Selected Sunday Scriptures- #60

The first passage in today’s post comes from the Second Book of Maccabees:

18 Elea′zar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. 19 But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, 20 as men ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life.

21 Those who were in charge of that unlawful sacrifice took the man aside, because of their long acquaintance with him, and privately urged him to bring meat of his own providing, proper for him to use, and pretend that he was eating the flesh of the sacrificial meal which had been commanded by the king, 22 so that by doing this he might be saved from death, and be treated kindly on account of his old friendship with them. 23 But making a high resolve, worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age and the gray hairs which he had reached with distinction and his excellent life even from childhood, and moreover according to the holy God-given law, he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him to Hades.

24 “Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life,” he said, “lest many of the young should suppose that Elea′zar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, 25 and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. 26 For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. 27 Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age 28 and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.”

(2 Maccabees 6:18-28)

The central message there neatly ties into a message that St. Paul conveys in his Letter to the Romans:

14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean. 15 If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; 18 he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; 21 it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves. 23 But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

(Romans 14:14-23)

It is not enough that we consider our own faith, but we must also keep in mind the faith of our brethren as well. This is sometimes easy for us to overlook. Not everyone might be as capable of resisting sin and temptation. Others might lack the discipline or confidence in faith that we ourselves enjoy. Hence, it is imperative that by our faith we not only do no wrong, but also do right. And we do right by building one another up in faith and love and charity.

Finally, I close today’s post with the Gospel of John:

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

(John 2:1-5)

Most of the time when this particular passage is discussed people tend to focus on debating whether Mary was in the wrong or not. Unfortunately, an important message gets lost in that debate. Namely, the command that Mary gives to the servants, i.e., us- “Do whatever he tells you.” This, I think, is the ultimate message of that particular passage. We are all commanded to do whatever Jesus tells us to do.  Mary was chosen to give this message (in more ways than one) in large part because she was the first of those who witnessed Him and knew Him better than anyone else. She knew, without understanding, that Jesus should be obeyed. In time she did understand, and so do we all now. We all know to do whatever He tells us, even though we may not fully understand why at any given time. Understanding will come, eventually, whether it be in our lifetimes or at the final unveiling of God’s plan. In the meantime we obey.

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16 Comments

Filed under Selected Sunday Scriptures

16 responses to “Selected Sunday Scriptures- #60

  1. A Visitor

    ” Not everyone might be as capable of resisting sin and temptation. Others might lack the discipline or confidence in faith that we ourselves enjoy. Hence, it is imperative that by our faith we not only do no wrong, but also do right.”

    It’s especially important to keep in mind that some of our relatives and friends may view us as THE BAROMETER of what is morally acceptable and unacceptable. Therefore, we must take care to do what is right.

  2. Excellent point visitor. Others will evaluate us all the time and alter their own behavior on account of what we do, and what we fail to do.

  3. mdavid

    Most of the time when this particular passage is discussed people tend to focus on debating whether Mary was in the wrong or not.

    This passage is clearly relating to Mary as the new Eve, which is why Jesus calls her “woman” as Eve is in Genesis, and she responds with the opposite of Eve, to obey rather than disobey God’s command.

    Writers as early as Ignatius were pointing this out, and the fact it’s the last thing Mary (new Eve) says – obey, in John. Of course, the wine is the fruit (apple), and Jesus is the fruit of Mary’s womb, by which we drink in the Eucharist and share in his flesh and divinity. Of course it’s at a wedding, since Jesus came to restore marriage itself and our relationship to the bridegroom. And again, Mary watches Jesus hang from the tree as the apple to restore Eve’s original sin.

    All this is obvious to any educated reader, but we also have the long testimony of the early Church, which is pretty much unanimous to my knowledge. But Mary being “wrong”? About what? Never heard this sort of thing. I guess it takes an American with a KJB without a Church or history as a guide to end up there…

  4. Most of the time when this particular passage is discussed people tend to focus on debating whether Mary was in the wrong or not.

    mdavid already discussed this, but I am assuming that you are referring to Catholic-Protestant discussion, since I am completely unfamiliar with any intra-Catholic debate on this passage. Also, just to ride on the coattails of mdavid’s excellent discussion, this passage provides a clear example of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role as Mediatrix.

    She knew, without understanding, that Jesus should be obeyed.

    I’m probably being pedantic here, but what exactly didn’t our Blessed Mother understand? From the Annunciation, she certainly would have been aware that Jesus was the Son of God and hence should be obeyed.

    In time she did understand, and so do we all now.

    Most Catholic sources that I am aware of would certainly suggest that Mary was aware of the salvific plan. For example, during our Lord’s presentation at the Temple, Simeon informs her that: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.“(Luke 2:34-35)

    Indeed, keeping the passage above in mind gives the Wedding at Cana an added depth. By interceding on the behalf of the wedding guests, our Lady knows that our Lord’s public ministry will begin and so to His bloody march to Calvary.

    This passage is such a clear demonstration of the love of our Lord and his Mother have for us sinners. Our Lord’s bloody sacrifice is of course the greatest act of love that has ever been, or could ever be, executed. But to try to fathom the depth of Mary’s sorrow as she understands her intercession on our behalf is simultaneously leading to her Son’s cruel death is heart-wrenching to say the least.

  5. Yes, it seems to mostly be found in Protestant circles.

    I’m probably being pedantic here, but what exactly didn’t our Blessed Mother understand?

    She knew that he should be obeyed, but not fully why. Unless she knew beforehand that Jesus and the Father were One.

  6. Here are the thoughts of St. John Chrysostom on this particular passage:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240121.htm
    (towards the end)
    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240122.htm

  7. She knew that he should be obeyed, but not fully why. Unless she knew beforehand that Jesus and the Father were One.

    Well once again I believe the Annunciation makes it fairly clear the her Son is to be the second Person of the Trinity:

    [31] Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. [33] And of his kingdom there shall be no end. [34] And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? [35] And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

    Re: Your St.John Chrysostom reference – Are you referring to his discussion under the heading of John 2: 8-10?

    Out of pure curiosity, if you do not hold that our Lady knew fully of our Lord’s divinity, when do you believe she gained this knowledge?

    Thanks.

  8. Sorry, one last thought:

    Doesn’t the fact that the Blessed Virgin thinks to petition Christ in the first place seem to indicate that she had knowledge of His divinity at this point?

  9. What Church teaching are you aware of that indicates that Mary knew from the Annunciation that Jesus was part of the Trinity? I can sort of understand your argument, but I think you are making a bit of a leap there. By itself it doesn’t say that Jesus and the Father are One.

    Doesn’t the fact that the Blessed Virgin thinks to petition Christ in the first place seem to indicate that she had knowledge of His divinity at this point?

    No. Prophets were also petitioned for miracles as well. I don’t think its clear either way just how much she knew. However, the fact that John took her in, and that his Gospel is the most emphatic about Jesus being One with the Father would seem to be in favor of the interpretation that she knew.

  10. mdavid

    DG, I’m interested in the “Mary was wrong” meme. I’ve just never heard it, so am curious how it’s explained. Is it that Mary was wrong because she lacked faith that Jesus would “just take care of things” without asking? Like it’s wrong to ask Jesus to pass the salt, because he already knows you want it? Or it’s wrong to ask God for stuff because he will give it to you if he wants to?

    Myself, I’ve always thought this was all about intercession. That Jesus would not start his ministry without Mary asking for it, because that’s how Jesus is – He wants full participation from each of us, and loves us to be part of His plan, to be that person who spreads the gospel or who helps somebody else. That each person has a critical part to play in salvation history. But YMMV.

    When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

  11. Feminine But Not Feminist

    @ mdavid

    About the “Mary was wrong” thing you’re curious about: I remember reading a discussion in the thread of one of DS’s posts (I don’t remember off the top of my head which post; I will see if I can find it for you here in a little bit) where someone (I don’t remember who) talked about how Mary was behaving sinfully for pushing Jesus into performing a miracle after He had just told her that His hour had not yet come, as if she was trying to usurp authority from Him (or something like that). A very far-reaching argument (to put it as nicely as I can) to be sure, but hopefully that answers your question.

  12. Feminine But Not Feminist

    @ mdavid

    Here’s the post I thought of for you with the discussion in the thread about Mary:

    https://deepstrength.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/the-masculinity-of-jesus-part-4-marriage-at-cana/

  13. Thanks for tracking that down FBNF.

  14. Feminine But Not Feminist

    You’re welcome Donal! It was easier to find than I figured it would be, considering the marriage at Cana was referenced right there in the title (thanks for indirectly making it easy for me DS!). 🙂

    Hopefully it helps out here.

  15. mdavid

    FBNF, thanks! For some reason never noticed the “Mary was wrong” part of that post or discussion, but it’s there in black and white. I skimmed it to be more like Mary was “confused” for “stupid” or something. It just never sunk in for me because it’s so ignorant of an idea. It’s always mind-blowing to me just how arrogant Westerners often are when reading the bible, knowing zero about the culture nor language it’s written in. But wow, as a sidenote, that thread (and post) are so egocentric against mothers (and women in general) as I reread it I’m sort of blown away. Completely misses the “family” aspect of God, and why God wishes us to call him Father.

    One mistake made when reading different Gospels is to combine them as if they are a single writing. If I remember right, John uses the term “Woman” (gynai, a formal “Lady” or “Ma’am”) for 3 women in John, and each of them are a woman who is a “type” or symbol of the repentant: Mary (mother) as the new Eve, Mary Magdalene the healed sinner, and the adulterous woman at the well. Of course John was massively into symbols – 7 signs of Jesus, the husbands for the woman at the well being the heretical Jewish tribes, etc. John is so symbolic and structured it needs to be carefully studied rather than just read. And John is careful to never use Mary’s name but rather “the mother of Jesus” to point to the symbol aspect of “woman” as a new Eve.

    I like Akin’s look at the term “woman” in John: The fact it is not a title of disrespect should be obvious from the fact that Jesus, as an obedient Son who fulfilled the Torah perfectly, would never have spoken irreverently to his mother. His perfect fulfillment of the Torah includes a perfect fulfillment of the command “Glorify your father and mother.” To publicly speak irreverently of his mother is something that Jesus would never have been able to countenance. Actually, the way Jesus is using the term — at the two key junctures in John’s Gospel where Mary appears — is symbolic and emblematic of her role in redemptive history. Whereas Eve was the First Woman, Mary is the Second Woman, just as Adam was the First Man and Jesus was the Second Man (1 Cor. 15:47).

  16. Feminine But Not Feminist

    You’re welcome mdavid! I’m glad it helped answer your question. 🙂

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