Friday, June 4, 2010

The LORD Said To My Lord: "Sit At My Right Hand, Until I Place Your Enemies Under Your Feet."

Friday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
2 Timothy 3:10-17
You have followed my teaching, way of life,
purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions,
and sufferings, such as happened to me
in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra,
persecutions that I endured.
Yet from all these things the Lord delivered me.
In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus
will be persecuted.
But wicked people and charlatans will go from bad to worse,
deceivers and deceived.
But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching,
for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.
Today Paul continues to urge Timothy to make Paul’s teaching and behaviour the model of Timothy’s own life.

Paul had very clear shortcomings, of which he was well aware, but he knew also that in his devotion to the following of Jesus he was second to none. In fact, it is because of his weaknesses that the power of Jesus shines so strongly through him. “For whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). And he was passionately bound by his love for Jesus: “I live, no it is not I, but Christ lives in me.”

So now Timothy is invited to remember Paul’s fidelity and patience and spirit of endurance as he passed through so many persecutions and sufferings. Paul mentions the three Galatian towns of Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Paul had visited them on his first and second missionary journeys and, as Timothy was from Lystra, he would have first-hand knowledge of Paul’s sufferings in that region. Yet, God had delivered Paul from all the threats and hardships he had encountered there.

Paul then enunciates a principle which occurs regularly in the New Testament and which has been a fact of life in the Church at all times: “Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus can expect to be persecuted.” We find similar warnings in the Gospel (”You will be hated by all because of my Name” - Matthew 10:22). It was precisely in the places mentioned above that Paul had encouraged the Christians there: “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).

St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), put it slightly differently when he said he hoped that his men would always experience some persecution. It was a sure sign they were doing their job. We should not be surprised, then, at attacks or ridicule on our Christian churches.

For there will always be, as Paul says, “evil people and charlatans” for whom the message of the Gospel is anathema and a threat. They will do what they can to destroy it and its messengers. But as long as the Gospel of Truth and Love is proclaimed it cannot fail no matter what is thrown against it.

And Timothy is urged to remain faithful to all that he learned and believed from his teachers, who include Paul as well as Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois (whose names are given at the beginning of the letter). They had taught him the word of God from his earliest years. A Jewish boy formally began to study the Scriptures when he was five years old. (Timothy, we know, was born of a Gentile father and a Jewish mother and would have been seen by Jews as one of them. Because of that, Paul had had him circumcised to make him more acceptable to fellow-Jews.)

Those Scriptures, that word of God, is, as Paul remarks, “the source of the wisdom which through faith in Jesus Christ leads to salvation”. Wisdom is not knowledge or information; it is a deep insight into the realities of our world and an ability to see how all things relate to each other. The particular wisdom here is that which comes through our commitment to the vision of life that Jesus and the Gospel give.

“All scripture is inspired.” Paul affirms God’s active involvement in the writing of Scripture, an involvement so powerful and pervasive that what is written is the infallible and authoritative word of God. At this time, the primary reference here must be to what we call the Old Testament as some of the New Testament books had not yet even been written. However, by the time of the later books e.g. 1 Timothy and 2 Peter, some of the New Testament books and other written material which later would become part of the canon were being considered as being on the same level as the Old Testament books. (At the same time, one feels that Paul would be very surprised to know that some of the letters he wrote, apparently in some haste at times, would be seen as God’s revealed word to us!)

An understanding of the Scriptures then is an essential source for “teaching, refutation, correction and training in right living”. Armed with this understanding, all those who “belong to God” will be competent and ready and able for every good work. For it is through the word of God in Scripture that we become “fully competent and equipped for every good work”.

The Scripture contains a wisdom which should guide all our Christian lives and it is regrettable that so many Catholics (as opposed to many Protestants) are far less familiar than they should be with the God’s Word in both Old and New Testaments. It was St Jerome who said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

It is amazing at times to hear people, who hardly ever open a Bible, pontificate about Jesus and the nature of Christianity. If we are among those who have to admit that much of the Bible is a closed book to us, let us resolve today to make ourselves more familiar with it.

We will find there an inexhaustible source of inspiration for our lives. Those with experience will tell you that, no matter how many times they read Bible passages, there is still more insight to be gained. It is not like an Agatha Christie novel that can be tossed aside once it is finished. “Oh, I read that.” It is more like a great piece of classical music that can be listened to again and again and which is ever open to new interpretations while remaining faithful to the original.
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Psalm 119
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Though my persecutors and my foes are many,
I turn not away from your decrees.
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Permanence is your word’s chief trait;
each of your just ordinances is everlasting.
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Princes persecute me without cause
but my heart stands in awe of your word.
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
Those who love your law have great peace,
and for them there is no stumbling block.
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
I wait for your salvation, O LORD,
and your commands I fulfill.
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
I keep your precepts and your decrees,
for all my ways are before you.
O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.
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Mark 12: 35-37
As Jesus was teaching in the temple area he said,
“How do the scribes claim that the Christ is the son of David?
David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said:
The Lord said to my lord,
‘Sit at my right hand
until I place your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him ‘lord’;
so how is he his son?”
The great crowd heard this with delight.
In the face of the confrontations he has been experiencing Jesus now lays claim to his true identity. It had long been the belief among the Jews that the Messiah would be a descendant of the family of David. (On the other hand, the Samaritans saw the Messiah coming through the prophetic line, cf. John 4.)
Jesus, we know from the genealogies the Gospel gives us, was of the family of David. But today he affirms he is more than just a descendant of David. He is in fact David’s Lord. Jesus quotes from Psalm 110 and we need to remember that David was believed to be the author of all the psalms, themselves words inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In Psalm 110 David says:
      “The Lord [God] said to my Lord [the Messiah]:
      Sit at my right hand and I will put your enemies under your feet.”

Jesus, then, is saying two things to his opponents:

» Jesus, the descendant, is the Lord of his ancestor, King David, and he is the Messiah-King who will sit at the right hand of God. He is then also the Lord of those who are challenging him.
» God promises that he will crush all the enemies of the Messiah-King.

The argument used in this reading could hardly be used today, as we have a better understanding of the authorship of the psalms than people had in Jesus’ time.

Nevertheless, there are many other elements in the Christian Testament which lead us to the same conclusion: Jesus is Lord of all.

Does my life give testimony to that belief?


Sarah in the tent said...

'O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.'

People do find great inner peace through scripture. However, huge rows and even wars have arisen between people who claim to love God's law - not very peaceful!

The Law is the first 5 books of the Bible. The psalms, from which this refrain comes, were I think considered among the prophetic writings. Jesus, in His Transfiguration between Moses and Elijah, stands for both the Law and the Prophets.

The Law that we love is Jesus. Sometimes, when people argue so passionately about scripture, they seem to love the written books of the Law more than Jesus Himself - who is (or ought to be!) the whole purpose of it all.

It is possible to become quite self-important and even bellicose about one's own interpretation of scripture. But I have the impression that Catholics are less likely to be that way, perhaps because scripture is not their only way of knowing Jesus.

It's useful to remember Paul's advice from yesterday's reading:

'Stop disputing about words.'

Anonymous said...

Nevertheless, there are many other elements in the Christian Testament which lead us to the same conclusion: Jesus is Lord of all.

Does my life give testimony to that belief?

Keep in mind that in the Bible, testimony was considered to be credible when there was someone else to give witness to, the testimony. Recall yesterday’s reading and the second greatest commandment given to us by Jesus: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Might be wise to hold that pat on the back until another question is considered…Who will give witness to my life as testimony to the belief that “Jesus is Lord of all”?

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Q: Who will give witness to my life as testimony to the belief that “Jesus is Lord of all”?

A: Ultimately, the Holy Spirit, who will testify: "You loved the Lord your God with all your heart, and mind and might, and your neighbor as yourself." This is the whole Law and all the Commandments.

Anonymous said...

Indeed Fr JohnL. Took a little more contemplating on my part, but I reached the same answer as you provided. Truth be told, the words that came to mind were: "As God is my witness..." which I'm sure you can appreciate ;-)