Is the schism between Moscow and Constantinople still going on? According to this wiki it still it, but that of course isn’t always the best source of information. No special reason, I am just genuinely curious.
Today’s mix is all over the place. A fitting thing, given my thoughts have been that way lately. We begin with a Psalm:
I cry with my voice to the Lord,
with my voice I make supplication to the Lord,
2 I pour out my complaint before him,
I tell my trouble before him.
3 When my spirit is faint,
thou knowest my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4 I look to the right and watch,
but there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me,
no man cares for me.
5 I cry to thee, O Lord;
I say, Thou art my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.
6 Give heed to my cry;
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors;
for they are too strong for me!
7 Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to thy name!
The righteous will surround me;
for thou wilt deal bountifully with me.
As is often the case, David is someone I can relate to. I have been struggling against a feeling of hopelessness for a long time now, and I don’t see it going away. But at the same time I am resisting giving in to it. Whatever his faults, and they were many, David was someone who never gave in to that despair in a final way. Neither did other suffering figures, such as Joseph, who I would argue had it worse. So whatever else, I resolve to do the same.
The following was the Gospel message today in my Eastern Rite parish:
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging; 36 and hearing a multitude going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me receive my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
What really grabbed my attention with this reading today was the blind man’s reaction after gaining his sight- he glorified God. This is something we can take for granted, God’s favor. All too often we are showered with graces and we never even give it a second thought. How often do we stop to thank God for all he has given us? I know I have been particularly bad about this. Maybe this new year is a chance for me to be better.
Merry Christmas to all of my readers! May you find joy in this time, even if otherwise all seems darkness.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
It has been quite a while since I’ve post. A lack of imagination, drive and general business led me to let this blog whither. I would rather not keep it that way, at least not too much, and so here is another scripture post.
The first passage is from the book of Samuel:
9 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abi′el, son of Zeror, son of Beco′rath, son of Aphi′ah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth; 2 and he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.
(1 Samuel 8:9-9:2
I have been thinking lately about how what people want is not necessarily what is best for them. And so while scanning scripture I came across this. It is interesting that the handsomeness of Saul merited multiple mentions, not just once. Plus the mention of his height as well. It got me thinking about how Saul must have looked very much like what Israel imagined a king would be. Tall, handsome, probably covered in muscles. He would have been a very imposing and masculine presence. And yet of course God sees what us humans do not. Or perhaps, what us humans do not want to see. And this of course is part of the message here, as is explained not much later when we are first introduced to David.
6 When they came, he looked on Eli′ab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abin′adab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
(1 Samuel 16:6-13)
Now it is interesting because David too was handsome. And yet that was not the reason why he was chosen. He wasn’t chosen because he looked the part of a king, but because as faulty as he was, David would always return to God when the time came. David always repented, unlike many of his descendants, even the ones who started out good. Of course, David was also very young at the time as well, and so probably wasn’t anywhere near the masculine presence of Saul. We see here how we must be careful about judging by appearance. Ultimately it is character and heart which matters. One might have both and be unattractive, or have them and be attractive as well.
The Israelites unfortunately never really lost this trait. Even to the time of Jesus, they did not understand. So it was well that Isaiah prophesied thus:
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
I have been feeling somewhat forlorn lately, and while reading through scripture I couldn’t help but get drawn in the by the story of Joseph. He is someone I can empathize with, given his life was filled for a long time with suffering. First we have his being sold into slavery:
12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers, and with the flock; and bring me word again.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a man found him wandering in the fields; and the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said, “tell me, I pray you, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him afar off, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild beast has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; cast him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand, to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and cast him into a pit. The pit was empty, there was no water in it.
25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ish′maelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ish′maelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers heeded him. 28 Then Mid′ianite traders passed by; and they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ish′maelites for twenty shekels of silver; and they took Joseph to Egypt.
Then we have his temptation, and the price he paid for rejecting sin:
Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Pot′i-phar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ish′maelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian, 3 and his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had, in house and field. 6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and having him he had no concern for anything but the food which he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Lo, having me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand; 9 he is not greater in this house than I am; nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 10 And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie with her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and got out of the house. 13 And when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; 15 and when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment with me, and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; 18 but as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment with me, and fled out of the house.”
19 When his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison; and whatever was done there, he was the doer of it; 23 the keeper of the prison paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
Then, when Joseph might have finally gotten out of prison, he was denied- at first.
20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief butler and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief butler to his butlership, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; 22 but he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Joseph had to endure two more years in captivity before he was finally freed from his unjust imprisonment. Given this, I suppose when I look at my life, I don’t really have all that much to complain about. Or at least, it doesn’t add up to what he endured. Valuable perspective.
I have been in a somber mood lately, and this passage from the Book of Wisdom inspired some deep but troubling thoughts:
12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
13 He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child[a] of the Lord.
14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
15 the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
16 We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
17 Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
18 for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
19 Let us test him with insult and torture,
that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
I wonder if there is a corollary in life between how righteous someone is, and how much he or she will suffer in life. I mean, there is always suffering in life. Sometimes good people suffer a lot, and sometimes bad people suffer a lot. But at the same time I think that those who are really good people seem to suffer more. Looking through the people I know in my life, and others I have read accounts of, I just see that as a thing. Suffering and righteousness are just connected. I am also reminded of this passage from the Gospel of John:
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.[c] 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant[d] is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
The world will always hate those who belong to God. It makes sense to me that the closer one is to God, the more the world would hate you. Perhaps my readers will feel like chiming in and offering their thoughts. Perhaps there are some other passages from scripture which would further illuminate the matter.
Today I wanted to cover the same passage from two different perspectives- that of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Here is Matthew’s perspective:
5 As he entered Caper′na-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even[c] in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
Then we have Luke’s version:
After he had ended all his sayings in the hearing of the people he entered Caper′na-um. 2 Now a centurion had a slave who was dear[a] to him, who was sick and at the point of death. 3 When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.
There are two significant differences between them, which I will mention below in bold.
Matthew: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”
Matthew includes an admonition by Jesus against the Jews, informing them that many Gentiles will make it to the Kingdom and many Jews will not. This fits in with the character of Matthew’s gospel, which was clearly written with a Jewish audience in mind. It would make sense to use a passage which contains a righteous Gentile to give this message. I would not at all be surprised if Jesus said this at another time, but Matthew thought that this was the best passage to put that particular saying of Jesus. Or maybe he did say it here, and Luke omitted it because his primarily Gentile audience wouldn’t need it.
Luke: When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.”
Here we have other individuals, Jews in fact, speaking on behalf of the centurion (who was probably a Gentile or maybe a monotheist “God-fearer”). What I find interesting is that these Jews speak highly of this non-Jew. They give him high praise indeed, which I cannot say I can recall seeing elsewhere regarding a Gentile in the gospels (readers feel free to correct me in the comments below). I think there are a couple of meanings to be drawn here. The first is the role of the Jews as the early messengers of the gospel. They helped bring Jesus towards the Centurion. The second is that intercessors can have a powerful effect, and should be used when one wants to petition God. Here the Centurion didn’t come himself, but used others to reach out to Jesus. This ties in with Church teaching regards the saints, that they too can help intercede with God on our behalf. Jesus of course knew the centurion’s need, just as He always knows our needs. But it never hurts to have others speak on our behalf. Especially if those individuals are highly favored in God’s eyes.