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Archive for October, 2011

Click on bycatthenauthor or bycatthentitlenew  to access a list of the church library books – by category and then by either author or title  – that are on the stand in the back of  the chapel.

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Click on  byauthornew  to access a list of the church library books – by author – that are on the stand in the back of  the chapel.

(more…)

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Click on  bytitlenew  to access a list of the church library books – by title – that are on the stand in the back of  the chapel.

(more…)

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Gospel, Matthew 25:1-13  It was apparently common for young women in Jewish society to gather along the route of the groom to accompany him and his friends to the site of the wedding, usually an evening event after the work of the day was done.  Jesus used this parable to teach something about the kingdom of God.  The teaching includes what in normal living situations would seem rude or overreacting…the five virgins should have shared some oil, and the groom should have opened the door for the five virgins who went through so much trouble to get to the wedding banquet.  This is common to other parables such as the king sending his servants to kill the people who turned down his invitation to a wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1-14).  The shock value of these twists in the story challenged the listeners to ponder the meaning of the parable.

Why didn’t the five wise virgins share some oil with the five foolish ones?  The oil represented the strength of faith to persevere through times of difficulty or the challenge of early Christians waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus and wondering why it seemed to be delayed past their expectations.  Such faith and perseverance can be built up within each person and we can be an encouragement for one another, but no one can give another such qualities.  Each person has to develop them for him/herself. 

Although we believe in the Second Coming, we don’t know when Jesus will return.  After so many centuries have passed since the resurrection of Jesus, determining when Jesus will return is not a major issue for Catholics as it is for some Christian groups.  It is hard for us to understand how significant this question was for Christians in the first century. 

In Matthew 7:24-27 we find another juxtaposition of foolish versus wise with reference to those who either put Jesus’ words into practice or fail to do so. 

Reading 1, Wisdom 6:12-16  The Hebrew word for wisdom (hokhmah) also means “skill” and is defined as “what a person learns from others”.  Since a person ideally grows in wisdom as he/she gets older having learned from life experiences, advanced age is often associated with wisdom.  In Jewish tradition the Hebrew word for “old” forms an acronym word meaning “this one has acquired wisdom”.  Seven books of the Old Testament (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom and Sirach) are classified as “wisdom literature”, a genre of literature common in the ancient Near East, since their chief purpose is to instruct the reader on how to make wise choices in words and conduct. 

The book of Wisdom is one of seven Old Testament books included in the canon or official list of works in the Catholic bible but not in the canon of the Hebrew scriptures or the protestant Old Testament which follows the Hebrew canon.  These seven works Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees) are often called deuterocanonical, meaning “second canon”.  The Bok of Wisdom was written in Greek (no Hebrew texts exist).  The author is thought to have been a scholar from the Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt, around 100 years before the birth of Jesus.  At times, as in this passage, wisdom is personified, a common trait of wisdom literature exemplified most in Proverbs 8-9.  He also speaks in the person of Solomon, the biblical epitome of a recipient of wisdom (1 Kings 3:12, 3:28) to emphasize the wisdom of his instruction. 

Wisdom, as explained in this text, must be sought out.  One does not automatically become wise just by living but learning from life experiences, both one’s own as well as those of others…the latter being the hope of the writers of wisdom literature.

Reading II, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  The grief of those who have no hope is that of those who do not believe in life after death.  Belief in Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope.  Trying to figure out when and how Jesus would return was an important topic of conversation among the early Christian communities reflected here in this text.  Paul seems to have been of the opinion that the Second Coming would occur before all of his readers would physically die, thus referring to “we who are alive”.  This image of the living, or a select group of the living, being raised up to heaven is often referred to as the “Rapture”.    The Catholic Church has no teaching using the term.  What we believe is expressed in the creed…that Jesus will return and that those who have physically died as well as those still living will be raised with some manner of a final judgment.

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The bulletin for October 30, 2011 has been published and can be found here: http://churchofstdominic.org/cluster/bulletin

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Gospel, Matthew 3:1-12   “Phylactery” is a Greek word meaning “amulet”.  It translates the Jewish word “tefillin”, the two leather capsules, one fastened to the forearm by a leather strap and the other suspended from a headband, which contained small parchments on which are written Exodus 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21.  They are similar to amulets worn by people of other cultures in the ancient world, the difference being that the tefillin are signs of committing one’s deeds and heart to God as compared to amulets which contain magical inscriptions and are intended to protect the wearer from evil.  Although worn only during morning prayer since the Middle Ages, they were commonly worn throughout the day in previous ages of Jewish history.  From Jewish sources I read, it is believed that, during the time of Jesus, some people wore them or at least the head one almost all the time (the Pharisees are in this group), some just part of the time, and some never (the Sadducees are in this group).  The difference was not one of acceptance of the command to “bind them on your forehead…” but whether that command was to be taken literally or metaphorically to keep God constantly in mind. 

Tassels were attached to the hem or edge of the cloak which served as a prayer shawl for many Jews.  The tassels, called “tzitzit”, were more than decorative.  They were mandated by God (Numbers 15:37-41) as a reminder “to keep all the commandments of the Lord without going wantonly astray after the desires of your heart and eyes”.  In ancient times in the Near East the distinctive hem of an outer garment, of which the tassels were a part, represented the person and his/her rank or importance in society.  In 1 Samuel 24 David and his men, being pursued by Saul in the desert, hide in a cave into which Saul comes to relieve himself.  David cuts off the hem of Saul’s mantle but spares Saul’s life.  David later regrets having cut the hem for, according to Jewish commentary I read on the passage, it was a sign that he was taking away the authority of Saul who, for his part, becomes remorseful for pursuing David since this event was a sign to him that his God-given authority was being cut off to be given to David. 

The more important the individual, the wider and more elaborate the hem.  Along with widening the headband of their tefillin, the Pharisees were converting these signs of religious commitment into signs of their feeling superior to others for whom they prided themselves as models to be emulated and copied in following God’s law. 

The prescription against calling someone “rabbi”, “father” or “master” is not a linguistic lesson on acceptable and unacceptable titles.  If that were the case, the words we really shouldn’t use would be the original Aramaic terminology spoken by Jesus or the Greek words from the original Gospel account.  We all have teachers and fathers, after all, and we need some titles for them.  Jesus’ words are, instead, a call to humility in areas of responsibility, contrary to the pride of the Pharisees in seeking honor and admiration for themselves.  Whatever honor, authority or position we have is to be exercised as stewards of God who is forever our teacher, Father, and master.

Reading 1, Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10  The name Malachi is a Hebrew word meaning “my messenger” as found in the book of Malachi in 1:1 and 3:1.  It is believed to be a pseudonym rather than the author’s proper name.  The work was composed as a reproach against the priests and rulers of the Jewish people for their poor leadership around 445 BC during the period of restoration following the Babylonian captivity.  Given the charges he levels, he understandably preferred to remain anonymous. 

The specific breaking of the covenant referred to here was the law from Deuteronomy 7:1-4 against marrying people from other religions, something which was to be more strictly enforced after the Exile.

Reading II, 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13  In last week’s commentary I gave some background on the geography of Thessalonica.  Paul had visited the city on his second missionary journey but left when his ministry caused considerable disturbance among the Jewish population of the city.  He later sent Timothy to visit the community of Christians there and, after receiving Timothy’s report on the visit, wrote this letter around 52 AD.  Paul begins his letter by affirming them as a model for other Christian communities.  Here he reminds them of his personal dedication to serving them, not for any personal gain, but out of a desire to share the gospel with them.

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The bulletin for October 23, 2011 has been published and can be found here: http://churchofstdominic.org/cluster/bulletin

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