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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Music and Musical Instruments at Mass

Meadows Museum at SMU, Dallas, Texas Organ by ...Image via Wikipedia
Periodically I receive emails or comments from persons anxious when they hear statements saying that this or that musical instrument should not be used at Mass. In response, I urge them to consider some of my past posts on the subject of liturgical music at this link. These older posts establish the general principles involved.

It is a waste of everyone's precious time to try to respond specifically to every exaggeration or rumor about alleged prohibitions concerning musical instruments. We need to trust our bishops as liturgical authorities and to apply general, common sense principles and ignore fringe exaggerations. Enough is enough.

The Ideal Speaks For Itself

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Hispanic Bishop in Detroit

The diversity of the Church is a sure sign of her continuity with her foundation by Jesus himself, who loved to insert the disturbing presence of Samaritans into his ministry. Most of the New Testament, most prominently in the Letters of Paul, is focused on celebrating our new identity in Christ, an identity that embraces all ethnicities and does not, even remotely or implicitly, entertain the thought that any one ethnicity is even remotely better than any other.

This episcopal appointment is another sign to a world immersed in ethnic conflict and rivalry of a diverse Church that embraces all ethnicities without exalting any one of them over any other. Anything different from that equal opportunity embrace of all ethnicities--an embrace without a trace of arrogance or of self-pride or of a patronizing manner-- is not from the Holy Spirit, as he has spoken in the New Testament.

As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 (ESV; emphasis added), in a verse that summarizes so much of the content of the New Testament:

28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Modern Myths" in Old Testament Studies?

Qeiyafa_western_gate1Image via Wikipedia
I am using "myth" here in the conventional sense of something false, not in the literary sense of a potentially true story expressed with certain conventions of language and genre. The modern myths at issue here are those modern scholarly treatments of the Old Testament (OT) or Hebrew Bible (HB) that pursue a profound skepticism toward the validity of the history of Israel presented there.

Specifically, for years now, there has been in the academy a deep skepticism about the biblical portrait of David and Solomon as bearers of royal power and prestige. These skeptics--called the "biblical minimalists"--view David and Solomon, if they ever existed at all, as, at most, mere tribal chieftains, not as the great kings presented in the HB. (A separate question that I consider in an appendix below is whether it really makes a difference to religious believers whether David and Solomon were scruffy chieftains or kings who ruled with splendor.)

So it is of great interest to take a look at a newly published article ("The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism") by Yosef Garfinkel, an accomplished Israeli archaeologist from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an article which takes the skeptics to task in the latest issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review at this link. Below is an excerpt that gives you a taste of the debate. This brief excerpt recounts the history of a somewhat earlier debate about whether David was a historical figure at all:

[T]here is at least one, and possibly two, clear references to the dynasty of David in the ninth century B.C.E., only 100–120 years after his reign. This is clear evidence that David was indeed a historical figure and the founding father of a dynasty.
This led to the collapse of the minimalist paradigm in which David was little more than a myth. There was a David. He was a king. And he founded a dynasty.
The minimalists reacted in panic, leading to a number of suggestions that now seem ridiculous: The Hebrew bytdwd should be read not as the House of David, but as a place named betdwd, in parallel to the well-known place-name Ashdod.2 Other minimalist suggestions included “House of Uncle,” “House of Kettle” and “House of Beloved.”c
Nowadays, arguments like these can be classified as displaying “paradigm-collapse trauma,” that is, literary compilations of groundless arguments, masquerading as scientific writing through footnotes, references and publication in professional journals.

Source link (emphasis added).

As you can see from the excerpt, the article does not pull any punches.

Appendix: Let's step back for a moment from the above debate and ask: does it materially matter whether David or Solomon were or were not ruling a splendid kingdom with regal splendor?

Well, for Christians at least, the case can be made that such splendor matters little. In fact, from the perspective of the Gospels, in which a homeless, itinerant outsider is, to great consternation, the Davidic messiah, the true king of Israel, the possibility that this outsider's ancestors were not such splendid kings is of little import.

Of course, what matters in this academic discussion, is what is true; and it certainly seems that Garfinkel has laid out a serious challenge to the biblical minimalists who often appear to be pursuing a particular ideological agenda rather than pursuing the facts on the ground.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Traditional arrangement of symbolic foods on a...Image via Wikipedia
I recently participated in a Christian Passover Seder service in which, as in all Passover celebrations, there is the grand "telling" or haggadah of the liberation of the first Exodus. For a Catholic, to participate in the Seder is in fact to deepen the conviction that the Mass is the Christian Passover. What struck me follows:

1. Before eating any of the Passover food, one has to wash one's hands (called "urchatz"). Yes, the Catholic priest washes his hands in the Eucharistic liturgy.

2. Ultra-orthodox Jews use round matzah (unleavened bread). At the Roman Catholic Mass, only unleavened bread is used; and, in most Catholic parishes, the bread or host is round.

3. The matzah is broken. Recall the "Fraction Rite" in the Catholic Mass in which the priest breaks apart the consecrated, usually round host.

The above are relatively minor details compared with the central significance that Jesus is our Passover lamb as Paul said:

 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (ESV).

Yet, the details deepen the real continuity between the Passover of the First Exodus and the Passover of the New Exodus, the Catholic Mass.

Let me end with this excerpt from the Haggadah used by a Messianic Jewish congregation, an excerpt which summarizes the Lenten journey or exodus that culminates today on Good Friday:

Looking back, we can see that Passover was a prophecy of a greater Lamb, a more profound Redemption, and a greater Exodus that was to come. Messiah Yeshua is the Lamb of God who died on Passover to take away the sin of the world. Just as the Jewish people took the blood of the Passover lamb and applied it to the doors of our houses, by faith we must apply the blood of the Son of God, the perfect and final sacrifice, to our lives. Then God will deliver us from our "Egypts"--our slavery to sin, our servitude to self, our bondage to the world, our captivity to the flesh and our enthrallment to the adversary. The Lord will take us by the hand, walk with us through the wilderness of this world, and lead us to the New Jerusalem, where we will live forever with Him!

Source: (scroll down to "Passover Hagada" under the section entitled "Prayers").

Whatever your personal "Egypt" or "Egypts," may you walk fearlessly in freedom and liberation, out of the slavery of fear and anxiety.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Message: Remembering Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich BonhoefferImage via Wikipedia
Here is the link with an excerpt below:

How is it that one man [Hitler] slunk to his death defeated and is today despised by the whole world, while another man [Dietrich Bonhoeffer] went to his death with God's peace, and is today everywhere hailed as a hero, as one of the few Germans with the courage to see what was happening and to speak against it and act against it, even at the cost of his own life?
There's much to say by way of an answer, but since the Easter season is upon us, let's start there.
Bonhoeffer believed the Easter story. He actually believed the extraordinary story of God's coming to Earth and dying and then rising from the dead to defeat death forever. He believed that because this was true, he need never fear death. All he needed to worry about was doing the right thing and trusting God with the results. And that he did.

Read more:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hispanic Auxiliary Bishop for Detroit--Youngest Bishop in USA

Advisory from the Archdiocese of Detroit Communications Department
Archbishop Vigneron to Introduce Bishop-designate Arturo Cepeda
New Auxiliary Bishop Named for Archdiocese of Detroit
Bishop-designate CepedaPope Benedict XVI has named Father Jose Arturo Cepeda  (Se-PED-da) of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, as a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit. He will join Bishop-designates Monsignor Donald Hanchon and Father Michael Byrnes in being ordained bishops on May 5 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit. Bishop-designate Cepeda, 41, currently serves as rector of Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas. Upon his ordination, he will become the youngest bishop in the United States. He will be the 28th auxiliary bishop for the Detroit archdiocese.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron will introduce Bishop-designate Cepeda at 10:30 a.m. today, Monday, April 18, at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
"Bishop Cepeda comes to us with an apostolic mission to use all of his many gifts and talents for the service of the whole People of God in Southeast Michigan – with particular attention to that portion of our family which is Hispanic," Archbishop Vigneron said. "He is a true son of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I know she will help him to share his gifts with us, so that all of us – from so many diverse cultures – will share our gifts of grace with one another."
Born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, he came to the United States with his family at the age of 19, while already pursuing a life in the priesthood. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1996, at his home parish of St. Mary Magdalen in San Antonio. He was associate pastor of San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral for four years, then attended St. Thomas Aquinas "Angelicum" Pontifical University in Rome, where he earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology. Since returning to San Antonio, he has been the archdiocese’s vocations director, and has taught and aided formation at Assumption Seminary, Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, and St. Peter Upon the Water center for spiritual direction in San Antonio. He was made vice-rector of Assumption Seminary in 2009, and was made rector of the seminary in 2010. His ministry has also included hosting a bi-lingual talk show on Catholic Television of San Antonio, and giving numerous talks and retreats.

"I am excited about coming to Detroit," said Bishop-designate Cepeda, who had not visited the city outside of its airport prior to his appointment. "God is the One who does all the work and gives us all the grace we need. All we need to do is say 'yes,' just like Mary. That’s my attitude. I will learn much from the Church of Detroit."
In the Detroit archdiocese, Bishop-designates Cepeda, Hanchon and Byrnes will join Auxiliary Bishop Francis Reiss and retired Auxiliary Bishops Moses Anderson, SSE, and Thomas Gumbleton. Archbishop Allen Vigneron serves as chief shepherd for the 1.4 million Catholics who reside in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Lapeer and St. Clair Counties.
Bishop-designate Cepeda will become the second priest from Texas appointed to serve in the Detroit archdiocese. Bishop Daniel Flores came from the Diocese of Corpus Christi and served as an auxiliary for just over three years before being installed as the bishop of Brownsville, Texas, in February 2010.

Blogger Comment: Like the previous Hispanic auxiliary in Detroit, Bishop Flores, this new bishop is also highly educated and will surely bring a warm Hispanic dimension to this wintry, northern archdiocese. Gracias a Dios y a la Guadalupe.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Last Lecture Posted for Synoptic Gospels Graduate Course

The relationships between the three synoptic g...Image via Wikipedia
For those who have shown interest in my Synoptic Gospels course website, I have just posted the last lecture (Lecture 14) in the course, available at this link.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Gospel for Business? And for Everything Else We Want? Why Not?

No, this post is not another tawdry distortion of the Gospel into some kind of bogus get-rich-quick, prosperity "gospel." Rather, I want to recall to my readers this verse from Matthew 10:39 ("Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it," ESV), and then ask you to read this Wall Street Journal review of a book with the title Obliquity (as in "oblique" or indirect) written by a Mr. Kay, formerly of the business school at Oxford University.

Here is an excerpt from the book review:
Mr. Kay begins with a provocative, profound and counterintuitive insight: When it comes to major goals, whether in life or in business, one can pursue them best by deliberately not pursuing them.
Happiness is one of those goals. Mr. Kay quotes John Stuart Mill, who framed what has come to be known as the happiness paradox: "Those only are happy . . . who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness." Or, as Hawthorne said: "Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
Source link (emphasis added).

Kay cites examples of businessmen who decided to focus on quality and customer service, instead of narrowly on share price and ended up, after all is said and done, yes, with a higher share price. I recall C.S. Lewis repeating the same insight: aim for friendship explicitly, and you will likely not find it--but aim to simply be yourself and enjoy what you like, and you will end up finding friends who enjoy the very same thing. I also recall Lewis writing in The Four Loves of the danger of focusing on a lower love instead of seeking the higher love, agape, which will then usher in the lesser loves into their appropriate and fruitful place in your life. In fact, Lewis liked to note that a focus on the lower loves can end up distorting them into unpleasant and oppressive experiences.

Clearly, the Gospel verse quoted above is talking about forsaking--for the sake of Jesus-- an ego-driven focus on getting things or possessing people. You cannot get around that explicitly Christocentric dimension to the verse. When we enter the trenches of our lives, whether in commerce or in personal relationships, we have to decide: do we pursue what is good for our customers and for our friends for the sake of their very own good, or do we focus narrowly on what we wish to extract from them--whether money or affection or some personal pleasure. If we focus on the good of the other, we end up getting everything else thrown in (to borrow a Lewis-sounding phrase).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cicero on Friendship

Marcus Tullius Cicero, by Bertel Thorvaldsen a...Image via Wikipedia
The ancients loved to praise friendship. It seems that our current Western society, in contrast, fixates on more, let us say, physical connections. Here is Cicero on friendship, as one example of what the ancients thought:

To begin with, how can life be worth living, to use the words of Ennius, which lacks that repose which is to be found in the mutual good will of a friend? What can be more delightful than to have some one to whom you can say everything with the same absolute confidence as to yourself? Is not prosperity robbed of half its value if you have no one to share your joy? On the other hand, misfortunes would be hard to bear if there were not some one to feel them even more acutely than yourself. In a word, other objects of ambition serve for particular ends - riches for use, power for securing homage, office for reputation, pleasure for enjoyment, health for freedom from pain and the full use of the functions of the body. But friendship embraces innumerable advantages. Turn which way you please, you will find it at hand. It is everywhere; and yet never out of place, never unwelcome. Fire and water themselves, to use a common expression, are not of more universal use than friendship. I am not now speaking of the common or modified form of it, though even that is a source of pleasure and profit, but of that true and complete friendship which existed between the select few who are known to fame. Such friendship enhances prosperity, and relieves adversity of its burden by halving and sharing it.

Source link (emphasis added).

Friendship, I would say, is even more important than some of the ancients thought. In fact, I submit that friendship is the basis of any worthwhile marriage, from its beginning all the way through to its end. And that marital friendship begins in a patient courtship of stages. That is why the hyper-sexualization of male-female relationships in our society ends up with transient relationships and no marriages at all or very bad ones not worth entering. The foundation of friendship is thrown out of the window; the house is built on sand. So the collapse of the house is no surprise.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Pax romana04

The great classical civilizations of the West, of which I am a great fan, enthusiastically embraced glory-seeking: from the heroes of Homer to the great Greek political and cultural leaders to the Roman clawing his way up the cursus honorum (the "ladder" of political offices), glory-seeking was, for the most part, unquestionably and intuitively pursued. And today many, of course, do exactly the same with gusto.

Yet, the gospels present a different call: a call to humility and to serving others. Ironically, many Christians still follow the road of glory-seeking in a fashion hard to distinguish from that of those who are not particularly attached to Christianity. In spite of this great contradiction, the pattern of Christians combining personal glory-seeking with Christian faith persists.

As with mammon, you cannot serve two masters: self-glory and the gospel. The sort of Christianity that ignores that contradiction is, in the end, not found in the Gospels. All we can say is that the glory-seekers have their reward; but it is not the reward of taking the Gospels seriously, regardless of outward appearances and affiliations.

[Photo By Bravinsky (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]