Tuesday, March 24, 2015

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

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

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”


Does Jesus, dying on the cross, truly believe that God the Father has abandoned him when he cries out: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” which means: “My God, my God why have you forsaken/abandoned me?” (Matt 27:46)


Just prior to these words we read in verse 42 how the chiefs, scribes and elders mocked Jesus and taunted him saying: “He saved others; he cannot save himself… Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him”


Jesus answers: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”


You see, Jesus isn’t lamenting his condition.  Jesus IS God, he can’t abandon himself.  Jesus was in fact answering their taunts by pointing to Psalm 22.  In those days, the Psalms weren't numbered.  To point to a particular Psalm for others to know which one you were talking about, the Jews would cite the first line of it.  And that's why Jesus said what he did and also why the Jews understood what Jesus meant when he said those words.

This Psalm speaks of a suffering servant where his attackers are “casting lots” for his garments (Ps 22:35 ), and “those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads” (Ps 22:8) as well as referencing the mode of death as being crucified: “They have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones” (v.16-17)  but most importantly and most clearly Psalm 22 speaks of those who mocked the Psalmist writer and curled their lips that he “relied on the Lord – let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you.” The exact same statement by the scribes and elders toward Jesus.


The overall message in the Psalm can be seen as the psalmist presenting distress being contrasted with God's past mercy in Psalm 22:2-12. In Psalm 22:13-22 enemies surround the psalmist. The last third is an invitation to praise God (Psalm 22:23-27), becoming a universal chorus of praise (Psalm 22:28-31).  While at the same time pointing to those who were taunting him at the foot of the cross that he, Jesus Himself, is the one being referenced in that Psalm.


That is Jesus’ message.  Everything is occurring as it should and even though it seems as though his suffering and his impending death is fast approaching, God’s Will shall overcome and all will praise Him.


The chiefs and scribes finally understood this in the end because we see them leaving, beating their chests once Jesus died (Luke 23:48) because now they know that the blood of a truly righteous man is on them (Mat 27:25).


God Bless

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Living in the Light

2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Psalm 137:1-6
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21 (see also “
Binding Isaac, Crucifying Jesus”)


The Sunday readings in Lent have been showing us the high points of salvation history - God’s covenant with creation in the time of Noah; His promises to Abraham; the law He gave to Israel at Sinai.

In today’s First Reading, we hear of the destruction of the kingdom established by God’s final Old Testament covenant - the covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89:3).

His chosen people abandoned the law He gave them. For their sins, the temple was destroyed, and they were exiled in Babylon. We hear their sorrow and repentance in the exile lament we sing as today’s Psalm.

But we also hear how God, in His mercy, gathered them back, even anointing a pagan king to shepherd them and rebuild the temple (see Isaiah 44:28-45:1,4).

God is rich in mercy, as today’s Epistle teaches. He promised that David’s kingdom would last forever, that David’s son would be His Son and rule all nations (see 2 Samuel 7:14-15; Psalm 2:7-9). In Jesus, God keeps that promise (see Revelation 22:16).

Moses lifted up the serpent as a sign of salvation (see Wisdom 16:6-7; Numbers 21:9). Now Jesus is lifted up on the cross, to draw all people to himself (see John 12:32).

Those who refuse to believe in this sign of the Father’s love, condemn themselves - as the Israelites in their infidelity brought judgment upon themselves.

But God did not leave Israel in exile, and He does not want to leave any of us dead in our transgressions. We are God’s handiwork, saved to live as His people in the light of His truth.

Midway through this season of repentance, let us again behold the Pierced One (see John 19:37), and rededicate ourselves to living the “good works” that God has prepared us for.

Binding Isaac, Crucifying Jesus

In the second and fourth Sundays of Lent (Cycle B), we see an ancient symbolic reading of the Old Testament - Abraham’s “binding” of Isaac as a symbol of God’s love for the world in giving His only son.

In Genesis 22, Abraham brings his firstborn, his only son, the one he loves, to offer him as a sacrifice. On the third day (see Genesis 22:4), an angel gives him his son back - not dead as expected, but alive. And this sacrificial offering leads God to promise to bless all the nations of the earth.

The New Testament writers read this story as symbolizing the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

In fact, God’s praise of Abraham for not withholding His only Son is echoed by Paul (see Romans 8:32) and John (see John 3:16). Hebrews says Abraham believed in the resurrection, and that Isaac’s release was a “symbol” of Christ’s resurrection (see Hebrews 11:17-19).

Jesus is the true heir promised to Abraham (see Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16). Abraham rejoiced at Isaac’s birth because he could foresee the day when Christ would be born (see John 8:56). Like Isaac, Christ carried the wood of His sacrifice (see Genesis 22:6; John 19:6).

And by His sacrificial death and resurrection the blessing of Abraham was extended to the nations (see Galatians 3:14; Genesis 22:16-18).


Yours in Christ,

Scott Hahn

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Ten Commandments

Some Protestants accuse the Catholic Church of having dropped one of the 10 Commandments. "You're idolators! You worship statues! And because you do, your Church dropped the commandment against graven images!"

The truth, of course, is that the Catholic Church did not and could not change the Ten Commandments. Latin Catholics and Protestants simply list them differently. It is incredible that such a pernicious lie could be so easily spread and believed, especially since the truth could easily be determined by just looking into the matter. But the rumor lives.

Now, below are the ways in which Protestants and Roman Catholics enumerate the Commandments:

Most common Protestant listing:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
Honour thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
Thou shalt not covet

Latin Catholic listing:

Thou shalt not have other gods besides Me
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain
Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day
Honor thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not murder
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods

So what the heck? What did happen to the commandment about graven images in the Catholic listing? Did the Church just "drop" a commandment?

Um, no. The Old Testament was around long before the time of the Apostles, and the Decalogue, which is found in three different places in the Bible (Exodus 20 and Exodous 34 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21), has not been changed by the Catholic Church. Chapter and verse divisions are a medieval invention, however, and numbering systems of the Ten Words (Commandments), the manner in which they are grouped, and the "short-hand" used for them, vary among various religious groups. Exodus 20 is the version most often referred to when one speaks of the Ten Commandments, so it will be our reference point here. Here's how the relevant portion of Exodus 20 reads:

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill. 1
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

So we have 16 verses and Ten Commandments (this we know because of Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 4:13 which speak of the "Ten Words" of God). How to group these verses and Commands? Different groups have handled this differently.

When the Commandments are listed, they are often listed in short-hand form, such that, for ex., verses 8, 9, 10 and 11 concerning the Sabbath become simply "Remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy." Because Latin Catholics group 3, 4, 5 and 6 together as all pertaining to the concept "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," we are accused of having "dropped" the commandment against idols. That Eastern Catholics list the Commandments differently never enters the equation for people who think this way; they are simply against those they probably call the "Romish popers" and that's that (I hope it doesn't bother them that Jews would accuse them of totally forgetting the First Commandment, or that Latin Catholics could accuse some Protestants of skipping lightly over the commandments against lust. And why don't the Protestants who have a problem with our numbering system go after the Lutherans for the same thing, anyway?).

Bottom line:

  • chapter and verse numbering in the Bible came about in the Middle Ages
  • the Catholic Church (which includes Eastern Catholics, too) has two different numbering systems for the Commandments given, one agreeing with the most common Protestant enumeration;
  • the Latin Church's numbering is the most common in the Catholic Church and is the one referred to by Protestants who, ignoring Eastern Catholic Churches, accuse the Catholic Church of having dropped a Commandment;
  • no Commandment has been dropped, in any case, but the Latin Church's shorthand for the Commandments looks different than the typical Protestant version because of how the Commandments are grouped;
  • everyone knows how to find Exodus 20 in the Bible, anyway. 

we don't care how they are grouped together; we only care that they are understood and obeyed -- not because we are under the Old Testament Moral and Ceremonial Law with its legalism and non-salvific ritual (we aren't!), but because we are to obey God as children of the New Covenant, whose moral law includes the Two Great Commandments (to love God and to love our neighbor) which surpass the Decalogue, and whose Sacraments surpass empty ritual, being media of grace.

God Bless