The fool (Lk 12:20-12:20)

“But God said to him.

‘Fool!

This very night

Your life

Is being demanded

Of you.

The things

You have prepared,

Whose will they be?’”

 

εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Θεός Ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ· ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται;

 

Luke uniquely continued with this story as Jesus indicated that God said to this rich land owner (εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Θεός) that he was a fool, calling him that (Ἄφρων).  A fool was a harsh title, meaning that someone who had no concern for God.  That very night (ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ), God would demand or require the soul or the life of this rich fool (τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ).  Who would get all the things that he had prepared (ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται)?  The best laid plans of men and mice often go astray.  Instead of enjoying his long indulgent luxurious life, this rich man was about to die.  Then the question remained, who would enjoy all the riches that he had attained?  Death is the only certainty in life.  The only question is when?  Work as if you were going to live forever, but live your life and pray as if you are going to die tonight.  Time’s up!  When do you anticipate your death?

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Blessed are the poor (Lk 6:20-6:20)

“Then Jesus

Looked up

At his disciples.

He said.

‘Blessed are you

Who are poor!

Yours is

The kingdom of God.”

 

Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ.

 

Luke said that Jesus looked up at his disciples (Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ).  He said (ἔλεγεν) that the poor are blessed or happy (Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί), using the second person plural.  Their reward would be the kingdom of God (ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ).  This sermon on the plain is somewhat similar to the sermon on the mount in Matthew, chapters 5-7.  Most people speak about the 8 beatitudes of Jesus on the mountain, since they feature the key points of Jesus’ preaching that was founded on the Hebrew Scriptures.  What does “blessed (Μακάριοι)” mean?  This Greek word Μακάριοι appeared over 68 times in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament, especially in the Psalms.  God will bless these people, so that they will be the fortunate ones, the happy ones, the wise ones.  There are echoes of Psalm 32, where the happy and blessed ones are those who have had their sins forgiven, since they have no deceit in their hearts.  The blessed people are the poor, the hungry, the mourners, and those being persecuted.  Number one is the poor.  However, right off the bat, there is a difference with Matthew. chapter 5:3, who used the term the “poor in spirit (οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι).”  What did Matthew mean by this “poor in spirit” or spiritual poverty?  There is a whole Judaic tradition about the oppressed poor and the humble of the land, as in the prophets Isaiah, chapter 61:1 and 66:2, and Zephaniah, chapter 2:3, but that was not spiritual poverty.  Perhaps, this was more like the lack of concern for material things, whether you are actually poor or not.  For Luke, it was black or white, poor or not.  The 2nd major difference was the reward.  Matthew talked about what they would possess, the kingdom of the heavens (ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν), while Luke said it was the kingdom of God (ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ), plain and simple.

They have forgotten the law (Mt 23:23-23:23)

“Woe to you!

Scribes!

Woe to you!

Pharisees!

Hypocrites!

You tithe

Mint,

Dill,

And cumin!

You have neglected

The weightier matters

Of the law,

Justice,

Mercy,

And faith!

These you ought

To have practiced,

Without neglecting

The others.”

 

Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ ἄνηθον καὶ τὸ κύμινον, καὶ ἀφήκατε τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου, τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὸ ἔλεος καὶ τὴν πίστιν· ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ ἀφεῖναι.

 

Like Luke, chapter 11,42, Jesus continued to curse the Pharisees and the Scribes, much like earlier in verses 13, 14, and 15.  The first part of this diatribe is exactly the same as those earlier verses of Matthew.  Woe to you (Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν)!  Scribes (γραμματεῖς)!  Woe to you!  Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαῖοι)!  Hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)!  There is no doubt that here Jesus was cursing the Scribes and the Pharisees.  This time it was their insistence on tithing.  He blamed them for their concern about the tithing of the various aromatic spices of mint, dill, and cumin plants (ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ ἄνηθον καὶ τὸ κύμινον), instead of more serious matters of the law (καὶ ἀφήκατε τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου).  Thus, they neglected, the serious practice of justice (τὴν κρίσιν), mercy (καὶ τὸ ἔλεος), and faith (καὶ τὴν πίστιν).  They should have spent more time on these issues (ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα) without neglecting the other things (μὴ ἀφεῖναι).  This seemed like a critique of misplaced priorities with their legalistic sense of tithing being more important than justice, mercy, faith, and the Mosaic law.

The Gift of Faith

Christian faith is a gift from God.  We do not earn it.  However, we can refuse this gift.  We must accept this gift with our mind, our heart, and our will.  Our whole person believes in Jesus Christ.  My mind believes that it is true.  My heart says I trust.  I will love and have a concern for others.  The initial Christian faith is a gentle longing, a search for meaning.  For some it comes in a blinding flash, like the apostle Paul.  Dorothy Day (1897-1980) found it working with the poor, while others see it in the presence of a priest or minister who witnesses to goodness, or at the time of a tragedy or death.  Still others grow up within a cultural community of Christians that grows with them throughout their life.  My faith in Jesus Christ is a continuous growing mysterious reality.

 

The development of the gospel biblical texts

After the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers expected him to return at any moment, certainly within their own lifetime.  There was little motivation to write anything down for future generations.  However, as the various eyewitnesses began to die, there was more concern.  The missionary needs of the church grew, so that there was a demand for written versions of the founder’s life and teachings.  The stages of this process included this first oral tradition stage.  Then the stories and sayings of Jesus were passed on largely as separate self-contained units, but not in any order.  There were some written collections of miracle stories, parables, and sayings, with the oral tradition continuing alongside these.  Finally, there were the written proto-gospels that served as the sources for the canonical gospels.  The final gospels were formed by combining proto-gospels, written collections and still-current oral tradition.  All four gospels use the Hebrew Jewish scriptures, by quoting or referencing passages.  They interpreted texts or alluded to various biblical themes.  Their source was the Greek version of the scriptures, called the Septuagint, since they did not seem familiar with the original Hebrew.

A covenant of peace (Ezek 34:25-34:25)

“I will make

With them

A covenant

Of peace.

I will

Banish wild animals

From the land.

Therefore,

They may live

In the wild

Securely.

They may sleep

In the woods,

Securely.”

Yahweh was going to make a new covenant of peace with the Israelites. They would be secure wherever they went. Yahweh was going to banish all the wild animals from the land of Israel. Then they could live and even sleep in the wild woods without any concern. This time of peace was upon them.

The Spirit of Yahweh (Isa 11:1-11:3)

“A shoot shall come out

From the stump of Jesse.

A branch shall grow out

Of his roots.

The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon him,

The spirit of wisdom,

The spirit of understanding,

The spirit of counsel.

The spirit of might,

The spirit of knowledge,

The spirit of piety,

The fear of Yahweh.

His delight shall be

In the fear of Yahweh.”

In this oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, the Spirit of Yahweh, the Lord, will rest upon a future king. This king will have his roots in Jesse, the father of David. Thus the Spirit of Yahweh will rest upon someone in the royal line of David. Thus there was great concern to have Jesus be in the line of David, via Joseph. What is the Spirit of Yahweh? For many Christians, it is what they call the “Holy Spirit.” Thus the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of the Lord are one and the same. Since the early CE centuries, Christians have associated this Spirit of Yahweh with anointing, the laying on of hands, or as the western Christians, since the Middle Ages, like to call it confirmation. Thus this sevenfold gift prayer of the Holy Spirit has been part of the Roman Catholic confirmation ritual. The 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit are then wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. In fact, this almost sounds like the later sapiential literature with its emphasis on wisdom and the fear of God. Thus the Christians, with their anointing or confirmation, see the special gift of the Holy Spirit, as described here in Isaiah, present in their ritual worship service of chrismation or confirmation.