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