By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Central and Widespread Biblical Theme: The Exodus, "The Going Forth"

Torah inside of the former Glockengasse synago...Image via Wikipedia
In my study of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), I use the New Exodus theme from the “Fifth Gospel,” the Old Testament book of Isaiah, as a unifying theory or framework for all three Synoptic Gospels, with Mark giving the broad New Exodus framework, with Matthew adding the special dimension of the New Moses as Lawgiver and Teacher, and with Luke adding the special dimension of the New Moses as Liberator from oppression. The New Exodus theme is Isaiah's message that God will again intervene to deliver and renew Israel as He did in the first Exodus under Moses.

In Mark, this broad New Exodus framework is the theme that Jesus the Messiah/the King, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the prophet, the Suffering Servant is initiating a New Exodus to restore God’s rule in the face of oppression and alienation, both spiritual and physical, and that ultimately this New Exodus will include the Gentiles. This New Exodus theme is announced in the very first chapter of Mark in his quotation of Isaiah 40 and by his beginning his gospel with the preaching of John the Baptist in the wilderness precisely at the Jordan River.

In the Isaian New Exodus (especially from "Second" Isaiah Chapters 40-66), we can see a journey from the nations (the Gentiles), specifically from the Jewish exile in Babylon, a journey that ends in a new, restored Jerusalem, a new Zion.

Likewise, in all of the Synoptic Gospels, we see the basic framework of a journey made by Jesus beginning in Galilee of the Gentiles and ending in Jerusalem where salvation is accomplished. This New Exodus journey mimics the First Exodus from Gentile Egypt through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The New Exodus also looks back even earlier to the journey in faith of Abraham from the Gentile area of Mesopotamia into the future Promised Land—in fact, Abraham’s path is the same one that the returning Jewish exiles from Babylon will take in order to return to Jerusalem in the time of Second and Third Isaiah. The Exodus theme is also replicated when Joshua and the Israelites cross the parting waters of the Jordan River to finally enter the Promised Land from the wilderness after 40 years—the same approximate geographic location where Mark begins his gospel with John the Baptist.

In Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, the Church then begins to spread from Jerusalem to bring all the nations to worship the one true God in fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of all nations worshiping in Zion. Paul self-consciously views himself as carrying out this Isaian mission to the Gentiles, most concretely as he collects money as an offering to the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

Thus, the entire arc of salvation history from the Old Testament to the Gospels to the remainder of the New Testament can and may be visualized as a rereading of the Exodus story and its reenactment in new circumstances: Abraham (foreshadowing the first Exodus in the book of Genesis), the first Exodus of Moses out of Egypt, the second Exodus of Joshua (the Hebrew form of the name “Jesus”) into the Promised Land, the Isaian New Exodus in which the exiled Jews look forward to restoration in Jerusalem under God’s rule, the New Exodus finally and definitively inaugurated by Jesus and which culminates in the saving events that took place in Jerusalem, and, in the age of the Church, the continuation of Jesus’ New Exodus through evangelization as all the nations are being gathered to eventually worship the one true God in the new Jerusalem envisioned in the book of Revelation. Thus, the New Exodus theme spans the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Note also that the word “Exodus” is the Greek word (exodos) for a “going out.” We are, as individuals, pilgrims; each of us is a homo viator—a person who is a wayfarer, who is always going out toward somewhere. Peoples and nations are always wayfarers, as was Abraham in Genesis, as was Israel under Moses in the book of Exodus, as was Israel under Joshua going out of the wilderness, as were the Jewish exiles going out of Babylon back to Jerusalem in the time of Second Isaiah. The early Christians in Acts “go out” from Jerusalem until Paul reaches Rome itself. The entire cosmos itself, as described in the book of Revelation, “goes out” from under the power of evil and reaches fulfillment in the new heaven and the new earth, the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-2).

In the Gospels, we see Jesus “going out” from Nazareth journeying to Jerusalem and eventually “going out” of the tomb so that we too can “go out.” There is the heart of the New Exodus theme that points backward and forward in time, in grand unity, to the other books of the Bible.

Note: The references to a "Second" Isaiah arise from the scholarly convention of designating in this way Chapters 40-55 of the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah. This portion is given a special designation because scholars believe that Chapters 40-55 arose at or about the time of the end of the Babylonian exile of the Jews. Some scholars also posit a "Third" Isaiah, somewhat later in time, in Chapters 56-66.

(For the New Exodus theme, I am especially indebted to the book by Rikki E. Watts,  Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark, Baker Academic, 1997, and to some of the writings of N.T. Wright.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Afghanistan "Legally" Persecutes Christian Converts from Islam

Here they go again, in what seems an endless series of stories of severe and often deadly religious persecution of Christians in Muslim nations (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, now Afghanistan). Here is the Wall St. Journal link.

This time there are also allegations of sexual abuse of an imprisoned Christian convert:

Mr. Musa, in an open letter written in his jail cell in Kabul, said he has been beaten and sexually abused in prison. "The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behavior with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," Mr. Musa wrote in the letter, which he addressed to supporters as well as President Barack Obama and the heads of international forces here.
Source link (emphasis added).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Waiting and Smiling

Some items to consider:

1. Evangelical speaker Joyce Meyer has a lot of common sense advice that many Christians, including Catholics, can profit from greatly. Her insight comes from a past of deep suffering. Yes, as Aeschylus wrote long ago,
Drop, drop– in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,                  
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,                      
comes wisdom,                                    
by the awful grace of God.

Edith Hamilton translation.

In the midst of bad circumstances, Meyer has some good counsel:

Once we've asked God to answer a question or solve a problem, we need to be eagerly awaiting His answer. We need to be serving actively, aggressively and expectantly. When our hearts are eager to hear from God, He loves to rush in suddenly with His solution. In many cases this waiting period actually serves as a time of preparation for the answer. If God answered right away, many of us would be ill-prepared to handle His solution. 

Source link

A few years ago, a friend and former teacher, who herself had gone through some very bad times, highly recommended that I read Meyer. I had never heard of  Meyer and did not pay much attention to the advice. But, having heard Meyer speak on the radio, Meyer makes good sense on many topics.

2. The above brings me to my main point, an old point, as old as St. Paul who proclaimed that he knew how to be content in all circumstances:

for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be acontent. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and bhunger, abundance and cneed. 13 I can do all things dthrough him who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV).

Having recently finished rereading The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, I recall the Stoic wisdom, a wisdom that often has a Christian tone, on the issue of suffering:

To follow the logos in all things is to be relaxed and energetic, joyful and serious at once.

Meditations, Book Ten, Section 12a, in a new translation by Gregory Hays (2003).

How interesting that the Creator reveals his wisdom to the Greco-Roman pagan and to the Christian alike, with the fullness of that wisdom coalescing, without error, in the Christian revelation. We are heirs of that tradition of wisdom.

Finally, let me end with a Latin saying from the Vulgate which captures the end result of learning from the preceding fonts of wisdom:

Cor gaudēns exhilarat faciens./"A rejoicing heart brightens the face."

Source link.

Too many who claim to be Christian carry faces of anxiety, unhappiness, or disdain. It is time to get wisdom.


Gruesome But Forseeable

Krematorium DachauImage via Wikipedia
Legalized abortion culturally and psychologically legitimates the killing of unwanted babies. Here is the gruesome story from the pages of the New York Times: link (caution to reader--the details are extremely unpleasant). The headline is "Doctor is Charged in Killing of Newborns."

Monday, January 17, 2011

It Can Be Done Without Violence

That is a message that many, especially in the Middle East, need to recall.

Alternative for Anglicans To Become Roman While Preserving Their Liturgical Patrimony

John Henry Newman..Image via Wikipedia
[Emphasis added

VATICAN CITY, 15 JAN 2011 (VIS) - "In accordance with the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus' of Pope Benedict XVI (4 November 2009) and after careful consultation with the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has today erected a Personal Ordinariate within the territory of England and Wales for those groups of Anglican clergy and faithful who have expressed their desire to enter into full visible communion with the Catholic Church", reads an English-language communique released today. "The Decree of Erection specifies that the Ordinariate will be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and will be placed under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman.

  "A Personal Ordinariate is a canonical structure that provides for corporate reunion in such a way that allows former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their distinctive Anglican patrimony. With this structure, the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum coetibus' seeks to balance on the one hand the concern to preserve the worthy Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions and, on the other hand, the concern that these groups and their clergy will be fully integrated into the Catholic Church.

  "For doctrinal reasons the Church does not, in any circumstances, allow the ordination of married men as bishops. However, the Apostolic Constitution does provide, under certain conditions, for the ordination as Catholic priests of former Anglican married clergy. Today at Westminster Cathedral in London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, ordained to the Catholic priesthood three former Anglican bishops: Reverend Andrew Burnham, Reverend Keith Newton, and Reverend John Broadhurst.

  "Also today Pope Benedict XVI has nominated Reverend Keith Newton as the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Together with Reverend Burnham and Reverend Broadhurst, Reverend Newton will oversee the catechetical preparation of the first groups of Anglicans in England and Wales who will be received into the Catholic Church together with their pastors at Easter, and will accompany the clergy preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood around Pentecost.

  "The provision of this new structure is consistent with the commitment to ecumenical dialogue, which continues to be a priority for the Catholic Church. The initiative leading to the publication of the Apostolic Constitution and the erection of this Personal Ordinariate came from a number of different groups of Anglicans who have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has now come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion".

Friday, January 14, 2011

JPII to Be Beatified May 1st

Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver ...Image via Wikipedia

VATICAN CITY, 14 JAN 2011 (VIS) - On 1 May, the second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, Benedict XVI will preside at the rite of beatification for John Paul II in the Vatican.

According to a note released by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, "today 24 January, Benedict XVI, during an audience granted to Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, authorised the dicastery to promulgate the decree of the miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Servant of God John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla). This concludes the process which precedes the rite of beatification.

"It is well known that, by pontifical dispensation, his cause began before the end of the five-year period which the current norms stipulate must pass following the death of a Servant of God. This provision was solicited by the great fame of sanctity which Pope John Paul II enjoyed during his life, in his death and after his death. In all other ways, the normal canonical dispositions concerning causes of beatification and canonisation were observed in full.

"Between June 2005 and April 2007 the principal diocesan investigation was held in Rome, accompanied by secondary investigations in various other dioceses, on his life, virtues, fame of sanctity and miracles. The juridical validity of these canonical processes was recognised by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints with a decree of 4 May 2007. In June 2009, having examined the relative 'Positio', nine of the dicastery's theological consultors expressed their positive judgement concerning the heroic nature of the virtues of the Servant of God. The following November, in keeping with the usual procedure, the 'Positio' was submitted for the judgement of the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who gave their approval.

"On 19 December 2009, Benedict XVI authorised the promulgation of the decree on John Paul II's heroic virtues.

"With a view to the beatification of the Venerable Servant of God, the postulator of the cause invited the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to examine the recovery from Parkinson's disease of Sr. Marie Simon Pierre Normand, a religious of the 'Institut des Petites Soeurs des Maternites Catholiques'.

"As is customary, the voluminous acts of the regularly-instituted canonical investigation, along with detailed reports from medical and legal experts, were submitted for scientific examination by the medical consultors of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 21 October 2010. The experts of the congregation, having studied the depositions and the entire documentation with their customary scrupulousness, expressed their agreement concerning the scientifically inexplicable nature of the healing. On 14 December the theological consultors, having examined the conclusions reached by the medical experts, undertook a theological evaluation of the case and unanimously recognised the unicity, antecedence and choral nature of the invocation made to Servant of God John Paul II, whose intercession was effective in this prodigious healing.

"Finally, on 11 January 2011 the ordinary session of the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints took place. They expressed their unanimous approval, believing the recovery of Sr. Marie Simon Pierre to be miraculous, having been achieved by God in a scientifically inexplicable manner following the intercession of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, trustingly invoked both by Sr. Simon herself and by many other faithful".

Islamic Persecution of Christians and Animists: Black Slavery in Sudan

Here is the Wall St. Journal link and an excerpt:
On Jan. 9, the people of South Sudan began their week-long referendum to decide whether to separate from the Arab-Muslim North and form an independent country. But Achol Yum Deng didn't vote. Though she has more reasons to seek separation from the North than most of her countrymen, she couldn't register: Since 1998, Achol was a slave serving her master in the North and was only liberated just before the voting began.
The war booty of a man named Adhaly Osman, Achol was threatened with death, gang-raped, genitally mutilated, forced to convert to Islam, renamed "Mariam," and racially and religiously insulted. She lost the sight in one eye when her master thrashed her face with a camel whip for failing to perform Islamic rituals correctly. This mother of four saw two of her children beaten to death for minor misdemeanors. She also lost the use of one arm when her master took a machete to it in response to her failure to grind grain properly.
Source link above.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Muslim Persecution of Christians Continues: Now Arrests in Iran

Here is the story from today's Wall Street Journal describing Christmas time arrests of Christian converts in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Why are they so fearful of Christians? Do they fear that Christianity may be too alluring for their subjects? The "Christophobia" continues.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Two Greatest Mystics Now on Kindle

Our Rhode Island friend sent me the links, which you can see at left and below, and also reminded me to remind you that you need not own a Kindle to buy and use Kindle books--simply download the free Kindle apps for your PC or Mac computer or other device (there are now too many devices for me to either list or remember--see link). Kindle books and other products are "platform-neutral."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jesus Bloodied in Egypt

Here is a photo of an image of Jesus from the Coptic church where Islamic extremists, in their way of marking the hopeful beginning of the New Year, recently massacred Egyptian Christians :

Source link.

4And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting(G) me?" 5And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus,(H) whom you are persecuting.

Acts 9:4-5 (ESV) (emphasis added).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Islamist Genocide Against Middle East Christians Continues: Now in Egypt

Here is the link.

Life is "Plastic"

Common vineyard (ca. 1910)Image via Wikipedia
No, I do not mean that life is somehow cheap or artificial. I mean, to borrow from the neurological sense of the term, that life is quite malleable, changeable, and "improvable" (I am not sure that is a word). What brings the thought to mind is the advice of well-regarded British neurologist Oliver Sacks that we should aim for cognitive fitness because our brains, regardless of our ages, can grow, change, and improve:

While some areas of the brain are hard-wired from birth or early childhood, other areas — especially in the cerebral cortex, which is central to higher cognitive powers like language and thought, as well as sensory and motor functions — can be, to a remarkable extent, rewired as we grow older. In fact, the brain has an astonishing ability to rebound from damage — even from something as devastating as the loss of sight or hearing. As a physician who treats patients with neurological conditions, I see this happen all the time.

Source link.

Let's extend the thought to areas other than cognitive ability. Life itself is plastic and subject to astonishing change at any age. It is possible. Christian wisdom confirms it and, long ago, foreshadowed this insight. Consider the big turnaround ("metanoia") of Zacchaeus from grasping defrauder of his own people (say, an ancient version of Detroit's infamous Kwame Kilpatrick) into a generous and magnanimous sharer of his goods.

But I like this scandalous and subversive story even better as foreshadowing the plasticity of life itself:
10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour [in the vineyard], and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ [2] 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Source link (emphasis added).

A lifetime of meditating on this parable will not come even close to exhausting its various meanings. That is the nature of the inspired. Yet, I can, at least, draw this out: it is never to late to make big changes.  Do not let a false calculus projecting little or no gain keep you from making a big change or turnaround, regardless of your past trail of tears.

Christian wisdom (sophia) points to this reality. You can go from thief to benefactor, from harlot to a woman of dignity, from addiction to freedom, from pessimism to hopefulness. 

Now, I do not believe in fairy tales--so do not get me wrong, I do not mean that you will escape all of the consequences of serious wrongdoing. Even Zacchaeus knew he had to make generous restitution and probably also knew that he would not ever regain the trust or affection of all in his village. In the same way, a converted porn star will likely not be an attractive marriage prospect to every man or, maybe, to no man. A reconverted priest who formerly molested children will just have to give up the idea of ever working with children again. The hard reality of  such unavoidable consequences is why many of us Christians tend to get "preachy" about certain lifestyles. Yet, each one who truly changes will be living a magnificently better life with other goods that will, in some way, compensate for the unavoidable and forseeable social consequences of past debacles.

Christian wisdom holds the invitation to great change at any stage. Neurological science reminds us of that deeper and more comprehensive wisdom of hope. Just as the brain can rebound from devastating trauma, so can our lives recover from traumas suffered and inflicted.