that God has revealed himself to us throughout the ages. In the Old Testament God, the Father, plays a significant role in choosing his people. In the New Testament Jesus is the central figure and his building up the people. Now we live in the Age where the Spirit is the figure that has the central role. This is the Spirit foretold by Jesus in the Gospel who will “guide us into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  Let us listen to the Spirit working in the world today and throughout this week that we may draw closer to our heavenly family.

Second Sunday in Lent

The readings this week are Genesis 15:2-12,17-18; Psalm 27; Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1; and Luke’s Gospel 9:28b-36.

All the readings this week point toward relationship with the Lord. It begins with Abram and the Lord making a covenant in the first reading, which leads to Paul talking about our heavenly home where are all citizens, then we catch a glimpse at the heavenly home with the Transfiguration and hear “This is my chosen son, Listen to him” coming from the heavens. The Abrahamic covenant in scripture is the first between an individual person and the Lord, as the Lord tells Abram that his descendants will be a numerous as the stars. Since Abraham is our father in faith this covenant is what establishes our relationship with the Lord. This is furthered in the Gospel story of the Transfiguration where Moses and Elijah come down and are talking with Jesus to understand our own relationship with the Lord looking at the Bible is a good place to start. The biggest thing here is the voice at the end telling us to Listen to Jesus. Let this be our mantra this Lenten season listen to Jesus all to often we are distracted by so many other noises in the world and we opt to neglect the voice of Christ in the world today.

Wedding at Cana

This is an interesting event in the life of Christ as he doesn’t want to do anything. Saying that “It is not yet my time” but Mary has none of this and tells the stewards to do what Jesus tells them. The miracle of turning water to wine was not how Jesus wanted to start his public ministry but Mary saw that it was time.  This miracle only appears in John’s Gospel so some scholars believe that it might be just a metaphorical as a way to link Jesus to Moses or it might be allegorical that the best is yet to come, with Jesus being this new and better wine.

Let us remember the words of Mary as we near the end of this liturgical year “Do whatever he tells you” as these are more than Mary talking to the servants but across the generation to us here today. I hope we all can keep out ears open for the voice of Jesus in the world today and try to follow Mary’s advice.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We begin this week in the book of Job, we pick up the story as the Lord asks Job basically remember me, the Lord goes on to say I set the limit of the sea and all that other stuff as well This is a rather short reading and there really isn’t to get much out of it. This will be used in the Gospel as well, so keep an eye out for it. In the Psalm are reminded to “give thanks to the Lord for his kindness and his wondrous deeds to the children of men.” As we turn to the epistle we skip for verses from where we ended last weeks reading and hear some more from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. The love of Christ impels us since for in Christ we have all died so that we might live for him, Turning to the Gospel of Mark we have Jesus commanding the sea to calm down as he and the disciples were caught in a violent squall. This leads the disciples to wonder “Who is this who even the wind and seas obey?” The disciples were afraid at the weather going on as they were powerless against it. We are just like the disciples today when we hear of a bad storm the first thing we do is run out and either stock up on things if we are staying or board up the place and head for higher ground. This is even more true in the winter at the mere mention of snow, milk, bread and toilet paper shelves are cleared. The disciples were on a boat which makes it even scarier since there was a chance of capsizing the boat. They wake Jesus up and says “Quiet! Be Still!” now this was not only directed toward the wind and sea but also the disciples. Quiet and Be Still! These are words that echo through the ages to us today. We are all to preoccupied with other things in our lives that we hardly have time to sit in silence and listen, let alone be still. When I was little and in Atrium the song “Be Still and Know” was used often to settle down all of us children, I still use it today as sort of a centering prayer/meditation. I hope that we all can take some time to sit in the quiet and be still. Also I’d like to wish everyone who is a father a wonderful Father’s Day weekend.

Book of Job: part five (more speeches and the end)

Over the past couple weeks we have heard Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar, telling Job about how he must have done something wrong which upset the Lord so that’s why bad things are happening to him. Yet, Job stayed consistent saying that he did nothing wrong and want to explain it to the Lord. This week we has a pair of speeches from some new characters, Elihu and The Lord both of them give some speeches.

We begin with Job rehashing his whole situation and tries to understand why he is being punished. Job comes to the point that he’d done everything that God has asked of him and wants an God to explain why these bad thing happened. Then Elihu speaks up, now Elihu might have been there from the start with Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar but he doesn’t speak since he is the youngest. Elihu is angry with everyone Job for justifying himself rather than God and the others for having declared Job to be wrong but had no real answers. Elihu then goes on and on for a couple of chapters (32-37) where he puts everyone in their place. Elihu’s speech is pretty great, at times he had me smirking with the youngest of the group speaking the most wisdom of everyone in the book so far and he continually urges Job to listen to him and Elihu lays down some truth. Elihu says that Job isn’t necessarily a sinner just because he is being punished and Job is being a fool for trying to get God to explain why it happened to him. Elihu continues to explain that God does many things that we can not comprehend like the weather.

Then God shows up in a whirlwind and asks Job some questions. We are then given two full chapters of questions (38-39) and they are all to show Job how small he is to the universe. These are all great questions ranging from “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” to “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew?” and “…are [the wings of the ostrich] the pinions and plumage of love?” No human can reasonably answer these questions as God is showing Job that God has more concerns than just Job and they are rather big things. God wants a reply from Job and the only thing Job can muster is I am of small account what can he really say. God then answers Job by saying that Job is powerless. God then changes the subject and talks about Behemoth and Leviathan my Bible notes these as the hippo and the crocodile respectively but Behemoth is something bigger and Leviathan is more of a dragon type creature since it breath fire. We then return to the actual story Job answers and humbles himself before the Lord even going to repent in dust and ashes. God then turns toward the Job’s three friends Eliphaz, Bilidad and Zophar and saying that “my wrath is kindled against you for you have not spoken of me what is right, as Job has.” so each of them has to take seven rams and seven bulls and offer them up to Job for a holocaust, Job will pray for them and God will accept Job’s prayers . Then God restored the fortunes of Job and gave Job back twice as much as he had. And he had seven sons and three daughters Jemimah, Keziah and Keren-happuch  and they were treated like Job’s sons. The book goes on to say that Job lived a 140 years and saw four generations.

Book of Job: part four (third cycle of speeches)

If you remember over the past couple of weeks, we have been looking as Job and his firend has a discussion we hear Job’s three friends (Eliphaz, Biildad and Zophar) try to comfort him to little effect. They all have basically said that the misfortune that has fallen on you is because of something you did to make God angry with you and therefore you should repent. Job however continues insisting that he did nothing wrong and want to talk to God about this.  In Chapters 22-28 we have the end of the speeches from Job and his three friends.

Once again we hear from our favorite person Eliphaz who tells Job that Job has done something wrong and deserves this punishment, and that once job repents for his transgressions God and Job will be friends once again. Job replies that if only he could talk to God and figure this whole thing out things would be so much better, and he hopes God will heed his argument. Unfortunately for Job it seems that wherever he seeks the Lord he can not find the Lord.Next there is a section on violence in the world, this is chapter 24 and seems out of place.

We then here from Bildad in the shortest chapter of this book saying  to Job,”But we are all born with sin how can we be righteous in comparison to God, the moon isn’t even bright in God sight. We are but worms in the presence of God.” Job replies to this with a sure God is big and everything but Job would like some answers for once. Job then rededicates himself to the promise he made at the beginning of the book “my lips will speak no falsehood and my tongue will not utter deceit.”

The next bunch of verses it is unclear who speaks these, one of my Bibles suggests this might have been Zophar’s third speech, it is a speech on divine punishment and how the wicked will be punished. This could also be Job speaking and it would turn out to be ironic as he has been going on and on about how he is an innocent man, but has the same opinions as his friends for the wicked. The final chapter in today’s segment (28) is a beautiful reflection on Wisdom. This is another portion which has no assigned speaker, but it asks a big question where can we find Wisdom. Simply put wisdom lives with God it is the most precious thing in the world to know wisdom is to fear the Lord, or we could put it as to know the Lord is to fear wisdom.

Laetare Sunday or The Fourth Sunday in Lent

It is also known as Rose Sunday as there is a good chance that your priests will be wearing rose or pink. The Sunday marks the midway point in Lent. This is also the weekend of the second scrutiny where the readings from last year are used.

On to the actual readings, we begin in the second book of Chronicles. Chronicles is the history book of the Bible it was written after the exile and recast the Jewish kings in light of the exile. The reading today we hear the story of the fall of Judah, exile to Babylon and the release by Cyrus, King of Persia. It begins with the infidelity of all types of people and the ignoring of the warning from the prophets. This really pissed off the Lord and as the Bible says “there was no remedy” for this rage. This seems like it could be happening in the world today, there are so many people who ignore the words of the Popes and pick and choose what to actually believe it (like the use of contraception or divorce). The Psalm today it a prayer that we all should pray, we are all displaced people and we all hope for Zion.

Turning to the epistle this week we hear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesus. Boiled down Paul is saying that our salvation is a gift from the Lord not because we did anything but because of the great love the Lord has for us. Our good works do not justify salvation but are a end result of our purification. We all are sinner and it is through Jesus that we are saved because of the love as we hear in the gospel “For God so loved the world” this is the opposite of what happened in the Old Testament where the Lord got angry and flooded the world or sent the people of Israel into exile. Perhaps we haven’t been as bad as the Israelites, but that seems doubtful. Let us open our ears and hear the messenger of the Lord proclaiming the good news.

As we reach the Gospel we hear from on of the most quoted section of John’s gospel. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that who so ever believes in him might not die but might have eternal life.” The reading begins with Jesus foreshadowing his inevitable death, saying that just like the serpent in the desert, which Moses lifted up and healed people so to will the Son of Man be lifted up to give everyone who believes in him eternal life. We must look toward Christ as an example of how to live in truth. This is how we are to be saved and live in the light. While you are at mass this weekend, look up at the crucifix and stare at it for a bit, as Mother Teresa said “We all know, when we look at the cross, how Jesus loved us, and when we look at the Eucharist we know how much He loves us now.” Let us show Jesus how much we love him in all that we say and do during this upcoming week.

Book of Job: Part three (second cycle of speeches)

If you remember last week we started this section of Job which is a dialogue between job and his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Last week in chapters 3-14 they all were telling Job that it’s something Job did and he needs to make it right with the Lord.

So we turn to the second cycle of speeches in chapters 15-21.

We begin with Eliphaz once again who it seems picks up where he left off.  Eliphaz starts by saying “Your own mouth condemns you not I you own lips testify against you” (15:6) then he ask Job if he thinks that he is smarter than the Lord because Job demands an answer. Eliphaz says that this is undermining the Lord. Job replies  once again stating his innocence and goes on to say that his friends are scorning him.

Next we hear from Bildad who once again tells Job that the Lord is going to punish the evil doer and Bildad adds that the first-born of death is going to be tagging along as well. Job asks “How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words?” (19:2) Job then adds that if it is true and he did err that the error remains with him and his friends shouldn’t be continually attacking him about it. Job simply want to be able to plead his case before God.

Zophar is the next to offer his two cents, and guess what he says. Zophar gives a whole list of ways that the wicked man is punished by God. saying that this is the wicked man’s portion from God.  Job replies stating his innocence and saying that the wicked go unpunished all the time but we all end up in the same place, in the ground.

This book is frustrating as none of Job’s friends are actually listening to him and they continually harp on the fact that God will punish the wicked, that is all that they are saying. Next week we will pick up with the final cycle of speeches from this group, and I expect it to be exactly the same thing.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we begin our readings with a look into the book of Deuteronomy, or “second law”. The book itself is like a summation of the previous four books and most scholars believe it written after the Babylonian exile as a how are we supposed to live our faith in a post exile world. Today we hear from the writer that Moses said that the Lord said to him that “I, the Lord, would raise up a prophet like you, Moses and will they will be my mouthpiece to the people.” Many have thought that this is about how the Lord will send some prophet at the end times, Early Christians and Jesus thought this was about Jesus. However, I see this as a statement that the Lord will bring forth prophets for us throughout time to act as his mouthpiece on earth and it is a reminder for all of us that we are called to be a prophet to the nations. We are all like Moses he didn’t even want to be a leader and continually made excuses but when the time came he stepped up and took the lead.

As we turn to the second reading we pick up where we left off last week in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week Paul was saying that the Kingdom of God is coming soon and we should be ready. So this week we hear about how marriage make men and women anxious at pleasing the other where as those that are unmarried only are anxious about pleasing the Lord. I am not sure where Paul got this reasoning but it feels a bit off in the world today. I understand to fully understand what Paul mean you’ve got to read the entire chapter as he wrote earlier about married individuals and the concerns that the people in Corinth were having, so Paul isn’t trashing to idea of marriage but caution the unmarried or something.

Finally we make it to Mark’s Gospel and we continue from last week as well. Andrew, Simon, James, John and Jesus made their way to Capernaum and on the Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and taught. Mark notes that the people were amazed by his teaching as Jesus taught with authority. Jesus teaching is accompanied with a possession and exorcism as well, a man in the synagogue had an unclean spirit and Jesus commands it to leave, again the people were amazed and the story of the exorcism and his preaching spread throughout the land. We can only imagine what it was like to hear Jesus preach and then exorcise a demon; we are left with priests who try to inspire us with a homily which most of the time aren’t memorable. We are reminded this week to keep our ears open for prophets and those preaching with authority