Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Wednesday, 2nd Week of Lent

Source: Mary's Rosaries
Matthew 20:17–28
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”  
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism paragraph 572.
Commentary:
Third announcement of the Passion
20:18–19. Once again our Lord prophesies to his apostles about his death and resurrection. The prospect of judging the world (cf. Mt 19:28) might have misled them into thinking in terms of an earthly messianic kingdom, an easy way ahead, leaving no room for the ignominy of the cross.

Christ prepares their minds so that when the testing time comes they will remember that he prophesied his passion and not be totally scandalized by it; he describes his passion in some detail.

Referring to Holy Week, St Josemaría Escrivá writes: “All the things brought to our mind by the different expressions of piety which characterize these days are of course directed to the Resurrection, which is, as St Paul says, the basis of our faith (cf. 1 Cor 15:14). But we should not tread this path too hastily, lest we lose sight of a very simple fact which we might easily overlook. We will not be able to share in our Lord’s Resurrection unless we unite ourselves with him in his Passion and Death. If we are to accompany Christ in his glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter into his holocaust and be truly united to him, as he lies dead on Calvary” (Christ Is Passing By, 95).

The mother of the sons of Zebedee makes her request
20:20. The sons of Zebedee are James the Greater and John. Their mother, Salome, thinking that the earthly reign of the Messiah is about to be established, asks that her sons be given the two foremost positions in it. Christ reproaches them for not grasping the true—spiritual—nature of the Kingdom of heaven and not realizing that government of the Church he is going to found implies service and martyrdom. “If you are working for Christ and imagine that a position of responsibility is anything but a burden, what disillusionment awaits you!” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 950).

20:22. “Drinking the cup” means suffering persecution and martyrdom for following Christ. “We are able”: the sons of Zebedee boldly reply that they can drink the cup; their generous expression evokes what St Paul will write years later: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

20:23. “You will drink my cup”: James the Greater will die a martyr’s death in Jerusalem around the year 44 (cf. Acts 12:2); and John, after suffering imprisonment and the lash in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 4:3; 5:40–41), will spend a long period of exile on the island of Patmos (cf. Rev 1:9).

From what our Lord says here we can take it that positions of authority in the Church should not be the goal of ambition or the subject of human intrigue, but the outcome of a divine calling. Intent on doing the will of his heavenly Father, Christ was not going to allocate positions of authority on the basis of human considerations but, rather, in line with God’s plans.

20:26. Vatican II puts a marked emphasis on this service which the Church offers to the world and which Christians should show as proof of their Christian identity: “In proclaiming the noble destiny of man and affirming an element of the divine in him, this sacred Synod offers to co-operate unreservedly with mankind in fostering a sense of brotherhood to correspond to this destiny of theirs. The Church is not motivated by an earthly ambition but is interested in one thing only—to carry on the work of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for he came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served” (Gaudium et spes, 3; cf. Lumen gentium, 32; Ad gentes, 12; Unitatis redintegratio, 7).

20:27–28. Jesus sets himself as an example to be imitated by those who hold authority in the Church. He who is God and Judge of all men (cf. Phil 2:5–11; Jn 5:22–27; Acts 10:42; Mt 28:18) does not impose himself on us: he renders us loving service to the point of giving his life for us (cf. Jn 15:13); that is his way of being the first. St Peter understood him right; he later exhorted priests to tend the flock of God entrusted to them, not domineering over them but being exemplary in their behaviour (cf. 1 Pet 5:1–3); and St Paul also was clear on this service: though he was “free from all men”, he became the servant of all in order to win all (cf. 1 Cor 9:19ff; 2 Cor 4:5).

Christ’s “service” of mankind aims at salvation. The phrase “to give his life as a ransom for many” is in line with the terminology of liturgical sacrificial language. These words were used prophetically in chapter 53 of Isaiah.

Verse 28 also underlines the fact that Christ is a priest, who offers himself as priest and victim on the altar of the cross. The expression “as a ransom for many” should not be interpreted as implying that God does not will the salvation of all men. “Many”, here, is used in contrast with “one” rather than “all”: there is only one Saviour, and salvation is offered to all.

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Tuesday, 2nd Week in Lent

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees by James Tissot
Matthew 23:1–12
1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism paragraphs 526 and 2367.
Commentary:
Jesus berates the scribes and Pharisees
23:1–39. Throughout this chapter Jesus severely criticizes the scribes and Pharisees and demonstrates the sorrow and compassion he feels towards the ordinary mass of the people, who have been ill-used, “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). His address may be divided into three parts: in the first (vv. 1–12) he identifies their principal vices and corrupt practices; in the second (vv. 13–36) he confronts them and speaks his famous “woes”, which in effect are the reverse of the beatitudes he preached in chapter 5: no one can enter the Kingdom of heaven—no one can escape condemnation to the flames—unless he changes his attitude and behaviour; in the third part (vv. 37–39) he weeps over Jerusalem, so grieved is he by the evils into which the blind pride and hardheartedness of the scribes and Pharisees have misled the people.

23:2–3. Moses passed on to the people the Law received from God. The scribes, who for the most part sided with the Pharisees, had the function of educating the people in the Law of Moses; that is why they were said to “sit on Moses’ seat”. Our Lord recognized that the scribes and Pharisees did have authority to teach the Law; but he warns the people and his disciples to be sure to distinguish the Law as read out and taught in the synagogues from the practical interpretations of the Law to be seen in their leaders’ lifestyles. Some years later, St Paul—a Pharisee like his father before him—faced his former colleagues with exactly the same kind of accusations as Jesus makes here: “You then who teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonour God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’ ” (Rom 2:21–24).

23:5. “Phylacteries”: belts or bands carrying quotations from Holy Scripture which the Jews used to wear fastened to their arms or foreheads. To mark themselves out as more religiously observant than others, the Pharisees used to wear broader phylacteries. The fringes were light-blue stripes on the hems of cloaks; the Pharisees ostentatiously wore broader fringes.

23:8–10. Jesus comes to teach the Truth; in fact, he is the Truth (cf. Jn 14:6). As a teacher, therefore, he is absolutely unique and unparallelled. “The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for people, his special affection for the little and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of the world, and his resurrection are the actualization of his word and the fulfilment of revelation. Hence for Christians the crucifix is one of the most sublime and popular images of Christ the Teacher.

“These considerations are in line with the great traditions of the Church and they all strengthen our fervour with regard to Christ, the Teacher who reveals God to man and man to himself, the Teacher who saves, sanctifies and guides, who lives, who speaks, rouses, moves, redresses, judges, forgives, and goes with us day by day on the path of history, the Teacher who comes and will come in glory” (John Paul II, Catechesi tradendae, 9).

23:11. The Pharisees were greedy for honour and recognition: our Lord insists that every form of authority, particularly in the context of religion, should be exercised as a form of service of others; it must not be used to indulge personal vanity or greed. “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant”.

23:12. A spirit of pride and ambition is incompatible with being a disciple of Christ. Here our Lord stresses the need for true humility, for anyone who is to follow him. The verbs “will be humbled”, “will be exalted” have “God” as their active agent. Along the same lines, St James preaches that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). And in the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin explains that the Lord “has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree [the humble]” (Lk 1:52).

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome  

Of St. Katharine Drexel, the Beverly Hillbillies, and Detachment

Of St. Katharine Drexel, the Beverly Hillbillies, and Detachment

Monday, March 2, 2015

Navarre Bible Commentary:
Monday, 2nd Week of Lent

Image from Catholic Man Night
Luke 6:36–38
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism, paragraphs 1458 and 2842.
Commentary:
6:36. The model of mercy which Christ sets before us is God himself, of whom St Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor 1:3–4). “The first quality of this virtue”, Fray Luis de Granada explains, “is that it makes men like God and like the most glorious thing in him, his mercy (Lk 6:36). For certainly the greatest perfection a creature can have is to be like his Creator; and the more like him he is, the more perfect he is. Certainly one of the things which is most appropriate to God is mercy, which is what the Church means when it says that prayer: ‘Lord God, to whom it is proper to be merciful and forgiving …’. It says that this is proper to God, because just as a creature, as creature, is characteristically poor and needy (and therefore characteristically receives and does not give), so, on the contrary, since God is infinitely rich and powerful, to him alone does it belong to give and not to receive, and therefore it is appropriate for him to be merciful and forgiving” (Book of Prayer and Meditation, third part, third treatise).

This is the rule a Christian should apply: be compassionate towards other people’s afflictions as if they were one’s own, and try to remedy them. The Church spells out this rule by giving us a series of corporal works of mercy (visiting and caring for the sick, giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty …) and spiritual works of mercy (teaching the ignorant, correcting the person who has erred, forgiving injuries …): cf. St Pius X, Catechism, 944f.

We should also show understanding towards people who are in error: “Love and courtesy of this kind should not, of course, make us indifferent to truth and goodness. Love, in fact, impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all men the truth which saves. But we must distinguish between the error (which must always be rejected) and the person in error, who never loses his dignity as a person even though he flounders amid false or inadequate religious ideas. God alone is the judge and the searcher of hearts; he forbids us to pass judgment on the inner guilt of others” (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 28).

6:38. We read in Sacred Scripture of the generosity of the widow of Zarephath, whom God asked to give food to Elijah the prophet even though she had very little left; he then rewarded her generosity by constantly renewing her supply of meal and oil (cf. 1 Kings 17:9ff). The same sort of thing happened when the boy supplied the five loaves and two fish which our Lord multiplied to feed a huge crowd of people (cf. Jn 6:9)—a vivid example of what God does when we give him whatever we have, even if it does not amount to much.

God does not let himself be outdone in generosity: “Go, generously and like a child ask him: ‘What can you mean to give me when you ask me for “this”?’ ” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 153). However much we give God in this life, he will give us more in life eternal.

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Navarre Bible Commentary:
2nd Sunday of Lent

The Transfiguration, James Tissot
Mark 9:2–10
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, 3 and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.

Catholic Exegesis:
The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).
St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium."  He went on to "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion" (Fidei Depositum).
Cited in the Catechism:
Passages from this Gospel reading are cited in the Catechism, paragraphs 151, 459, 516, 552 and 649.
Commentary:
The Transfiguration
9:2–10. We contemplate in awe this manifestation of the glory of the Son of God to three of his disciples. Ever since the Incarnation, the divinity of our Lord has usually been hidden behind his humanity. But Christ wishes to show, to these three favourite disciples, who will later be pillars of the Church, the splendour of his divine glory, in order to encourage them to follow the difficult way that lies ahead, fixing their gaze on the happy goal which is awaiting them at the end. This is why, as St Thomas comments (cf. Summa theologiae, 3, 45, 1), it was appropriate for him to give them an insight into his glory. The fact that the transfiguration comes immediately after the first announcement of his passion, and his prophetic words about how his followers would also have to carry his cross, shows us that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

What happened at the transfiguration? To understand this miraculous event in Christ’s life, we must remember that in order to redeem us by his passion and death our Lord freely renounced divine glory and became man, assuming flesh which was capable of suffering and which was not glorious, becoming like us in every way except sin (cf. Heb 4:15). In the transfiguration, Jesus Christ willed that the glory which was his as God and which his soul had from the moment of the Incarnation, should miraculously become present in his body. “We should learn from Jesus’ attitude in these trials. During his life on earth he did not even want the glory that belonged to him. Though he had the right to be treated as God, he took the form of a servant, a slave (cf. Phil 2:6)” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 62). Bearing in mind who became man (the divinity of the person and the glory of his soul), it was appropriate for his body to be glorious; given the purpose of his incarnation, it was not appropriate, usually, for his glory to be evident. Christ shows his glory in the transfiguration in order to move us to desire the divine glory which will be given us so that, having this hope, we too can understand “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).

9:2. According to Deuteronomy (19:15), to bear witness to anything the evidence of two or three must concur. Perhaps this is why Jesus wanted three apostles to be present. It should be pointed out that these three apostles were specially loved by him; they were with him also at the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mk 5:37) and will also be closest to him during his agony at Gethsemane (Mk 14:33). Cf. the note on Mt 17:1–13.

9:7. This is how St Thomas Aquinas explains the meaning of the the transfiguration: “Just as in the Baptism, where the mystery of the first regeneration was proclaimed, the operation of the whole Trinity was made manifest, because the Son Incarnate was there, the Holy Spirit appeared under the form of a dove, and the Father made himself known in the voice; so also in the transfiguration, which is the sign of the second regeneration [the Resurrection], the whole Trinity appears—the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Spirit in the bright cloud; for just as in Baptism he confers innocence, as signified by the simplicity of the dove, so in the Resurrection will he give his elect the clarity of glory and refreshment from every form of evil, as signified by the bright cloud” (Summa theologiae, 3, 45, 4 ad 2). For, really, the transfiguration was in some way an anticipation not only of Christ’s glorification but also of ours. As St Paul says, “it is the same Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:16–17).

“Beloved”: this reveals that Christ is the only-begotten Son of the Father in whom are fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. Fray Luis de León comments: “Christ is the Beloved, that is to say, he has always been, is now and ever shall be loved above all else […] for no single creature or all created things taken together are as loved by God, and because only he is the object of true adoration” (The Names of Christ, book 3, The Beloved).

9:10. That the dead would rise was already revealed in the Old Testament (cf. Dan 12:2–3; 2 Mac 7:9; 12:43) and was believed by pious Jews (cf. Jn 11:23–25). However, they were unable to understand the profound truth of the death and resurrection of the Lord: they expected a glorious, triumphant Messiah, despite the prophecy that he would suffer and die (cf. Is 53). Hence the apostles’ oblique approach; they too do not dare to directly question our Lord about his resurrection

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." St Jerome