As we turn to the fourth luminous mystery, we reflect upon the Transfiguration. This is an event that seems like it would be interesting to actually be there, with Jesus, Moses and Elijah all coming together and talking to one another. It show that Jesus didn’t come to replace the Law or the Prophets but to add to them. All to often we like to think of Christianity as something completely different from the Jewish faith and in turn the Islamic faith as well. These other religions are our siblings so we should try to understand them at least a little bit better than most of us currently do. I’m sure many of us would be like Peter and would want to experience to last forever but it can’t while we are alive. We get brief mountaintop experience in our lives but we can’t stay there forever as if we did nothing gets done. Let us all think of our spiritual lives as a mountain that we are climbing sure some people we are all at different levels of our journey sure some climb faster and higher but we are all trying to get higher each year. Let us all take some time before Lent to look at our spiritual lives and see where we are and how we can improve.
This week the readings come from Exodus 17:8-13, Psalm 121, Paul’s second letter to Timothy 3:14-4:2 and Luke’s gospel 18:1-8.
The main idea behind the readings this week is Perseverance. We are given several examples in all of the readings, First we have in Exodus the story of how Moses helped win the war against Amalek by keeping his hand up. In the Psalm we are reminded that our help comes from the Lord, Paul tells us to be inspired by the Bible since that is where Wisdom come from. Finally we have an interesting parable the Unjust Judge isn’t afraid of God or respected any person but this one widow continually came to the judge to ask for help. The judge continually refused but eventually he gave in and gave a judgement because he fears the widow many come and hit him eventually if nothing come of her repeated requests. This parable is often used to remind us of the importance of prayer in our lives for just as the judge eventually responded to the request of the widow so too will the Lord hear and answer our prayers. However, even when we are sitting there without hearing a reply to our prayers we need to remember to be like Moses and keep going for our strength is the Lord. We should keep this in mind when we are waiting for our prayers to be answered, to keep praying. Keep the faith even though the way we want our prayers to be answered may not be the way that the Lord will answer them.
Stone Tables is a novel by Orson Scott Card about Moses. I first heard about the book from reading the books in the Women of Genesis series, which Card profiles the life of one of the Matriarchs in Genesis (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah). We often times put Moses and other Biblical figures on a pedestal but Card’s book does a great job at making them feel real by fleshing out the character. If you are a fan of Orson Scott Card’s other works you might be interested in checking this out. The first Card book I read was Ender’s Game and his writing has grown on me over the years. Moses seems like the one Bible character that we can all identify with as he struggles throughout his life, he isn’t that great with word but he overcomes this to help lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It would be interesting in Card eventually got to Zipporah but then it would just be women of the Bible series. The book itself isn’t preachy about become Mormon or anything but it provides a nice Christian overtones throughout. If you are looking for a new book to read Stone Tables might be a good selection.
This week the readings are from Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; Psalm 103; Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12; and Luke’s Gospel 13:1-9. Unless the First Scrutiny takes place at the Mass you attend then the readings will most likely come from Year A.
The readings focus on an idea that Fr. Paul Scalia hit upon in his homily in which he eulogized his father Justice Antonin Scalia, we are a practicing Catholic, “practicing” in the sense that we haven’t perfected it yet. Starting with Moses and the burning bush where Moses is told to take off his sandals for this is holy ground and the Lord revealed himself as I AM WHO AM. This is someone who has been watching over his people and cares for them even though we do not see the signs. Paul pick up this idea that there are signs throughout the Old Testament to show up what not to do but also use this as an example in our modern day lives to try and figure out our problems through it. This is who we are as practicing Christians. We are like that gardener who pleads to save the fig tree in the parable. Living your faith take work but we have so many great examples from the past to show us the way and let our trees bear fruit.
This week the readings come from Deuteronomy 26:4-10, Psalm 91, Paul’s letter to the Romans 10:8-13, and Luke’s Gospel 4:1-13.
These reading lay out Salvation History in a quick review in the Old Testament we get how the Jewish people were in Egypt and then Moses lead them to the promised land this story continues in Paul’s letter with Jesus. In the Gospel we hear about how Jesus himself went out into the desert for 40 days after he was baptized. In the desert he was tempted by the devil. Our lives are a journey through the desert just like the people of Israel longing for the promised land so to do we long to be with Christ in our Eternal reward. Sure the devil is present in this desert but unlike the experience of Jesus it seems that the devil is working in and through many more people and things. We have more than just Moses and Jesus leading the way for us but all the other saints in heaven, as well as those here on Earth like the Popes and Patriarchs across the world. We all are working toward that one place sort of like that Buddhist idea of the bodhisattva, where they are working for the complete enlightenment of the whole world. Let us try to uses this Lenten season to reflect on life in the desert and how we can try and mend the world into a better place, perhaps this can be done through love.
The Prince of Egypt is a wonderful animated film it was the first traditionally animated film produced by DreamWorks. It is by far my favorite animated film from DreamWorks. Prince of Egypt tells the story of Moses and has an all star cast as well as phenomenal music from Stephen Schwartz, which won an Oscar for Best Song, and a score by Hans Zimmer. If you haven’t heard the music find the soundtrack and listen to it. It was directed by Brenda Chapman, Simon Wells and Steve Hickner.
The film begins with a unique message “While artistic and historic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is the cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. ” I don’t think I’ve seen this anywhere before or since for religious films. The story itself begin with the mother of Moses, Aaron and Miriam putting Moses into the Nile in a basket with the hope that he will be found and brought into a safe place. Miriam follows it and Moses is found by Queen Tuya (Helen Mirren), wife of Seti (Patrick Stewart), and adopted as her own child. Years pass and we met up with Moses (Val Kilmer) and Ramses (Ralph Finnes) doing what brother might have done racing chariots. That evening Seti names Ramses Prince Regent and the high priests Hotep (Steve Martin) and Hoy (Martin Short) honor Ramses by presenting Zipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer) to him. She refuses and Ramses passes her to Moses. Zipporah then escapes and Moses follows where he runs into Miriam (Sandra Bullock) and Aaron (Jeff Goldblum). This leads to a cool nightmare flashback scene where Moses learns about the slaughter of the children.
Moses then saves a Hebrew and causes a guard to fall from the scaffolding. Moses runs off to Midian where he becomes a shepherd living with Jethro (Danny Glover) and eventually marrying Zipporah. While tending his sheep one day Moses sees a burning bush and goes to see what it is. Here we are offered a unique version of I AM THAT I AM as Val Kilmer suggested that the voice be something like that which we hear in our heads everyday as opposed to a big booming voice from the heavens. Val Kilmer provides this voice as well and it is in like a whisper. So following this logic it would seem that the voice of God would be unique to everyone. What follows is Moses going back to Egypt and asking Ramses to let his people go and eventually after 10 plagues Ramses relents only to take it back and goes chasing after the departing Hebrews they catch up as Moses is leading the Hebrew people over the Red Sea. Then after the credits we are treated to this quotes from Sacred Scripture praising Moses from the Hebrew Bible “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord singled out face to face…” (Deuteronomy 34:10) Christian New Testament “[Moses] was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself…” (Acts 7:35) as well as the Qur’an “And call to mind, through his divine writ, Moses. Behold he was a chosen one, and was an apostle [of God], a prophet.” (Surah 19:51). This isn’t something that you see anywhere.
This is a definite must see on my list of movies as it rivals some of the Disney Films from the late 90s. It’s a simple story that we’ve all heard many times but I think this tells the story a whole lot better than the likes of The Ten Commandments although that could just be that Prince of Egypt does it in like half the time. If you haven’t seen this film take a gander at it this upcoming liturgical season of Lent.
The message we hear in the readings this week have been reflected into some of what Pope Francis has been talking about in the United States: the whole Golden Rule and aspects of Social Justice.
We begin in the Book of Numbers, one of the books of the Pentateuch or Torah, Before we get to the reading Moses has been told by the Lord to gather seventy leaders who will help carry the burden of satisfying all the people. So Moses gathers these seventy individuals and the Lord took the spirit upon Moses and bestowed it upon the seventy. At this time they began to prophecy. Now two of the seventy were still in town and they also began to prophecy, this caused some worry amongst the young, Joshua went to Moses to report this and that it be stopped. Moses rebuked Joshua saying are you only doing this because you are jealous that you are not one. Would the Lord bestow this gift on all his people so they should all be prophets. Then the reading ends but rest of the chapter makes the whole story for me. Earlier the people had been complaining about not having any meat for a long time so the Lord sent three feet of quails that surrounded the people and they went out for about 48 hours and collected about ten heaps. When they started eating the Lord was still angry with them so he struck the people with a plague and many of the greedy people were buried there. As we return to the Letter of James we skip a whole chapter and hear that the rich are mostly unjust these are some strong word that James has he’s basically saying that if you are rich your riches are going to do nothing for you in the next life. The rich will be standing next to the poor at final judgment and we will all be judged by what we did not how much we made or gave to the poor. James is saying that hypocrites exist in all parts of life and is a call for social justice.
Finally, we arrive at Mark’s Gospel where we pick up the reading from where we left off last week. We have a scenario like in the first reading, where there are others casting out spirits in Jesus name and John is not happy with this and tried to prevent this other from casting out spirits. Jesus says to him Don’t do that since anyone who does mighty deeds such as these can not speak ill of me. “Whoever is not against us is for us.” This is saying that anyone can proclaim Christ to the world and be prophets, we don’t need special training to do this. Sure this gets muddied in the world we live in with several denominations which exist and aren’t that happy about others. This means that we should be respecting everyone no matter what like the Golden Rule says. Pope Francis reminded us of this when he spoke to the Congress of the United States and eloquently stated it to the UN, “…all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic.” The Lord is open for everyone and who knows where they are in their spiritual journey.
We switch focus this week and talk about sin and law in the readings, we switch up all of the readings this week. Beginning in Deuteronomy, we hear Moses bring the laws to the people saying “hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you, so that you may live and enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord has given us.” Moses then says that by observing the statutes we will be the talk of nations for our wisdom and intelligence. We are warned to be careful in observing these decrees as the Lord had said you shall not add to or subtract from this list. In this account of the story in the second (deutero-) canon this is before Moses has told what the statutes and decrees are but Moses is basically saying “Hey, people of Israel, you’ve got to follow these rules set forth by the Lord.” The Psalm this week is interesting as it is “The one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” This is basically what Moses was saying in Deuteronomy.
As we turn to the New Testament we hear from the Letter of James. This is one of the universal letters the so called catholic letters this was Martin Luther’s lest favorite letter since James contradicted Paul so often, he called it “right strawy epistle”. James is the most social conscious of the books of the New Testament. We hear that all good comes from the Father of lights. James tells us to be doers of the word not only hearers. Then he says that religion that is pure and undefiled is one that cares for the orphans, widows and those who keep themselves unstained by the world. We need to be doers of the word of the Lord here on earth. Finally, we reach Mark’s Gospel where Jesus essentially says that sin comes from the heart. The Pharisees noticed that Jesus and friends ate meals with unclean hands, so they spoke up asking why they didn’t follow the tradition of washing before a meal. Jesus replies is a classic moment as he throws back some Isaiah back at them asking it they were what Isaiah had prophesied as the hypocrites “those who honor me with their lips but in their hearts are far from me” Jesus then gathered a large group of people and said that only that which comes out of the body can defile it not what is put into it. So take the reminded from James and be a doer of the words of the Lord.
Last week we talk about feeding a multitude of people, this week the amount of people changes and the focus is on bread. We begin in Exodus where the people of Israel were grumbling about how they are starving and would rather be back in Egypt where they had enough food to eat. The Lord heard this and said to Moses, “Tell them, in the evening you will eat flesh (quail) and in the morning you will have your fill of bread. So that you may know the I the Lord am your God.” In the evening quails covered the camp and in the morning after the dew fell as it evaporated it left fine flakes on the ground. They asked Moses what it was, and he replied that it was the bread that the Lord have given you to eat. Paul’s letter really doesn’t have a strong connection to the bread mentioned in the first reading and Gospel. Paul continues talking to the Ephesians and says that we all who have heard the message of Christ should become a new self one that is created in righteousness, holiness and truth.
This brings us to the Gospel of John and we pick up about ten verses from where we ended last week with the feeding of the multitudes. Jesus walks on water in the part that we skip. The people, those who came to the multiplication of loaves and fishes, saw that Jesus was no longer on that side of the sea and they headed to Capernaum to find Jesus. Jesus tells them to not to work for food that perishes but for food that gives eternal life. Someone in the crowd asks Jesus for some of this eternal bread, Jesus replies “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Just as the Israelites who grumbled for sustenance in the desert we have Jesus who is there to provide for us. This is why Paul says that we who have heard the message of Jesus should be new people as we no longer hunger. We should be able to recognize that we are given all that we need with from the Lord and we don’t need much more than that.
As you can see from the name of this week we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. This feast is often accompanied by a Eucharist Procession in some form or a Eucharist Adoration. The readings this week begin in Exodus where we hear that the 12 tribes of Israel all enter into a covenant with the Lord. Moses brought down the Decalogue and the Covenant Code, and told the people what the Lord had said. The people replied “We will do everything that the Lord has told us.” So Moses writes this all down and they build an altar and twelve pillars at the foot of the Mountain of the Lord and the covenant ceremony happens they sacrifice some young bulls and Moses takes the blood into two bowls and splashes it upon the altar and then reading from his book he just wrote containing the Covenant Code (laws) the people still replied that they’d do all that the Lord had said. Moses sprinkled the other half of the blood on the people and the covenant was sealed saying “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his.” This is the Covenant between the Lord and the people of Israel.
In the letter to the Hebrews we have Jesus placed in the role as High priest and sacrifice. For the blood of the goats and bulls can sanctify but we are then ask how much more does the Blood of Christ. This is the New Covenant. We then have a sequence Lauda Sion which was written by Thomas Aquinas specifically for this feast. In the Gospel we hear Mark’s account of the Last Supper. While Jesus and the apostles were eating the Passover meal together, Jesus took bread said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them saying “Take it; this is my body” Then he took the cup gave thanks and gave it to them saying “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” Take and eat, take and drink this is the most profound event in the whole of the Gospel and at the core it is a meal shared amongst friends. I hope that during this week we all can share a meal with others. Sure we are not going to be spilling our blood for our friends but if we could spend some time this week remembering the sacrifice of Jesus and try to be like him.