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Remain Faithful Till Death

A Reflection on today’s Readings
Revelation 14:14-19, Psalm 96:10, 11-12, 13, Luke 21:5-11
Over these past few weeks, we have been hearing about the end times.  Today, we hear about a sickle cutting the vine, and Jesus speaking about events that will precede the last days.  We could concern ourselves with trying to predict when that will be.  We could even find ourselves asking the same questions that were asked of Jesus, “When will this be?” or “What sign will occur?”
The heart of the matter, though, is in the Alleluia verse, “Remain faithful till death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Futile wars, fought by our friends and family, in far away places, can occur.  Mass distrust of public officials can rattle our land.  Floods can knock down our houses.  A famine of the truth can cause the population to be feeding off of lies.  The plague of terrorism can cause fear in the hearts of our countrymen.  All this will pass away, just like the stones of magnificent temple fell down.  Despite all of this, our primary therein lies our crown of life.

"Blessed be the Name of the Lord" – Job 1:21

Recently, my Beloved has seen fit to grant my family, and I much grace. I do not say this to brag, but rather for you to see that which is often overlooked or unseen. In the Book of Job, our Beloved unveils to us that grace comes to us often through that which we see as trials, obstacles, and sufferings.
Many of us look upon trials as something evil and to be avoided at all costs; however, let us look and contemplate upon Job 1:21 and what our Beloved desires us to learn about the hidden graces.

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

First, we note that Job states, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb”. You did not bring your own life into existence, and you will never have the power to bring yourself into life. Only through humility can we come to see with what Love we were a thought in God’s mind and with that same love our Beloved not only created us, but also holds us in existence with tender, fatherly affection, even during those times when we turn from Him through sin. Through humility we are also able to see that same Love becomes incarnate within the womb of Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant. Christ came to us out of love in order to take our sins upon Himself and to suffer and die in a most humiliating way in order for us to rise with Him.

Second, Job says “Naked I shall return”. Our Beloved reveals to us that when we die, we shall stand in all humility before the Eternal Judge and, without excuses, and understand how, by the way we lived our lives, we chose our eternal reward of heaven, heaven through purgatory, or hell.

The final part of the quote says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”. It is out of absolute eternal love that our Beloved grants us that which we need, both physically and spiritually. Many see God only as the eternal Judge Who is ready to send fire and brimstone down upon sinners. While one part of our Beloved is judge, He is also eternally merciful, forgiving, and compassionate. He desires your whole being – body and soul- to be overcome and enwrapped in His heart.

At times Our Beloved, Who desires all of this for us, allows us to experience separation from things we love or mean a lot to us. It is during these times that people often become angry, resentful, depressed, or turn their back upon He Who loves them most. We often fall into these ‘traps’ instead of trying to see what we are being taught or given. We don’t often come to understand that some things need simple faith by which we trust and fully abandon ourselves to Divine Providence.

Now, I’ll tie everything together. Job was showed people that our Beloved is merciful and loving. Job also teaches us that through many hardships – physically, spiritually, and emotionally – God is there watching and helping us as we face all that burdens us. Job 1:21 is my favorite verse because although Job’s life was crumbling and dying, he remained faithful in humility to God. He didn’t react upon emotion and wasn’t looking for some ‘feel-good’ faith; rather, Job’s relationship with God was based upon faith instead of emotion. Faith can have emotion, but ultimately, as I think St. John of the Cross would agree with me on, those emotions, those consolations are not what our relationship with God should be about. Instead, our relationship with God should be rooted in humility, realizing that whatever occurs in each present moment not only brings a lesson to us to grow in love with God, but also should be based upon simple faith, the faith of a child, that requires simple steps toward our Beloved, even when taking a step is hard because of the darkness surrounding us.

Catholic Study Bible

All of us on this blog are big fans of Dr. Scott Hahn and all that he has done for contemporary Biblical scholarship and making that scholarship available to the average Catholic lay person. We found great resources in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible series on the New Testament. They in essence became our text books when the assigned one’s failed. Ignatius press has decided to put the New Testament series into volume.

Y’all this a great buy for everyone:
the Catholic wishing to learn more about the New Testament
the Catholic school teacher
the parish DRE
the CCD teacher
the preacher
the youth minister
I know that I speak for all us in recommending this study edition of the New Testament.

The Role of Service in the Life of a Deacon in Commemoration of the Diaconal Ordination of One of Our Blog Writers

So today one of our blog writers Brent (has no cool nickname) was ordained to the diaconate. His soul is now marked with Holy Orders forever changed. As I was listening to the readings (actually I had the privilege of reading one) and the prayers during the liturgy, I couldn’t help but meditate on the role of service both in the diaconate and in the priesthood.

Stemming from Dr. Brant Pitre’s class on the Pentateuch that I had last semester, I couldn’t help but think about the Hebrew word abodah, which is usually translated into English as some form of the word serve. In the Pentateuch it is always in reference to sacrifice and serving at the altar. Today’s first reading (which was read quite well I must say) was from Numbers which recounted the calling of the tribe of Levi to serve Aaron and his sons who were the high priests. They were there to assist those men who were consecrated and set apart by God to offer sacrifice. It requires a great deal of humility and reverence for the sacred to maintain and fulfill this duty. One with this role is always close to the altar but never makes the sacrifice. A weak man can easily be led to jealously or anger for not being able to offer sacrifice. For instance one can look at Korah and company in Numbers 16. Korah was a Levite who took offense at the priest who were set apart, or consecrated, to do the work of the Lord. Indeed, then to take up such a duty as to serve at the altar of Christ with he who is alter Christus requires great humility (even if one is on his way to becoming a priest). So first I ask all of you to pray for all deacons who serve at the altar of God that they may be men who are humble just as Christ humbled himself to wash the feet of his disciples in John 13. I also ask you to pray for Brent that he may humbly serve at the altar of God.

Testing the Spirits By Means of Love: A Defense for the Integrality of 1 John 4:1-6 Within the Whole of the Letter

The most famous and well-known part of 1 John 4 is the exposition of Deus caritas est in the second part of the chapter. Verses 11-24 of the previous chapter discuss the commandment to love one another. In between these two teachings on love John speaks about testing the spirits, 1 John 4:1-6.[i] By exegeting verse by verse, I wish to establish that these verses fit within the unity of the letter contra Marshall.[ii] To do this I will be operating out the conclusion of Augustine regarding 1 John namely, “See if this entire epistle … commends anything else than this one, charity itself.”[iii]

Brooke sees the testing of the spirits in 1 Jn 4:1 as the carismata[iv] from 1 Corinthians 12:7, 10, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good … to another the ability to distinguish between spirits.” Could there be a consensus in the early Church between Pauline theology and Johannine theology about testing of the spirits? Although, Kruse thinks otherwise[v] I would tend to agree with Brooke. “In the earlier generations the spiritual phenomena which accompanied the growth of Christianity were a cause of grave anxiety to all Christian leaders. It needed a special grace to distinguish between the true and the false.”[vi] John does not speak of the carismata in detail like Paul does. This could be for one of two reasons: 1) the church(es) to which 1 John is directed might not have experienced to the same degree the carismata that the church in Corinth experienced; 2) considering the relative brevity of the letter (as opposed to some of the Pauline letters) it might not have been within the context to deal with all of the carismata, only this particular one. Why then this one in particular? In some way it could be connected to the carisma of prophecy because John follows this clause by warning his audience about false prophets. As Brooke said, there was a need to distinguish between “the spirit of error and the spirit of truth” (1 Jn 4:6). Kruse also agrees that, “‘to test the spirits’ means to evaluate the utterances of such people ‘to see whether they are from God.’”[vii] The prophecy must be tested to see from whom the word originates. There is also patristic evidence for the same.[viii] As for false prophets, they “are attacked in Mt 7:15; 24: 11, 24, and we may compare the reference in v. 3 [spirit of antichrist] to the heretics, or their leaders, not indeed as ‘false Messiahs’ but as ‘anti-Messiahs.’”[ix] These false prophets then speak from the spirit of the antichrist or ‘anti-Messiah.’

Messiah, of course, means anointed one, and John speaks of anointing at the end of the second chapter of the letter. “The anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him” (1 Jn 2:26-27). He who anoints is God. John then urges the community to abide in God. This abiding language is also used in the 1 Jn 4:7-21 discourse on love most notably, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16b). One can say, then, that those who are false prophets, antichrists, and anti-Messiahs, do not abide in God who is love. It begins to show the integral connection of this section with the whole of the letter as proclaiming love.

From here, John gives the test, “every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 Jn 4:2). Setting aside the obvious doctrinal problems of those who confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh but are still heretical, this test is very helpful. John repeats this proof later in the chapter, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 Jn 4:15). John seems to compare abiding in God and having the spirit of truth. In fact, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit” (1 Jn 4:13). When one has the spirit of truth, he has been given the Holy Spirit and confesses that Jesus is the Son of God. Consequently, he abides in God, and is love. “Whoever doesn’t have charity, therefore, denies that Christ has come in the flesh.”[x] Lack of confession equals lack of charity. The confession though is not just with the lips but from actions. “If it were not so, then there would be some heretics, many schismatics and many pseudo-orthodox who would confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh but who would deny that confession by their behavior, for they have no love.”[xi] One could posit though, that the actions language is from James, but it also occurs in a different form in 1 John. “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous,” (1 Jn 4:11-12). Lack of love is connected with evil deeds for John urges his audience to love and not be like Cain, who was of the evil one. There is set up this dualism of those without love, without God’s spirit, and those who love, and have God’s Spirit. It is shown through their deeds. The challenge of hypocrites in chapters 1 and 2[xii] gives more weight to this. Their deeds convict them.

Non-loving actions convict the false prophets. They confess with their whole being that Jesus is not of God, who is love. It is by this that one of John’s little children can see these false prophets are not of God. They exhibit not the Spirit of God, by loving, but they exhibit the spirit of antichrist, by non-loving action. There is connection with false prophecy and non-loving action. This is how one can recognize a false prophet for “Evil reveals itself in false teaching.”[xiii] They set themselves against Christ, hence, the name of their guiding spirit.

They have been overcome. God, as love, was revealed by Jesus Christ. “For it was the love of God toward us which induced his Son to come in the flesh. God showed his love to us not in word but in deeds, not by talking but by loving.”[xiv] Christ said this to his disciples, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” (Jn 16:33). Because those who confess by loving have the Spirit of God, they have been saved by Jesus, who is “the Savior of the world,” (1 Jn 4:14). By abiding in him, they overcome the world him. “If they are true to themselves the readers have nothing to fear from the activities of the Antichristian spirits at work in the world. In virtue of the new birth, which as Christians they have experienced, they have gained the victory over the false prophets.”[xv] Whether Brooke realized the depth of this statement, I do not know, but “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear,” (1 Jn 4:18). Abiding in love, there is no need to fear those who have convicted themselves of being antichristian.

Verse 5 furthers the Johannine language of those who are antichristian. “‘World’ thus means both mankind united in opposition to God and the evil attitude characteristic of such people. Those who deny Christ thus show that they belong to this evil world and are not from God.”[xvi] The false prophets have gone out into the world as v.1 says. There they would find willing ears, ears that are not ready to hear because “if any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15). Love for the world, which John says is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not love of God. The non-loving of the antichristian spirit can now be identified in these specific categories. Because they do not love, they are children of the devil, and therefore, they are of the same family and wish to hear the same things, namely lies. Hence, the world listens to false prophets. The father of the world is the father of lies.

It is seems obvious that those who abide in the love God will listen to his word through his prophets. They have been given the tools and the means to discern between true prophets inspired by the spirit of truth and false prophets inspired by the spirit of error. “A man is said to be ‘of God,’ ‘of the Devil,’ who draws all his inspiration, all that dominated and regulates his thought and action, from the sources out of which he is said to be.”[xvii] One recognizes the prophets inspired by the spirit of error by his/her actions, which display the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. By their actions they deny that Jesus is from God, for he came to free them from the bondage of sin and did so in the love of the cross. The discernment is one of love. The spirit of truth can be discerned in the man by his love. The spirit of error can be discerned in the man by his lack of love. “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). “By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).

Through all of this, one can discern that 1 John 4:1-6 is an integral part of the letter. It uses phrases and language consistent with the whole of the letter. It only exhibits the letter’s main themes in different language. The discernment of spirits is intimately connected to love of the Father and one’s neighbor.

[i] “Beloved, do no believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already. Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1-6)

[ii] “The present section, verses 1-6, is a self-contained unity, clearly separate from what follows.” I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John, The New International Commentary on The New Testament, ed. F.F. Bruce, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1978), 203.

[iii] Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Vol. 14, introduction, translation and notes by Boniface Ramsey (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 2008), 104.

[iv] A.E. Brooke, The Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, The International Critical Commentary, ed. Samuel Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles Briggs (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957), 107.

[v] Colin Kruse, The Letters of John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Leicester, England: Apollos, 2000), 144.

[vi] Brooke, 107.

[vii] Kruse, 144.

[viii] Ed. Gerald Bay, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarstity, 2000), 209.

[ix] J.L. Houlden, A Commentary on the Johannine Epistles (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1973), 109.

[x] Augustine, 102.

[xi] Bay, 209-10.

[xii] 1 John 1:8, 2:9

[xiii] Kruse, 148.

[xiv] Bay, 210.

[xv] Brooke, 114.

[xvi] Marshall, 209.

[xvii] Brooke, 115.

Sorry for the Sag in Posts, Check this Out, Never Knew God had a right Hand

We apologize for the lack of posts. You probably haven’t checked in a while. Once the semester concludes we’ll get you some of our insights.

Here’s an expert from a paper I’m working on:

“Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” Ex. 15:6

There is much insight to be found within the canon with regard to the phrase “right hand.” In the Psalms it seems to connote military might. Ps. 20:7 “Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand” (Ps. 20:7); and “For not by sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but your right hand, and your arm … For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes, and have put to confusion those who hate us” (Ps 44:4,6 ); and also “O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory” (Ps 98:1). The right hand of God seems to exact precision blows that afford Israel victory over its enemies. It seems to have the same connotation in Isaiah, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off;’ fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Is 41:10). The use, then, fits perfectly within the victory song.

Christ, as he tends to do, gives the phrase new meaning by connecting to Himself. “And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk 14:62). He retains the military connotation with the qualifier ‘of Power,’ but by connecting the phrase to Himself he unites that power to his humiliation on the cross, the greatest of all the victories of the right hand of God. In this victory he not only destroys the enemy of Israel but of all mankind, namely death. All mankind enters into this victory by means of baptism, which finds its main type in the destruction of Pharaoh and his picked officers in the Red Sea.