Monday, May 2, 2016

The Resurrection - A Summary of the Facts

To come up with an informed opinion suggests you are knowledgeable about a topic and therefore are somewhat an authority.
To be properly understood, the Bible must be read from within the Church, in the same way a book about surgery to be properly understood must be read from within the medical community. (or, legislation from with the legal community).
Anyway, I hope you can agree with me that we can deduce from the Gospels the following facts:
Among other things:
•          Jesus was actually dead
·         Jesus was taken from the Cross ONLY because the Jews didn’t want dead bodies (even of criminals who have been executed by the Romans) on Crosses on the Sabbath (Gospel of John). 

The Empty Tomb
·         The women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.
•          The women saw angels, who told them Jesus wasn’t there. (The Bible does describe angels as appearing as 'men')
•             The women went to tell the apostles, who initially didn’t believe them.
(Any book back in those days that uses women as witnesses - let alone the shock of using women at the first witnesses -  shouldn't/wouldn't/couldn't have been promoted, unless.....)
•             Peter and the beloved disciple rushed to see the tomb and found it empty.

Post Resurrection Appearances
•             Mary Magdalen, in particular, had an encounter with the risen Christ.
•             So did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
•             So did Peter.
•             So did all the apostles except Thomas (who would have one later).

This does point to Jesus had risen from the dead!
Not to mention that Jewish persecutor named Saul (Paul). He had nothing to gain by believing the empty tomb story.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not hide from the facts either and explains it thus:
 640 . . . The first element we encounter in the framework of the Easter events is the empty tomb. In itself it is not a direct proof of Resurrection; the absence of Christ's body from the tomb could be explained otherwise.

The Seven Last Words of Christ

The Seven Last Words of Christ: Reflections for Holy Week

The Seven Last Words of Christ

Reflections for Holy Week

Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you acknowledge the source of this material: For all other uses, please contact me at Thank you.

The First Word:
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
(Luke 23:34)

Copyright © 2007, Linda E. S. Roberts. For permission to use this picture, please contact Mark.
It makes sense that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. That’s the point of the cross, after all. Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity.
But the forgiveness of God through Christ doesn’t come only to those who don’t know what they are doing when they sin. In the mercy of God, we receive his forgiveness even when we do what we know to be wrong. God chooses to wipe away our sins, not because we have some convenient excuse, and not because we have tried hard to make up for them, but because he is a God of amazing grace, with mercies that are new every morning.
As we read the words, “Father, forgive them,” may we understand that we too are forgiven through Christ. As John writes in his first letter, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). Because Christ died on the cross for us, we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every last sin. We are united with God the Father as his beloved children. We are free to approach his throne of grace with our needs and concerns. God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:13). What great news!
Questions for Reflection
Do you really believe God has forgiven your sins? Do you take time on a regular basis to confess your sins so that you might enjoy the freedom of forgiveness? Do you need to experience God’s forgiveness in a fresh way today?
Gracious Lord Jesus, it’s easy for me to speak of your forgiveness, even to ask for it and to thank you for it. But do I really believe I’m forgiven? Do I experience the freedom that comes from the assurance that you have cleansed me from my sins? Or do I live as if I’m “semi-forgiven”? Even though I’ve put my faith in you and confessed my sins, do I live as sin still has power over me? Do I try to prove myself to you, as if I might be able to earn more forgiveness?
Dear Lord, though I believe at one level that you have forgiven me, this amazing truth needs to penetrate my heart in new ways. Help me to know with fresh conviction that I am fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything I have done, but because of what you have done for me.
May I live today as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your salvation.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your matchless forgiveness! Amen.

The Second Word:
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43)

As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the leaders and the soldiers. One of the criminals being crucified with him added his own measure of scorn. But the other crucified criminal sensed that Jesus was being treated unjustly. After speaking up for Jesus, he cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42).
Jesus responded to this criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The word paradise, from the Greek word paradeisos, which meant “garden,” was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. In Judaism of the time of Jesus it was associated with heaven, and also with the future when God would restore all things to the perfection of the Garden. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.
Thus we have encountered one of the most astounding and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. Jesus promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise. Yet the text of Luke gives us no reason to believe this man had been a follower of Jesus, or even a believer in him in any well-developed sense. He might have felt sorry for his sins, but he did not obviously repent. Rather, the criminal’s cry to be remembered seems more like a desperate, last-gasp effort.
Though we should make every effort to have right theology, and though we should live our lives each day as disciples of Jesus, in the end, our relationship with him comes down to simple trust. “Jesus, remember me,” we cry. And Jesus, embodying the mercy of God, says to us, “You will be with me in paradise.” We are welcome there not because we have right theology, and not because we are living rightly, but because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus.
Questions for Reflection
Have you staked your life on Jesus? Have you put your ultimate trust in him? Do you know that, when your time comes, you will be with him in paradise?
Dear Lord Jesus, how I wonder at your grace and mercy! When we cry out to you, you hear us. When we ask you to remember us when you come into your kingdom, you offer the promise of paradise. Your mercy, dear Lord, exceeds anything we might imagine. It embraces us, encourages us, heals us.
O Lord, though my situation is so different from the criminal who cried out to you, I am nevertheless quite like him. Today I live, trusting you and you alone. My life, but now and in the world to come, is in your hands. And so I pray:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom! Jesus, remember me today as I seek to live within your kingdom! Amen.

The Third Word:
“Dear woman, here is your son.”
(John 19:26)

As Jesus was dying, his mother was among those who had remained with him. Most of the male disciples had fled, with the exception of one whom the Fourth Gospel calls “the disciple he loved.” We can’t be exactly sure of the identity of this beloved disciple, though many interpreters believe he is John, who is also the one behind the writing of this Gospel.
No matter who the beloved disciple was, it’s clear that Jesus was forging a relationship between this disciple and his mother, one in which the disciple would take care of Mary financially and in other ways. Jesus wanted to make sure she would be in good hands after his death.
The presence of Mary at the cross adds both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus was a real human being, a man who had once been a boy who had once been carried in the womb of his mother. Even as he was dying on the cross as the Savior of the world, Jesus was also a son, a role he didn’t neglect in his last moments.
When we think of the crucifixion of Jesus from the perspective of his mother, our horror increases dramatically. The death of a child is one of the most painful of all parental experiences. To watch one’s beloved child experience the extreme torture of crucifixion must have been unimaginably terrible. We’re reminded of the prophecy of Simeon shortly after Jesus’ birth, when he said to Mary: “And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35).
This scene helps us not to glorify or spiritualize the crucifixion of Jesus. He was a real man, true flesh and blood, a son of a mother, dying with unbearable agony. His suffering was altogether real, and he took it on for you and for me.
Questions for Reflection
What does Mary’s presence at the cross evoke in you? Why do you think was it necessary for Jesus to suffer physical pain as he died?
Lord Jesus, the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. You are no longer only the Savior dying for the sins of the world. You are also a fully human man, a son with a mother.
O Lord, how can I begin to thank you for what you suffered? My words fall short. My thoughts seem superficial and vague. Nevertheless, I offer my sincere gratitude for your suffering. Thank you for bearing my sin on the cross. I give you my praise, my love, my heart . . . all that I am, because you have given me all that you are.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully human, Savior of the world . . . my Savior! Amen.

The Fourth Word:
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Mark 15:34)

As Jesus was dying on the cross, he echoed the beginning of Psalm 22, which reads:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief. (vv. 1-2)
In the words of the psalmist Jesus found a way to express the cry of his heart: Why had God abandoned him? Why did his Father turn his back on Jesus in his moment of greatest agony?
This side of heaven, we will never fully know what Jesus was experiencing in this moment. Was he asking this question because, in the mystery of his incarnational suffering, he didn’t know why God had abandoned him? Or was his cry not so much a question as an expression of profound agony? Or was it both?
What we do know is that Jesus entered into the Hell of separation from God. The Father abandoned him because Jesus took upon himself the penalty for our sins. In that excruciating moment, he experienced something far more horrible than physical pain. The beloved Son of God knew what it was like to be rejected by the Father. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (NIV).
I can write these words. I can say, truly, that the Father abandoned the Son for our sake, for the salvation of the world. But can I really grasp the mystery and the majesty of this truth? Hardly. As Martin Luther once said, “God forsaking God. Who can understand it?” Yet even my miniscule grasp of this reality calls me to confession, to humility, to worship, to adoration.
Questions for Reflection
Have you taken time to consider that Jesus was abandoned by the Father so that you might not be? What does this “word” from the cross mean to you?
O Lord Jesus, though I will never fully grasp the wonder and horror of your abandonment by the Father, every time I read this “word,” I am overwhelmed with gratitude. How can I ever thank you for what you suffered for me? What can I do but to offer myself to you in gratitude and praise? Thank you, dear Lord, for what you suffered. Thank you for taking my place. Thank you for being forsaken by the Father so that I might never be.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (1707)

The Fifth Word:
“I am thirsty.”
(John 19:28)

No doubt Jesus experienced extreme thirst while being crucified. He would have lost a substantial quantity of bodily fluid, both blood and sweat, through what he had endured even prior to crucifixion. Thus his statement, “I am thirsty” was, on the most obvious level, a request for something to drink. In response the soldiers gave Jesus “sour wine” (v. 29), a cheap beverage common among lower class people in the time of Jesus.
John notes that Jesus said “I am thirsty,” not only as a statement of physical reality, but also in order to fulfill the Scripture. Though there is no specific reference in the text of the Gospel, it’s likely that John was thinking of Psalm 69, which includes this passage:
Their insults have broken my heart,
and I am in despair.
If only one person would show some pity;
if only one would turn and comfort me.
But instead, they give me poison for food;
they offer me sour wine for my thirst.
(vv. 20-21)
As he suffered, Jesus embodied the pain of the people of Israel, that which had been captured in the Psalms. Jesus was suffering for the sin of Israel, even as he was taking upon himself the sin of the world.
As I reflect on Jesus’ statement, “I am thirsty,” I keep thinking of my own thirst. It’s nothing like that of Jesus. Rather, I am thirsty for him. My soul yearns for the living water that Jesus supplies (John 4:10; 7:38-39). I rejoice in the fact that he suffered physical thirst on the cross – and so much more – so that my thirst for the water of life might be quenched.
Questions for Reflection
How do you respond to Jesus’ statement “I am thirsty”? What does this statement suggest to you about Jesus? About yourself?
O Lord, once again I thank you for what you suffered on the cross. Besides extraordinary pain, you also experienced extreme thirst. All of this was part and parcel of your taking on our humanity so that you might take away our sin.
Dear Lord, in your words “I am thirsty” I hear the cry of my own heart. I too am thirsty, Lord, not for physical drink. I don’t need sour wine. Rather, I need the new wine of your kingdom to flood my soul. I need to be refreshed by your living water. I yearn for your Spirit to fill me once again.
I am thirsty, Lord, for you. Amen.

The Sixth Word:
“It is finished!”
(John 19:30)

I never saw a more difficult film to watch than Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. For most of that movie I wanted to avert my eyes. It was horrible to watch even a cinematic version of a crucifixion. And it was beyond comprehension to think that this actually happened to somebody, and not just anybody, but my Lord and Savior. I had studied the crucifixion before, and knew in my head what Jesus experienced. But seeing a visual presentation of his suffering was almost more than I could bear. When The Passion of the Christ was over, I felt palpable relief. Thank goodness it was finished.
When Jesus said “It is finished,” surely he was expressing relief that his suffering was over. “It is finished” meant, in part, “This is finally done!” But the Greek verb translated as “It is finished” (tetelestai) means more than just this. Eugene Peterson captures the full sense of the verb in The Message: “It’s done . . . complete.” Jesus had accomplished his mission. He had announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God. He had revealed the love and grace of God. And he had embodied that love and grace by dying for the sin of the world, thus opening up the way for all to live under the reign of God.
Because Jesus finished his work of salvation, you and I don’t need to add to it. In fact, we can’t. He accomplished what we never could, taking our sin upon himself and giving us his life in return. Jesus finished that for which he had been sent, and we are the beneficiaries of his unique effort. Because of what he finished, you and I are never “finished.” We have hope for this life and for the next. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. One day what God has begun in us will also be finished, by his grace. Until that day, we live in the confidence of Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!”
Questions for Reflection
Do you live as if Jesus finished the work of salvation? To you have confidence that God will finish that which he has begun in you?
How can I ever find words to express my gratitude to you, dear Lord Jesus? You did it. You finished that for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death. You accomplished that which no other person could do, taking the sin of the world upon your sinless shoulders . . . taking my sin so that I might receive your forgiveness and new life.
All praise be to you, gracious Lord, for finishing the work of salvation. All praise be to you, dear Jesus, for saving me! Alleluia! Amen.

The Seventh Word:
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”
(Luke 23:46)

Two of the last seven “words” of Jesus were quotations from the Psalms. Earlier Jesus had Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” to express his anguish. Later he borrowed from Psalm 31, which comes to us from Luke as “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.”
On an obvious level, Jesus was putting his post mortem future in the hands of his Heavenly Father. It was as if he was saying, “Whatever happens to me after I die is your responsibility, Father.”
But when we look carefully at the Psalm Jesus quoted, we see more than what at first meets our eyes. Psalm 31 begins with a cry for divine help:
O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right. (v. 1)
But then it mixes asking for God’s deliverance with a confession of God’s strength and faithfulness:
I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God. (v. 5)
By the end, Psalm 31 offers praise of God’s salvation:
Praise the LORD,
for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love.
He kept me safe when my city was under attack. (v. 21)
By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, therefore, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. No, God would not deliver him from death by crucifixion. But beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. “I entrust my spirit into your hands” points back to the familiar suffering of David in Psalm 31, and forward to the resurrection.
Questions for Reflection
Have you put your life and, indeed, your life beyond this life, in God’s hands? How do you experience God’s salvation through Christ in your life today?
Gracious Lord, even as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, so I give my life to you. I trust you, and you alone to be my Savior. I submit to your sovereignty over my life, and seek to live for your glory alone. Here I am, Lord, available to you, both now and in the future.
How good it is to know, dear Lord, that the cross was not the end for you. As you entrusted your spirit into the Father’s hands, you did so in anticipation of what was to come. So we reflect upon your death, not in despair, but in hope. With Good Friday behind us, Easter Sunday is on the horizon. Amen.

The Seven Last Words - a personal reflection

By Mary DeTurris Poust
This is my reflection on the Seven Last Words that I have posted on my own blog, Not Strictly Spiritual, on previous Good Fridays. I thought I would share it with you today:

Father forgive them, they know not what they do...
We see Jesus on the cross today and hear him forgiving his persecutors, forgiving us. It is a powerful scene, but it is more than just a scene out of our faith history. Jesus’ way is supposed to be our way. Forgive, forgive, forgive, even in the face of the most unreasonable suffering and injustice. Are we willing to forgive as Jesus did?

Today you will be with me in Paradise.

The “good thief” has always been a
favorite of mine. Imagine in your last dying moment that you utter a few kind words and are assured by Jesus himself that you will be in heaven with him that day. It would be nice to assume that in that situation I would have taken the path of belief, like the good thief, but there is a much bigger part of me that probably would have been like the unrepentant thief, expecting mercy and miracles despite faithlessness.

Woman, behold your son...

last a comfort in the midst of all this misery. God gives us a mother for all time. He reminds us that his mother is our mother, who, with a mother’s unconditional love, will open her arms to us when we are desperate, when we are hurting, when we are searching for peace and a way back to the Father.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Despair, despair. If Jesus can feel despair, what hope is there for me? Then again, Jesus’ moment of despair reminds me of his humanness and that gives me hope even in this dark moment. God became man, walked on earth, suffered torture and death beyond our comprehension. My God is fully human and fully divine. My God knows what it means to live this earthly life, and so my God knows my small sufferings and heartaches and will not turn His back on me.

I thirst.

The wretched physical anguish of the Crucifixion is coming to bear. It is almost too much for us to take. Jesus, water poured out for the world, thirsts. And yet in the midst of this suffering, we remember Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, the woman to whom he first revealed his identity: “...whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.” (John 4:14)

It is finished.
Jesus has completed his mission of redemption. Darkness descends, the earth shakes, the temple curtain tears in two. We see Jesus’ anguish near its end. We should be reduced to trembling at the enormity of his suffering, his gift to us. Unlike his followers who were plunged into fear and despair at this moment, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know what is coming. We know that his Crucifixion was cause for our salvation. His death a victory. His earthly end our eternal beginning.
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Jesus is going back to the Father, back to where he started before time began, but he will not leave us orphans. We patiently wait to celebrate his Resurrection, to rejoice in our unearned windfall. We wait, pray, watch, listen -- hopeful, trusting, faithful. We begin our vigil now, waiting for the darkness to turn to light.

The Seven Last Words of Jesus

The Seven Last Words of Jesus

Scripture Luke 23
From the time  our saviour was nailed to the cross to the moment He breathed His last, Jesus uttered seven sentences from the cross in what has become known as His Seven Last Words.

If I had a chance and I was on my deathbed to tell those I loved most, those I perhaps I was giving my life for, the thing I wanted them to get, the testament I wanted to leave them, this is it right here.

Our Lords last will and testament is a magnificent treasure given not only to those who stood beneath the Cross but to us also.
The First Word:
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”  (Luke 23:34)
Father forgive them, forgive who?
The Jews who cried out crucify him that is who.
The Roman Governor Pilate who gave into the lies and blackmail and condemned Jesus to death.
The Romans soldiers forgive them, the ones who scourged him and mocked him and beat him and drove a Crown of Thorns into His head and nailed Him to the Cross.
Forgive them Father.
And Father forgive us, for our sins together with the sins of the entire world was why your son is your son came and died.
Our sins put Him on the Cross.
Sin nailed Him to the cross and love held him there.
St Paul wrote “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8)
The Second Word:
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  (Luke 23:43)
How incredible.
Who could make such a statement?
If I said that to someone “today you will be with me in paradise” , they might say right back what makes you think you will be in paradise?
Only God can know the future of the soul.
What good did the repentant thing to do?
He believed and he knew he was a sinner and cast himself into the arms of mercy.
If there is anyone who teaches us that it is not too late to come to Jesus, it is the thief on the cross.
It is never too late.
The Fourth Word:
“My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34) 

What our Lord does here is beautiful
Jesus wants to trigger the memory of his people Israel
Jesus practically recited Psalm 22 the song of King David
It is King David's lament over the future of his people
It is a prayer of an innocent man a man who is faithful
Who suffers because of his faithfulness

Jesus is saying to Israel "Remember I am King David's son
I am the son of David
I am the true king of Israel.
It's me

It was the son of David who would come to be the Messiah
Every Jew knows that, if they know their faith
The Messiah had to be the son of David
That is why I am reciting David's prayer

The Fifth Word:
“I thirst”  (John 19:28) 

On the cross Jesus said I thirst

Every single thing uses is done on the cross is to fulfil prophecy
Jesus was hanging on the cross for hours
But that is not why you said I am thirst

Jesus was hoping that Israel would recall another Psalm - Psalm 69
David wrote and for my first they gave me vinegar to drink

The Seventh Word:
“Into thy hand I commend my spirit”  (Luke 23:46) 

Even with his last breath Jesus quoted Psalm 31

Some say it is from this Psalm that we get the Jewish bedtime prayer
Now we say "Here I lay me down to sleep I pray to God my soul to keep"

How many clues do you need?

Source: Gospel of Luke Bible Study - Reason For Our Hope by Rosalind Moss – EWTN

I don't think I have transcribed it all. Sorry

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who are these two disciples on the road to Emmaus

Luke’s story of this new beginning focuses on a walk, not in a garden but along a road that two disciples of Jesus take from Jerusalem to their hometown of Emmaus. Jesus joins them on the way, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16).

Jesus inquires about their discussion, and they are incredulous that he is unaware of the dramatic events in Jerusalem during the Passover, how the chief priests had handed Jesus over to be crucified. Their conclusion comes with a note of despair. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21).

Jesus exclaims, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26). Then Jesus walks them through a Scripture study of salvation history, starting with Genesis (Moses) and all the way through Israel’s Scriptures to the prophets (Lk 24:27).

As evening approaches, they arrive in Emmaus. Jesus appears to be going further, but they beg him to stay, and while at table, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them (Lk 24:30). This is precisely the same description given when Jesus takes the bread at the Last Supper. The disciples’ eyes are opened, and they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk  4:31, 35).

Once the bread is broken and he is recognized, Jesus disappears. Jesus promised to be present in the breaking of the bread, and now that the bread has been broken with his priestly hands, he is with them, and they no longer need his bodily presence.

Who are these two disciples, so privileged with Jesus’ presence on the very evening of the resurrection? Luke tells us the name of only one of the two disciples, Cleopas; so who is with Cleopas? The answer is simple but easily missed. Who would Cleopas go home with, other than his wife? According to John’s gospel, we know that “Mary the wife of Clopas” followed Jesus and was in Jerusalem for the Passover. Indeed, she was with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). John’s spelling of Clopas follows the Semitic spelling, whereas Luke, naturally, uses the Greek spelling.

Since Clopas/Cleopas was a rare name, and Cleopas is a disciple of Jesus, it is hard to imagine that there is a wife of Cleopas who also is in Jerusalem for Passover, and is a disciple, and is not related to the very Cleopas Luke names. Translators have often assumed both disciples are men, thus translating Jesus’ admonishment in Luke 24:25 as “O foolish men,” when in the Greek it does not mention men at all, but should be read “O foolish ones!”

At the first creation, God walked in the garden amidst a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve. Now, on the first day of the new creation, Jesus walks with a married couple. This couple has lost all hope, and yet by walking with Jesus, their hearts come back alive. When the first couple in Genesis ate the first meal (from the forbidden fruit), “then the eyes of both were opened” (Gn 3:7); as Jesus breaks open the bread at table with the couple from Emmaus, “their eyes were opened” (Lk 24:31). The eyes of the original couple are opened to shame and guilt, whereas the new couple that Jesus walks with to Emmaus have their eyes opened to the resurrected Lord in the Eucharist. The old creation begins with a married couple falling from grace, whereas the new creation begins with Jesus blessing a married couple by breaking open the Scriptures and the bread, where they recognize him in both.

Source: Walking With God – A Journey Through The Bible

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

No One Puts New Wine Into Old Wineskins

Scripture Mark 2:22
[22] And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins."

Like all of Scripture there are a number of ways of looking at this.
·         How it relates to Jesus
·         how it relates to your own life and
·         how it relates to heaven and the end times.

Primarily we are talking about this new movement - Christians.

It cannot be contained within the parameters of the old.
And the reason for that is that new wine expands.
New wineskins are the gut of the animal and are pliable and expandable.

If you put this new movement of Jesus that is exploding onto the scene and expanding through the whole world, if you try to contain it within the parameters of the Old Law and the parameters of the Temple and the parameters of old Testament sacrifice and the priesthood it will burst it.
The Old is not able to contain the New.

Source: Jeff Cavins (as guest on Catholic Answers Live radio)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jesus Heals The Leper

Scripture Mark 1:39-45
[39] And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
[40] And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."
[41] Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."
[42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
[43] And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once,
[44] and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people."
[45] But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Would you expect to see a leper in a village in ancient Israel?
No, because they were social outcasts.
They were exiled and could not go to the Temple.
Lepers are supposed to stay away from crowds and cry out unclean and make themselves distant so they don’t infect anybody else with their disease.

The fact that this leper is with Jesus is a surprise.
Word gets out that Jesus is near.
The leper may have known of what Elisha did – how this prophet healed the servant Naaman who had  leprosy. (2 Kings 5)

One of the most surprising scenes in this story is where Jesus reaching out to touch the leper.
For a Jew, to touch a leper would mean you would be made unclean.
When somebody who is unclean touches somebody who is clean, the clean person in turn becomes unclean ritually speaking.

Now we see something different at work.
A dramatic reversal occurs here with Jesus.
When the leper touches Jesus they become clean.

Something very important is going on in the second part of this story as well.
There is a second reversal in this story

Jesus wanted this healing to be kept quiet but what is the result of people hearing about the healing of the leper?
Jesus and the leper have traded places.

The leper was the outcast. He couldn’t go into the village.
He was the one who couldn’t associate with people.
He was on the outside in the margins, exiled.
Now the exile encounters Christ.
Now Christ becomes the one exiled.
He becomes the outcast and the leper becomes the one who can enter the village.
Jesus has taken his place.

Mark tells us that Jesus wants to take our place.
He wants to take our shame, our pain , our sin and bring us back into community.
To restore us back to the Father.

Source: Tim Gray – audio Bible Study – The Gospel of Mark

Ritual Laws in Leviticus

Scripture – Luke 8:43-44
And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased.

Some atheists try to mock our faith by quoting Leviticus.
Some of their claims include “why can’t I own a slave or sell my daughter or eat shellfish” in order to suggest that we can pick and choose what in the Bible we should abide by.

Touching lepers, corpses and menstruating women, especially, was thought to defile a person and make that person, too, ritually unclean. More generally, the Jews, especially the Pharisees, believed that they were defiled by any contact at all with a broad category of people defined as "sinners."

To explain what Jesus is doing in these healings of word and touch, Matthew employs a formula citation from Isaiah (see Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4).
Source: Reading the Old Testament in the New- The Gospel of Matthew – lesson extract –

I recently came across an audio sermon which dealt with this topic quite well
Fr Barron elaborates on the event in Luke 8:43-44 or Matthew 9:20-22, as follows.

Everything they expected was reversed.
Jesus didn’t become unclean, she became clean

By healing her physically, Jesus effectively restores her to full participation in the community.

He is healing her at every possible level.

What is more important?
Jesus thereby implicitly puts an end to the ritual code of the Book of Leviticus.

By reversing the expectation of Leviticus that He be unclean, He is implying the identity of the New Israel (which is the Church) would not be brought about through ritual behaviours but by precisely through contact with Him.

Ancient Israel believed that by following the prescriptions in the Book of Leviticus and many others they would discover who they were.

Jesus is saying it is not in relation to the Book of Leviticus, it is in relation to Me that you will know who you are.

Source: Fr Robert Barron - Word on Fire audio sermon July 2012

Becoming Fit For Worship

Scripture Mark 1:42-44 - Becoming Fit For Worship
And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
And he (Jesus) sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people."

Now from the time I was a kid passages like this one, the healing of a leper, in the Gospel of Mark had been interpreted along these lines.

There aren’t many lepers around today but there are a lot of people that we treat as lepers.
People who are social outcasts and pariahs.
Jesus is welcoming and inclusive toward the leper and so we should be welcoming and inclusive toward the lepers “symbolically speaking” in our society.

Now I have got nothing particularly against that way of reading the passage but I have heard that homily so many times.
I am also pretty sure that is not what a first century Jew would have been thinking about as he read this account in the Gospels or meditated on the Book of Leviticus.

What did it mean for someone in that time?

Leprosy frightened people in ancient times as contagious and mysterious diseases frightened people up until the modern period. But more than this, it rendered somebody unclean, ritually unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship. It is not accidental by the way that the person doing the examining the patient in ancient Israel would be a priest.

The Book of Leviticus deals with the issue of leprosy. In chapter 13 we see these elaborate instructions on how a priest should examine someone to determine whether he or she had leprosy.

Why the priest? Well he was the person who was monitoring the whole process of Israelite worship, including the question of who could or couldn’t participate in the Temple worship. So that is the focus it seems to me of this whole question of leprosy.

Now flash forward to Jesus time. We have seen that one of the principle tasks of the Messiah of Israel was to gather the scattered tribes. To call together as one all those who had been scattered by exile, by warfare, by sin, by their own rebellion against God. The Messiah would call Israel together because only a gathered Israel could fulfil its mission of in turn gathering the tribes of the world, to what? The true worship of God.

Another task of the Messiah was to cleanse the Temple. To make Jerusalem again a place of rightly ordered praise and we see when Jesus comes into the city at the climax of His life He does precisely that. He interrupts the false worship in the Temple and He seeks to establish right praise.

Now in light of this it is very instructive to revisit many of the healings of Jesus. Think of the woman with the haemorrhage who had been sick for many years and finally reaches out and touches Jesus tassel and is cured. She isn’t simply complaining about her physical malady. The haemorrhage rendered her ritually unclean and hence unable to worship. Think of the woman who is bent over for many years and Jesus allows her to stand up straight. You see standing up straight was the attitude of worship. Bent over she was unable to give God proper praise. Think of the man in Marks gospel with the withered hand. It was the same problem, someone who is so physically deformed was ritually unclean and so the same is true of the leper.

Everyone knew the restrictions laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When this man begs Jesus for a cure he is not simply concerned about his medical condition. He was an Israelite in exile from the Temple. Hence, he was a very apt symbol of the general condition of scattered exiled wandering Israel. In curing him, Jesus was symbolically speaking gathering the tribes and bringing them back to the worship of the true God. He wasn’t just the marginalised in a generic sense, he was Israel incapable of right worship.

That is why Jesus says to the man after He cures him, “Go, show yourself to the priest”. In other words, go back to the temple from which you have been for so long exiled.
Go back to the place of right worship.

I am now going to propose that symbolically speaking the leper stands here, not so much for the socially ostracised, but for those of us who have wandered away from right worship. Those of us who are no longer able or willing to worship the true God.

What is so important about worship?
To worship is to order the whole of ones life toward the living God, and in doing so become interiorly and exteriorly rightly ordered.
When you worship the true God, you have ordered all the powers in you toward the true God.
You become the person you are meant to be.
Mind, will, imagination, body, energies, passions, everything in you ordered to God now become rightly ordered to each other.
More to it, when all of us worship the true God together, we become among ourselves rightly ordered.
We come together around the common praise of God.
To worship is to signal to oneself what ones life is finally about. When you worship you know what you are about, what you are for.
Worship is nothing that God needs.
God doesn’t need our praise, but it is very much something that we need.

Saint Augustine said “We can uncover the nature of a society very easily by asking this one simple question, “What do the people in the society worship?””
He said, in his great text The City of God, where he examined the Roman culture of his own time. He said that Rome had fallen precisely because it had worshipped the wrong god’s. God’s who were vain and petty and violent. So the people became vain and petty and violent. We become unto like what we worship.

Paul Tillich said the key to understanding a person is to uncover his ultimate concern, which is another way of saying what he worships.

What do you worship?
If it is not the living God, you have wandered into the land of exile.
You have become, in fact, unclean.
We become disordered if we worship pleasure, money, power, honour. The things held up by the culture.

You might say, “the Mass is tedious and boring. It doesn’t speak to me, that is why I stay away from it.”
So what! The Mass is not to entertain you, it is meant to order you.
It is meant to straighten you out. It is meant to cleanse and purify you.
The Mass is the place where Jesus even now continues to gather the Tribes around Him.
The Mass is the place where even now the Temple is cleansed.
The Mass is the place where we become rightly ordered in the presence of God.

Keep that in mind as you meditate upon this man who is now before the Lord and asks to be cleansed.

And God bless you.

Source: Fr Robert Barron – sermon Becoming Fit For Worship

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The birth of Christ - Stable and Signs,

We have all read many times that Our Lord was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, and we may have wondered exactly what these are. I post here an answer to some questions on the birth of Christ, which contains a number of very interesting observations from Pope Benedict.
I take advantage of the occasion to wish you and your loved ones a very happy and holy Christmas and a New Year filled with God’s blessings.


I have three questions on the birth of Christ.

1.    Why do we say he was born in a stable when the Bible doesn’t make any mention of this?


2.    What are swaddling clothes?


3.   And what exactly was the sign announced by the angel of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger?



The birth of Christ has a number of extraordinary aspects and your questions touch on some of these. The first is that the Son of God, the King of Kings, was born in such humble surroundings. Surely God in the flesh should have been born in a palace, a castle, or at least a dignified inn. And he should have been laid in a bed or a cot, not in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.


But God’s ways are not man’s ways, and God clearly wanted it to be that way in order to teach us something. From the humble circumstances of Christ’s birth we learn, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that “To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little” (CCC 526).
And from the poverty of the stable we learn that the possession of material wealth, with all its attending comforts, is not as important as the possession of God. Mary and Joseph, while poor in the material sense, were truly rich in having the very Son of God, the King of Kings, in their family.
A Stable?
Returning to your questions, why does Christian tradition, and even the Catechism, say that “Jesus was born in a humble stable” (CCC 525) when nowhere in the Scriptures do we find any explicit mention of it?
Indeed, St Matthew limits himself to saying that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” and, significantly, when he tells of the arrival of the magi he says that “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Mt 2:1, 10).
The reference to a house can be explained by the possibility that after the birth in a stable, Mary and Joseph were finally able to find a house in which they lived at least until the presentation of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem forty days after his birth.
St Luke doesn’t mention a stable either but he does say that after Jesus’ birth Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths “and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7).
Since a manger is a feeding trough for animals it has always been assumed that Jesus was born in some sort of stable.
The Manger
Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives, comments on the significance of the manger:
“The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life. Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God, to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God” (p. 68).
We might add that the name Bethlehem means precisely “house of bread”.
Presence of Animals
But why do we associate the birth of Christ with the actual presence of animals, in particular an ox and an ass?
Pope Benedict XVI, acknowledging that the Gospel makes no mention of animals, writes:
“But prayerful reflection, reading Old and New Testaments in the light of one another, filled this lacuna at a very early stage by pointing to Is 1:3: ‘The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (ibid., p. 69).
Swaddling Cloths
And what are swaddling cloths?
In ancient times, as often seen in icons of the nativity scene, the newborn child was customarily wrapped round and round with a narrow band of cloth like a mummy. It was thought this would help the limbs to grow straight.
Pope Benedict comments:
“The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim… The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar” (ibid., p. 68).
The swaddling cloths can be seen too as a reference to Christ’s kingship and his descent from King Solomon, the son of King David. Solomon, in the book of Wisdom, writes: “I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths. For no king has had a different beginning of existence; there is for all mankind one entrance into life, and a common departure” (Wis 7:4-6).
A Sign
Finally, why did the angel say to the shepherds, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).
Certainly a baby lying in a manger would be a sign, since this was most uncommon.
But probably, since the angel mentioned the swaddling cloths specifically, this too must have been part of the sign.
So there is much symbolism and much to be learned from these simple aspects of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.