The Sermon on the Mount: Jesus, the New Law, and the Kingdom of God

Over the next four Sundays, as we approach the Season of Lent, the Gospel Readings in the Western Rite of the Catholic Church will be read from the Gospel of St. Matthew, specifically readings from the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the three-year lectionary cycle, we hear from the Sermon on the Mount many times. It’s an important section of St. Matthew’s Gospel and one that needs to be understood by all the faithful since it’s Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God.

Below are excerpts from a paper I wrote on the Gospel of St. Matthew – “The Catechetical Gospel”, when I was a graduate student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

It is at the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus begins to draw the outline for the new covenant. He explains that the new kingdom will awaken the hearts of humanity and that it won’t be just laws and decrees as seen in the old covenant. It is through his teachings at the Sermon on the Mount and his teachings through the parables, where he will reach the heart of all who hear him.

As Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis says in Fire of Mercy, “Jesus is not only the new Moses but God himself, who inscribes the Law of his Sacred Heart no longer now on stone tablets but on the very hearts of men” (1996). Christianity is not a “religion of the book.” “Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 108, will be known as CCC).

The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters five, six, and seven in the Gospel of St. Matthew and is the first dialogue of five dialogues [the apostolic discourse; the parabolic discourse; the discourse on the Church and the discourse on eschatology] (Navarre Bible, page 22) where Christ begins to explain the new covenant and his outline for the “Kingdom.”

“In the Sermon on the Mount, and especially in the Beatitudes, Our Lord proclaimed the ruling maxims of His kingdom. It was a discourse – new, utterly un-heard of, and coming straight from heaven!” (Kneght, page 470) The Sermon on the Mount covers a variety of themes that assist us to focus to see that the New Law will redefine and supplant the Old Law. The themes Jesus covers are how a person is to direct themselves so they can enter the Kingdom of God, the ability to practice religious duties, trusting in the divine economy of God, the behaviors of God’s children and how they are to act towards one another; and the precepts for entrance into heaven (Navarre Bible, page 23).

Sermon on the Mount Icon

“The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount” (CCC 1965).

In chapter five, we see Jesus moving away from the crowds and ascending up the mount where his disciples are gathered around him as he sits. “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him” (Matthew 5:1).  His movements up the mount and his sitting to teach are definitive acts placing himself as the Teacher of authority. Christ is stating that he is now the “Mediator between God and man.” Just as Moses once was the mediator between God and the people of Israel; now Christ takes on this role – he is the “New Moses.” (Leiva-Merikakis, page 181) And just as Moses sat in judgment; now Christ “sits” in the cathedra where he teaches the Truth, which he is himself.

On the Sermon on the Mount, Christ begins his dialogue with the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are “the gateway to the Sermon on the Mount.” The Beatitudes are not just for different people who are seeking salvation. They are to be reached by all those who desire to follow Christ and the religious and moral outline that he sets forth. The Beatitudes are requirements for everyone who wishes to follow Christ. Each of the Beatitudes does not represent a single person, just like salvation is not meant for one person or a group of persons, but is available to all who follow Christ.

It must be understood that the Beatitudes are defined as eschatological [theology of the last things], since the promise of salvation lies in the world to come and not in this veil of tears. (Navarre Bible, page 56)  The Beatitudes are the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments, but unlike the Commandments of the Old Testament, the Beatitudes now give us the ability and potential in this world to be God-like.

Leiva-Merikakis states, “The Beatitudes are no longer now negative commands that forbid sin, as the first Decalogue largely was, in keeping with its nature as the minimum necessary to obey God.  The Beatitudes are the carta magna, as it were, that invites the poor mortals to be like God here…”

The promises laid down by Christ reach their apex in the Beatitudes. “In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating them and orientating them toward the “kingdom of heaven.” (CCC 1967)  We see in the Beatitudes the infancy outline of how to reach perfection in Christianity. In seeking out this perfection through the Beatitudes we are trying to imitate the behavior of the Divine, which will help us on our way to be happy, as God is happy. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Sources:

Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City , Vatican : Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Knecht, D. B. (2003). A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. Rockford, Ill: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.

Leiva-Merikakis, E. (1996). Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word . San Francisco, CA : Ignatius Press.

The Navarre Bible. (2000). St Matthew. Dublin , 8, Ireland : Four Courts Press

12 Great Quotes from Dei Verbum

Over the past three weeks, I have been teaching a course for the Diocese of Phoenix Diaconate Program titled, Scripture in the Life of the Church. One of the two documents we read and discussed is the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum.

I am no stranger to this document from Vatican II, since I have read it nearly ten times since the Fall of 2008. While in graduate school at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I read Dei Verbum at least five times for five different courses. If you ask any of my peers who studied with me during the years of 2008-2010, they will tell you the same thing, we read this document many times! It’s one of those great documents that should be read over and over again.

If you have not read it yet, please take the time to read it (it’s not very long). If you are fearful to read it in the case that you may not fully understand it, then seek out someone who has read it, so that they may explain the rich content within its pages. You will come to love the Sacred Scriptures more and have a passion to pray and study the Scriptures in your daily life.

Dei Verbum cover

Below are 12 great quotes from my studies. The number in the parentheses is the article number from the document.

1. “…This present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the messages of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love” (1).

2. “The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13)” (4).

3. “This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2)” (7).

4. “Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence” (9).

5. “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church…But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (10).

6. “…The books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself…the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation” (11).

7. “The plan of salvation foretold by the sacred authors, recounted and explained by them, is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament: these books, therefore, written under divine inspiration, remain permanently valuable…The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ…” (14-15).

8. “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (21).

9. “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (22).

10. “…And so the study of the sacred page is, as it were, the soul of sacred theology” (24).

11. “Therefore, all the clergy must hold fast to the Sacred Scriptures through diligent sacred reading and careful study, especially the priests of Christ and others, such as deacons and catechists who are legitimately active in the ministry of the word” (25).

12. “…Prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying” (25).

For more information on studying and praying with the Sacred Scriptures, please see the post, Scripture in the Life of the Church

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary, Mother of God’s Word’

As I was preparing to teach Section 1 of Pope Benedict’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, I read his striking words on how Mary play’s such an important part in knowing the deep realities of the Word of God. It is through her “Yes” that we come to know Jesus Christ and it is through her “Yes” that the new covenant begins. From the Annunciation to Pentecost Sunday, Mary is the obedient woman of faith always seeking and ready to do the will of God. She is open and prepared to hear the Word of God in her heart and mind.

As Catholics, we should always be striving to be more like Mary and her Fiat (“Yes”) towards God. The Church is first Marian before she is Petrine. Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “Before men were placed into office, the whole Church was present in Mary.” The Marian dimension allows the Petrine to exist in the Church.

I suggest you read and pray through the words of Pope Benedict XVI. He opens our hearts and minds to Mary and her relationship to the Word of God as he says,

“In our day the faithful need to be helped to see more clearly the link between Mary of Nazareth and the faith-filled hearing of God’s word. I would encourage scholars as well to study the relationship between Mariology and the theology of the word. This could prove most beneficial both for the spiritual life and for theological and biblical studies. Indeed, what the understanding of the faith has enabled us to know about Mary stands at the heart of Christian truth. The incarnation of the word cannot be conceived apart from the freedom of this young woman who by her assent decisively cooperated with the entrance of the eternal into time. Mary is the image of the Church in attentive hearing of the word of God, which took flesh in her. Mary also symbolizes openness to God and others; an active listening which interiorizes and assimilates, one in which the word becomes a way of life.

Here I would like to mention Mary’s familiarity with the word of God. This is clearly evident in the Magnificat. There we see in some sense how she identifies with the word, enters into it; in this marvelous canticle of faith, the Virgin sings the praises of the Lord in his own words: “The Magnificat – a portrait, so to speak, of her soul – is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the word of God; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.”

Mary Ponders The Word of God

Furthermore, in looking to the Mother of God, we see how God’s activity in the world always engages our freedom, because through faith the divine word transforms us. Our apostolic and pastoral work can never be effective unless we learn from Mary how to be shaped by the working of God within us: “devout and loving attention to the figure of Mary as the model and archetype of the Church’s faith is of capital importance for bringing about in our day a concrete paradigm shift in the Church’s relation with the word, both in prayerful listening and in generous commitment to mission and proclamation.”

As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives. Every Christian believer, Saint Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God: even though there is only one Mother of Christ in the flesh, in the faith Christ is the progeny of us all. Thus, what took place for Mary can daily take place in each of us, in the hearing of the word and in the celebration of the sacraments.”

If you have been reading “Mondays with Mary” over the weeks in September, October, and November, you would have seen what Pope Benedict XVI asks for in this section. He says, “I would encourage scholars as well to study the relationship between Mariology and the theology of the word. This could prove most beneficial both for the spiritual life and for theological and biblical studies.”

By no means am I a biblical scholar, but I have tried to provide my readers with an understanding between Mariology and the theology of the word in the blog posts about Mary in the Old Testament and New Testament. If you have not read these previous posts, it’s my hope that you can read them soon.

Mary’s role in Salvation History is fundamentally important for the life of the Church, however, her role in relation to the Word of God is just as important. Next time you read the Scriptures on our own, read them in the daily missal at Mass, or just listen to them at Mass, ask that the Blessed Mother help you to take the Word of God to your heart and say – “Yes!”

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant

Not excluding the Esheth Yahil (Woman of Valor) from Proverbs 31 and next weeks “Mondays with Mary”, Mary as the Ark of the Covenant has to be one of the greatest Old Testament types of Mary.

Ark of the CovenantThe original Ark of the Covenant was the sacred chest that contained the presence of God for the Israelites. The Ark was two and half cubits (3.75 feet, 1.1 meters) in length and one and one half cubits (1.5 feet, 0.5 meters) in height and width. The Ark was built from acacia wood and covered inside and out with gold platting. On the corners were golden rings so that poles made from acacia wood and gilded with gold could be inserted in order to carry the ark without it being touched. The lid was made of a solid slab of gold. The gold slab formed the mercy seat and on either side was two cherubim angels made from gold and facing one another. God gave the description and “blue prints” of how the Ark of the Covenant was to be built (read Exodus 25:10-22).

The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments, which were written on stone tablets. These were the second version of the tablets (read Deuteronomy 10:5) since Moses destroyed the first tablets, the ones God divinely carved, when he threw them at the Golden Calf. Also in the Ark was a gold vessel (similar to a ciborium) that held the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert (read Exodus 16:34), and the staff of Aaron that blossomed (read Hebrews 9:4).

The Ark of the Covenant was the visible sign of God’s presence and protection among the sons and daughters of Israel. A cloud, which also represented God’s presence, would overshadow the Ark. This cloud became known as the “shekinah” which means “Divine Presence” or “Divine Glory.”

In the New Testament, Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth, becomes the New Ark of the Covenant. The New Covenant (Testament) is a covenant that is everlasting between God and all of humanity through the person of Jesus Christ. Mary becomes the sacred vessel for she is immaculately created by God to carry God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Mary is the Theotokos – she is the God-Bearer.

Mary as New Ark of the Covenant - Icon

Just as the original Ark was layered with gold, a precious metal that does not fade, so Mary the new Ark of the covenant through her Immaculate Conception would not fade. At the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, just as the “shekinah” overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the articles that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant. He is the New Law (Beatitudes) that fulfills the Old Law, the Ten Commandments. He is the fulfillment of the manna that came down from heaven that fed the Israelites. Jesus is the living bread that came down from heaven (see John 6:51) to feed all of us with his Holy Eucharist (read John 6:22-71). He is the fulfillment of the staff of Aaron because Aaron was the first high priest of the Levitical Priesthood. Jesus is the Eternal and Royal High Priest.

In his essay, The Mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament, Fr. Stefano Manelli, F.I, states,

“…Mary is she “who bears in herself not the word of God written ‘on stone’ (the tablets of the Law), but the very Word of God, the Logos, made flesh, become her son; who carries in herself ‘not the flowering rod of Aaron, but the flower of Jesse’; who carries in herself not the manna, figure of the Eucharist, but the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Eucharistic Christ, adored by the golden cherubim!”

As the Ark of the Covenant was a sign of God’s protection in the Old Testament for the Israelites, and was carried into battle at times, so too the New Ark of the Covenant, should be a true sign of God’s presence in the world and protecting the Church militant here on Earth as we battle Satan, the evil he proposes, and those who attack the Catholic Church.

Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant…Pray For Us!

Sources:

Hahn, Scott, Catholic Bible Dictionary. Doubleday Religion, 2009.

Miravalle, Mark, Introduction to Mary. Queenship Publishing, 2006.

Miravalle, Mark, Mariology – A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Seat of Wisdom Books – Queenship Publishing, 2007.

Scripture in the Life of the Church

This past Tuesday, I began teaching a five-week course titled, “Scripture in the Life of the Church” for a cohort of men in the Diaconate Program here in the Diocese of Phoenix. The main two documents we are studying and discussing are: Dei Verbum, The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini.  I have read both of these documents numerous times and think they are fantastic texts. Anyone serious about the Sacred Scriptures should read them.

As I was preparing my lesson plan for the first class, it hit me that writing a blog post on the importance of the scriptures and providing good faithful Scripture studies and texts on the Scriptures would not only be timely this week, but beneficial as well.

Reading, studying, and praying the Sacred Scriptures is fundamental for any good Christian. The two aforementioned documents and Providentissimus Deus, a biblical document written by Pope Leo XIII all say the soul of sacred theology is the sacred page. The Sacred Scriptures are the life-giving principal of theology!

In Providentissimus Deus, Leo says, “It is extremely desirable and even necessary that the use of Scripture influence the whole of the study of theology, becoming, as it were, its soul.” Sometime after Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the Papacy, a reporter asked him what subject should a seminarian study first, his reply, the Holy Scriptures.

As Christians, but specifically us in the Catholic tradition, should be reading the Scriptures more and more each day, for it was the Catholic Church that gathered the sacred books and developed the Canon (collection of books in the Bible) that we have today. The Holy Bible is ours. We should know it the best!

Not only should we study the Scriptures, but we need to pray with them as well. Dei Verbum states, “…prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and man may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine saying” (#25). This is commonly known as Lectio Divina.

Furthermore, Verbum Domini states, “The Synod frequently insisted on the need for a prayerful approach to the sacred text as a fundamental element in the spiritual life of every believer…”(#86). St. Augustine of Hippo says, “Your prayer is the word you speak to God. When you read the Bible, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to God.”

The great early Church Father and Doctor of the Church, Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Simply put, if you don’t know the Scriptures then you don’t know Jesus Christ.

The studies and texts below have been collected from my own experiences reading, studying, and praying the Sacred Scriptures. Please feel free to add to my list in the comment box.

Catholic Bible Studies:

1. The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology – Genesis to Jesus and other Bible Studies – Scott Hahn

2. The Great Adventure Bible Timeline – Jeff Cavins 

3. Cor Ardens Catholic Scripture Study – Gayle Somers

4. The Sacred Page – Michael Barber, Brant Pitre, and John Bergsma 

5. JohnBergsma.com

6. Defenders of the Catholic Faith – Steve Ray

7. Catholic Scripture Study International – Gayle Buckley

8. Logos Bible Software – Verbum

Biblical Texts:

  1. The Holy Bible – Revised Standard Edition, Second Catholic Edition, Ignatius Press
  2. The Catholic Church and the Bible – Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ignatius Press
  3. Catholic Bible Dictionary – Scott Hahn, Doubleday Religion
  4. Making Sense Out of Scripture – Mark P. Shea, Basilica Press
  5. Scripture in the Tradition – Henri De Lubac, Herder & Herder
  6. Jesus of Nazareth, Parts 1, 2 & 3 – Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press
  7. The Meaning of Tradition – Yves Congar, O.P., Ignatius Press
  8. Praying the Bible – Mariano Magrassi, The Liturgical Press
  9. The Navarre Bible Biblical Commentaries, Four Courts Press
  10. A Father Who Keeps His Promises – Scott Hahn, Servant Publications
  11.  A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture – Bishop Frederick Justus Kneght, D.D. (from the 16th German Edition), Tan Books and Publishers
  12.  Inside the Bible: An Introduction to Each Book of the Bible – Kenneth Baker, S.J., Ignatius Press
  13.  A Primer on Divine Revelation – Rev. Dwight P. Campbell, Scepter Publishers, Inc
  14. Where We Got the Bible, Our Debt to the Catholic Church – Henry G. Graham, Catholic Answers

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the Old Testament, Part 3

Today, we continue with the third part of Mary in the Old Testament. In the month of September, we looked at Mary in the Old Testament in two parts – part 1 and part 2. Both of these blog posts focused on the women of the Old Testament and how Mary fulfills each of these women in the New Testament. If you have not read parts 1 and 2, I would suggest clicking on the links provided and read through them before reading part 3.

As with these blog posts, you will need your Holy Bible, so make sure it’s accessible.

The types of Mary below weren’t just thought up in the past few hundred years of Church History, but they find their origin with the early Church Fathers. The early Church Fathers are the key to truly understanding Catholicism. If you have never read any of the early Church Fathers, I would suggest reading about them as soon as possible. I have written on quite a few of them here. I would also suggest Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his book, The Church Fathers, as a starting point as well.

1. Mary as the Ark of Noah (Read Genesis 6:9) – Just as the Ark of Noah escaped the floodwaters that flooded the earth because of the sin of man, so too, does Mary escape the effects of sin in her Immaculate Conception.

2. Mary as Jacob’s Ladder (Read Genesis 28:12) – Just as in the dream of Jacob (who would become Israel), Jacob’s ladder reached from earth into Heaven. On the ladder were the angels ascending and descending from Heaven. Mary is seen as Jacob’s Ladder because she intercedes for those here on earth from Heaven.

3. Mary as the Burning Bush of Moses (Read Genesis 3:1) – When God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai, the fire did not consume the bush. There is a twofold fulfillment here when it comes to Mary. First, the bush held the presence of God, as it is with Mary; she carried God within her womb. God was physically present in Mary. Second, the material of the burning bush did not burn or corrupt. The effects of original sin did not corrupt Mary’s material body.

Mary with Child - light

4. Mary as the Tower of David (Read Song of Solomon 4:4, 12) – In the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon (also known as Canticle of Canticles), we read about the impenetrable Tower of David. Mary is seen as the Tower of David because the tower was an enclosed and inviolable garden, which mirrors her purity and perpetual virginity.

5. Mary as the Temple of God (Read 1 Kings 8) – The Temple of God, which was built by King Solomon, the son of King David, represented the sanctified (holy) house of God. Mary is seen as a Temple because she would be the tabernacle personified. She carried in her womb the presence of God. When the Israelites traveled in the desert for 40 years long before the Temple was built, the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the presence of God, was kept in the Tabernacle, which means, “tent.” Next week, we will focus on Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant.

On a side note, Jesus is the one who is fulfillment of the Temple – See the Gospel in Readings for the Third Sunday of Lent.

6. Mary as the “Seat of Wisdom” (Read Wisdom of Solomon 7,8 [9-12 if you have time]) – In the book of Wisdom, the term – created wisdom, was written in the feminine gender. This is seen as the foreshadowing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the great “Seat of Wisdom.”  [Connections to Esheth Yahil or “Woman of Valor” in Proverbs 31] More to come on this topic in 2 weeks!

Source:

Miravalle, Mark. Introduction to Mary. Queenship Publishing, 2006. 

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 2

Continuing with last week’s theme, Mary in the New Testament, this week we will focus on the Mary in the Redemption of Jesus Christ and her role in the life of the Church. For a recap of last week, I would suggest reading, “Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 1.

For this blog post, you will need your Bibles, so make sure you have it next to you.

1. The Wedding Feast of Cana (Read John 2:1-10)

The Wedding Feast of Cana has a dual meaning. First, we clearly see the maternal mediation of the Blessed Mother and her relationship with Jesus Christ. As you know, the wedding that Jesus, Mary, and some of the Apostles attend happens to run out of wine. The Mother of Jesus, Mary, intercedes for the couple giving the grace of Jesus Christ (her role as Mediatrix begins to develop here) through the miracle of turning water into wine. She is the Maternal Mediator at the wedding, and during the Crucifixion of Jesus, she will become the Maternal Mediator for all of humanity.

The second meaning behind this miracle (and grace flows from it) is that it’s the first public miracle of Jesus Christ. When Jesus says, “O Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come”, he is essentially saying two things. First, using the term “Woman” is not meant to be demeaning. He is simply connecting Mary with the “Woman” in Genesis 3:15, the same “Woman” who would be at his side at Calvary in John 19:25 and the “Woman” who would be crowned and glorified in Heaven as the Queen of Heaven and Earth in Revelation.

Second, the question he asks is in reference to Calvary. Jesus is saying that if he performs this public miracle, his public mission and the path to Calvary begins. Mary’s “Do whatever he tells you” is her response and readiness to walk with Jesus Christ to Calvary. This would begin the redemption of mankind and Christ as the “Suffering Servant” prophesied in Isaiah (Is 52:13-53:12).

2. Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Read John 19:25-27)

The famous words of Jesus while suffering on the Cross-to Mary and John establish for all of humanity the relationship that we would have with Her for all time. At the point when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son…Behold, your mother”, symbolically through the disciple John, Mary becomes the Spiritual Mother for all humanity. She is the spiritual gift personally given by Jesus Christ himself to every human person – believer or non-believer. The “beloved disciple” from that moment on takes Mary into his home and treats her as his own mother. We too must invite Mary into our “homes” and allow her to be our mother. The devotion the Catholic Church has to the Blessed Virgin Mary developed from the households of Saint John.

For a deeper understanding of Mary’s role in the “Wedding Feast of Cana” and “Mary at the Foot of the Cross”, please read, The Queenship of Mary: Advocate, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix and “Mondays with Mary” – ‘Leads Us to Jesus’ (Pope Benedict’s Homily at Altötting).

Pentecost - Eastern Icon

3. The Presence of Mary in the Upper Room (Read Acts 1:13-2:4)

After Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, we see Mary in the Upper Room waiting with the Apostles for the Coming of the Holy Sprit, Mary’s divine spouse. She is the central figure in the Upper Room as well in the life of the infant Church. As she held the infant Jesus in her arms, close to her heart, and feeding him, she holds the infant Church in the same respect. “Mary, the Mother of Jesus” is the nurturer of the early Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. For a more on Mary in the Life of the Church, please read “Mondays with Mary” – Mary is the Church on Pentecost.

4. Pauline Reference of Galatians 4:4 (Read Galatians 4:4)

In Galatians 4:4, Saint Paul tells us the Savior was “born of a woman.” With this statement, the Apostle to the Gentiles gives testimony to Mary’s Divine Motherhood. God the Father sends his only begotten son to redeem all of humanity through Mary. When he says, “born of woman”, St. Paul is stating that Mary is the “Woman” in the Scriptures who works with and under (“co” – not equal to) the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to obtain “adoptive” sons and daughters through the “Spirit of the Father.” They all cry out, “Abba, Father.” Abba in the Hebrew language means “Daddy.”

5. The Woman Clothed with the Sun (Read Revelation 12:1)

Here we see the “Woman” clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars. The “Woman” is in battle with the ancient foe, Satan. The “Woman” refers to Mary because Mary only gives her birth to the male child and he will have the scepter of ruling the people. Mary is the Mother of the Church, but uniquely is Mother of Jesus.

First, being “clothed with sun” means that she is veiled in intimacy with the Son. Second, the “moon under her feet” means that the moon reflects the light of the sun without being its source and without the dulling the rays (Saint Bernard). She is not the source of the light, but its reflection. This is the perfect image of our Lady.

Third, she is crowned with 12 stars. She is the Queen Mother of the male-child who will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (scepter). The 12 Tribes of Jacob who were ruled by King David are fulfilled in the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, the new David and fulfillment of the Davidic Kingdom. Fourth, the battle with Satan is the cosmic battle for souls. Mary is God’s greatest creature and Satan is his most despised creature, just like in Genesis 3:15. There is complete enmity!

Although Mary ‘s role seems to be minimal in the writings of the New Testament, she plays a major role in the salvation and redemption of humanity as Maternal Mediator, Advocate, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix of All Graces. The Blessed Virgin, the spouse of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to our understanding of Jesus Christ. She is our Mother! We must behold her each day in our homes and most especially, in our hearts.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary in the New Testament, Part 1

Recently I gave a talk at a parish here in the Phoenix Metropolitan area that focused on the Person of the Jesus Christ. One of the points I made is that the Old Testament points directly to Jesus Christ. If you read the Scriptures correctly and through the eyes of the Church, there are many prophesies in the Old Testament fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Although Mary’s role in the Scriptures of the New Testament is smaller than Jesus, she is always there and the focus is on Him, however, the role she does play is fundamental to Salvation History. Her activities in the Incarnation and Redemption of Jesus Christ are essential and continue after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven through the teachings of the Church and her appearances in apparitions.

Since we are still in the Month of the Rosary, we will focus on Mary being active in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ for this week. These five events should sound familiar if you pray the Holy Rosary, for they are the Joyful Mysteries. Next week, we will focus on the Mary in the Redemption of Jesus Christ.

For this blog post, you will need your Bibles, so make sure you have it next to you.

1. The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (Read LK 1:26-38) 

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” The Annunciation is when the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary to announce to the Virgin of Nazareth that she will bear and conceive a son and name him Jesus. It is here at the Annunciation that Mary gives her “fiat” or “let it be done to me.” Her role as Co-Redemptrix begins here and is brought to fulfillment at Calvary. For more on the Annunciation, please read “Mondays with Mary” – Benedict XVI on the Annunciation of the Lord.

2. The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Read Lk 1:39-56)

Mary quickly departs for the hill country, very similar to King David in the Old Testament, where she goes to serve her cousin, Elizabeth. Two major events of grace occur when she goes to Elizabeth. First, Elizabeth declares by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Mary is the Mother of her Lord and the child in womb leapt for joy. Second, the same Holy Spirit inspires Mary to declare her “Magnificat” or song of praise. For more on the Visitation, please read “Mondays with Mary” – The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Magnificat.

3. The Nativity of Jesus (Read Lk 2:4-20)

Mary “brought fourth her first-born Son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes” (Lk 2:7). In a cave, in Bethlehem (“house of bread”), Mary gives birth to God the Son. The second person of the Trinity becomes incarnate – “The Word Became Flesh!  God himself becomes Man.

4. The Presentation of the Infant Jesus to the Temple (Read Lk 2:22-39)

To fulfill the Jewish law, Jesus, being only eight days old, is presented in the Temple as Jesus would be presented at Calvary upon the cross. We see at the Presentation in the Temple the beginning of the Immaculate and sorrowful heart of Mary through the prophetic words of Simeon – “And a sword will pierce your own heart too” (Lk 2:35).  For more information, please read “Mondays with Mary” – The Immaculate Heart of Mary.

5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Read Lk 2:41-52)

After searching through the caravan of family and friends for three days, Mary and Joseph return to Jerusalem and find the child in the Temple talking with the priests and scholars. The three days foreshadow his time in the tomb. After Mary asks Jesus where he was, his reply is, “I must be about my Father’s business” (Lk 2:49). The gospel writer, St. Luke, tells us that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Because Mary is free of original sin, she has an infused knowledge to know the will of God (just like Adam and Eve before the Fall). She can fully reflect on the activities of her Son and truly hold them in her heart.

Source:

Miravalle, Mark. Introduction to Mary. Queenship Publishing, 2006.

12 Points about Saint Luke the Evangelist and His Accounts

1. He was a Gentile (Greek) from Antioch.

2. He was a companion to St. Paul and traveled with him during the Caesarean and Roman persecutions and imprisonments.

3. He was an educated physician whom St. Paul refers to as “Luke the Beloved Physician” (Col 4:14).

4. He is the author of the Gospel that bears his name. It is dedicated to Theophilus, a convert to Christianity and possibly a Roman Aristocrat that financed Luke to write down his accounts. His target audience for the Gospel was Gentile Christians.

5. His authorship of the Gospel is affirmed by Tradition as well as by the Muratorian Canon, Tertullian, Origen, St. Irenaeus, St. Jerome, and St. Eusebius.

6. The theme of his Gospel is a Universal Message of Salvation for all, not just the chosen people. This begins in Jerusalem and spreads throughout the world.

st luke icon

7. He is one of the three Synoptic (“seeing together”) Gospel Writers. St. Matthew and St. Mark are the other two.

8. Although his Gospel account as similarities with St. Matthew and St. Mark, St. Luke gives us a detailed account of the Infancy Narratives. More than likely, St. Luke had personal contact with the mother of Jesus and received his information from her.

9. Other themes stressed in the Gospel of Luke: Mercy of God, Mercy and Concern for the Poor, Oppressed, and Care and Respect for Women.

10. He is also the author of Acts of the Apostles.

11. The theme of Acts of the Apostles is the reliable history of the first 30 years of the Church from the Ascension of Jesus to St. Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. The first part is about St. Peter and second part is about St. Paul.

12. Both the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles were written in the early 60’s A.D. (63-65 A.D.) in the Greek language. His accounts are the most literary and most historical.

Sources:

Hahn, Scott, Catholic Bible Dictionary. Doubleday, 2009.

Socias, Rev. James, Introduction to Catholicism. Midwest Theological Forum, 2002.

Saint Jerome – “Father of Biblical Science”

Today we celebrate the memorial one of the great Early Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Saint Jerome. He is known as the “Father of Biblical Science” for it was he who translated the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament to what we know as the Latin Vulgate.

His famous words when speaking about the relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures should ring loud in our ears, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” If you don’t know the Holy Scriptures, then you don’t know Jesus Christ. For more teachings from Saint Jerome, read the complementary post, The Words of Saint Jerome.

Saint Jerome was born in Dalmatia, Italy in the year 342. His father was responsible for his early education, which consisted of religion and the humane letters. After his studies at home, he was sent to Rome to continue his education. While in Rome, Jerome studied under the great pagan grammarian, Donatus. He was gifted in languages and quickly picked up Latin and Greek, where he was proficient in reading and writing.

However, after his studies under the pagan, although he wasn’t completely lost, Jerome did lose some of his morality and virtues that were taught to him as a boy. The one positive thing outside of his studies was his baptism in Rome. After three years in Rome, along with his friend, Bonosus, Jerome traveled to Trier. During his time in Trier, his heart was awakened to God and the religious spirit that would become his life was born.

After spending time in Aquileia with a group of clergymen for a few years, Jerome met an Eastern priest of Antioch, by the name of Evagrius, who introduced him to the East. In 374, Jerome arrived in Antioch with two friends, but was found to have a rather strong virus. His two friends died from the illness. At one point from the sickness, he fell into a state where he was before the judgment seat of Christ. This experience made a lasting impression on him. For the first four years in the Antioch region, he remained in poor health and was often tempted by struggles of the flesh.

During this time in Antioch, there were some disputed doctrinal and disciplinary disagreements occurring that caused schism. Although Jerome was persuaded to join one side or the other, he remained neutral. He decided to write to Pope Damascus for answers. Not receiving an answer the first time, he wrote another letter. Damascus wrote back after the second letter, but the content of his letter is not fully disclosed. In the end, Paulinus became bishop of Antioch and Jerome received the order of priesthood from him, although he never celebrated the Holy Eucharist nor wanted to be ordained. He said his only vocation is to be a monk or recluse.

He eventually left Antioch and traveled to Constantinople where he studied the Holy Scriptures under St. Gregory Nazianzen. When St. Gregory departed from Constantinople, Jerome left for Rome in 382. Along with Paulinus of Antioch and St. Epiphanius, he attended a council declared by Pope Damascus to correct the schisms in Antioch. After the council concluded, Jerome stayed in Rome and became secretary to the Pope.

While in Rome, Jerome did some marvelous things but was also attacked by a variety of people, especially the pagans whom he condemned quite frequently. He was outspoken and had a sarcastic wit that turned some people off. Although his personal holiness was an example to all, he did face false scandalous gossip when it came to some of the women he ministered. Anything that could be brought against Jerome to persecute him was found – his smile, his walk, his personality, and his simplicity. The majority of his troubles came after the death of Pope Damascus, who protected him as his secretary.  After enduring many persecutions, he left Rome and returned to the East.

St. Jerome

While back in Antioch, he was rejoined by St. Paula, Eustochium, and other Roman women that left to be with him in exile. Along with the help of Paula’s generosity, a monastery for men was built near the basilica of the Nativity of Bethlehem as well as some buildings for the women in the vicinity. Jerome chose to live separately in a cell that was created from a cave near Bethlehem. He also opened a school and a hospice in and around the area. It was during this time in Bethlehem that Jerome learned the Hebrew language. He developed study groups with some of the women teaching them the Holy Scriptures. These could be considered the first “bible studies.”

The years ahead were somewhat peaceful for Jerome, but since he was such a faithful Christian and obedient to the teachings of the Church, he could not stand back when Christian doctrine was attacked. He fought against Helvidius and Jovinian, who attacked the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. He wrote three letters to Jovinian, two that were harsh and derogatory, and the third was an apology for his harshness.

He also engaged Vigilantius, a Gallo-Roman priest who opposed celibacy and condemned the veneration of relics. From 395-400, Jerome took on Origenism. Writers began to use him more, but Jerome was completely opposed to the works since his texts brought confusion and scandal to some in the East. He even had a disagreement with St. Augustine of Hippo over the exegesis of St. Paul’s second chapter in the letter to the Galatians, but the disagreement was quietly settled through Augustine’s pastoral nature.

Saint Jerome did many great things throughout his life and defended the doctrines of the Church, often with great zeal, but his most spectacular contribution to the Catholic Church is the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into the Latin Vulgate. While in Rome and working for Pope Damascus, he began the translation of the gospels, the psalms in the Old Latin text, and then the rest of the New Testament.

While in Bethlehem, after learning Hebrew, he then translated the books of the Old Testament beginning with the book of Kings. He translated the rest of the books over time as well. He chose to translate the Psalms again using Origen’s, Hexapla, and the Hebrew text. The Latin Vulgate (vulgar – common Latin that differs from Classical Latin and Ecclesiastical Latin which common people could understand) became the official Church translation of the Holy Scriptures and remained so for many centuries.

After years of defending the faith, watching his friends die later in life, and seeing the rise of the Pelagians who attacked monks and nuns, Saint Jerome, worn out by life, with his voice and eyesight failing, died a peaceful death and entered Heavenly glory on September 30, 420. His body is now buried under St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

Source:

Walsh, Michael, Butler’s Lives of the Saints. HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.