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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Gospel of John and a New Creation

In the Gospel of John, we see in the first chapter, three times in a row, John using the phrase "the next day" then in John chapter 2 he says, "on the third day". Now while we might be tempted to just read over these, but they are significant. If you add up the days it equals 7 days.

We see here a recreation theme going on. This is how this plays itself out in the text:

  • The gospel of John begins - "in the beginning" and has an introduction about the eternity of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist. This introduction is the first day.
  • Then on the "next day," John calls Jesus the "lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This is the second day.
  • Then on the "next day," which is the third day, Jesus chooses his first disciples.
  • Then on the "next day," Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel. This is the 4th day.
  • Finally, in John Chapter 2 is the wedding feast at Cana, which begins "on the third day". Well, the third day from the fourth day is the seventh day.
It is appropriate for the wedding to be on the seventh day, a covenant is being made between a man and a woman on the same day that God would make his covenant with Adam and Eve.

I also found more evidence of a recreation theme inside each one of those days as well.

  • The Gospel of John opens in verses 4 and 5 and says that Jesus was the light of men and in verse 5 that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
    - This is an echo of the first day of Creation when God made light and separated the light from the darkness.
  • Now when it says in John 1: 29 "on the next day" it talks about being baptized with water and the spirit coming out of the heaven.
    - Back in Genesis on the second day God separated the waters below, from the sky above.
  • On the third day, when Jesus calls his first disciples, he renamed Simon - Peter or Rock.
    - In Genesis on the third day is when God made the dry land appear.
  • On the fourth day, when Jesus meets Nathanael and Philip, Jesus says to Nathanael - "Truly, Truly I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
    - In Genesis on the 4th day - God fills the heaven with the sun, moon, and stars. And stars are symbols for angels as St. John tells us in his other book, the book of Revelation - Revelation 12:4: "the dragons tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth" - which is interpreted in Revelation 12: 9 - "and the great dragon was thrown down that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan, he was thrown down to the earth and his angels with him."
  • Finally, in John 2 when it says "on the third day" which in John's chronology is the seventh day, we see Jesus at a wedding, just like Adam and Eve made a covenant with God on the seventh day.
    - In John 2 it says "on the third day." It is pointing forward as well to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and ultimately to our own resurrection on the last day when we will enter the new creation of the new heavens and the new earth.

Oh, and there is more!

In John Chapter 2 when it says "on the third day," we have calculated that it is also the seventh day. In the Old Testament, there was a ritual that was to take place on both the third day and the seventh day.
In Numbers Chapter 19, it talks about being ritually unclean if you have come in contact with any dead body. You would have to wash with water on the third day and the seventh day. Only after that could you rejoin the community for public worship.

I believe that by Jesus taking this water at the wedding at Cana, he was using it to reinstate those people who had been defiled by touching the dead in the sense that we are all "spiritually" dead. Jesus, by making the water into wine, is pointing us to the Eucharist that would bring us life. He is prefiguring here the Eucharistic cup which is "the best wine" that the bridegroom gives his guests at the wedding feast.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

- An Addition to the Below Post -

Just heard you (Matt Swaim) and Dan Egan on the four elements in the Gospel according to Mark: Take, Bless, Break, Eat.

Those are the four Dominical Elements of the Mass as well, and hence proper to the priest: He TAKES the bread and BLESSES it, BREAKS it and the EATS it.

Hence why only the priest is able to take the Consecrated Species off of the altar to give it to the community. Thought you might enjoy one more connection between Mass and the Scriptures.
- Father Kyle Schnippel

Director of Vocations
Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cool Markan Tidbits

This liturgical year we are hearing from the Gospel of Mark. So I have been doing a little work on some literary tidbits that might shed light on the Gospel of Mark.

- Book Ends -
There are these bookends that give us the theme of Mark's Gospel. At the Baptism of Jesus and at the Crucifixion we see 5 things. I quote the Baptism verses and the Crucifixion verses at the end of the 5.

#1 Jesus links his baptism with his crucifixion. evidence of this is in:
Mark 10:38-39 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" 39 And they said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
Luke 12:50 "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!

#2 We see at both his Baptism and Crucifixion that there is a confession that Jesus is the Son of God, first by God the Father and then by the Roman Centurion.

#3 We see at both his baptism and crucifixion that there is a tearing first of heaven, and then of the Temple curtain - they were both torn (Gk: skizoed) - or torn open or opened.

#4 Finally Both the confession of the sonship of Jesus and heaven opening originate from heaven at the Baptism, but at the crucifixion they are done here on earth (the centurion confessing, and the temple curtain ripping), so a movement from heaven to earth.

Now reread these sections of Mark with these things in mind and you will see how loaded these few passages are.
Baptism of Jesus
Mark 1:9-11 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; 11 and a voice came from heaven, "Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased."
Mark 15:37-39 And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

- Multiplication of the Loaves outlined -
1 - Feeding of the Five Thousand (6:31-44) Feeding of the Four Thousand (8:1-9)
2 - Crossing the Lake (6:45 - 52) Crossing the Lake (8:10a)
3 - Landing at Gennesaret (6:53 - 56) Landing at Dalmanthu (8:10b)
4 - Controversy with Pharisees (7:1-23) Controversy with Pharisees (8:11-13)
5 - Dialogue with Syro-Phoenician Dialogue with disciples about the bread
woman about bread (7:24-30) miracles (8:14-21)
6 - Cure of deaf-mute (7:31-37) Cure of a blind man (8:22-26)
(From the Jerome Biblical Commentary - I don't recommend it)

- Took - Blessed - Broke - Gave -
Both multiplication of the Loaves stories have Jesus doing these 4 verbs - taking the bread, blessing (giving thanks) over it, braking it, and giving it to his disciple to give to everyone else.
These same 4 verbs are used at the Last Supper with the Eucharist. Linking the miraculous nature of the multiplication of the loaves with that of the Eucharistic Supper.

My friend Brad Elliot pointed out to me that these 4 words are Incarnational as well, and are a summery of the Gospel. How Jesus takes on humanity, blesses it with his divinity, brakes it on the cross, and then gives himself to us in the Eucharist.
- Markan Sandwiches -

A Markan Sandwich is a literary technique where Mark interrupts a story with what appears to be an unrelated story, but of course they are related.
A few examples:
The healing of Jairus's daughter in Mark 5: 21-43
He is asked to come heal this little girl
On the way this lady touches his garment and is healed.
He continues on his way to heal Jairus's daughter.

Jesus and the two kingdoms Mark 6: 7 - 31
Jesus send out the 12 apostles
Herod puts John the Baptist to death
The apostles return from being sent out.
I will add to this list later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fishers and Shepherds of Men

You know, there are some phrases that we hear so often we never stop to ponder their meaning or where they come from. In the Gospel of Mark this year we will hear the phrase "fishers of men."

This idea "fishing for men" comes originally from Jeremiah 16 - The context is that the 12 tribes of Israel are scattered among the nations and are there in bondage, just like they were in Egypt. So God is planning a new Exodus to bring them out of the nations which will be greater than when he brought them out of Egypt.

Jeremiah 16:14-21 14 However, days will surely come, says the LORD, when it will no longer be said, "As the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of Egypt";
15 but rather, "As the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of the north and out of all the countries to which he had banished them." I will bring them back to the land which I gave their fathers.
16 Look! I will send many fishermen, says the LORD, to catch them....
19 O LORD, my strength, my fortress, my refuge in the day of distress! To you will the nations come from the ends of the earth

Not only are the Israelites coming back to the Lord from the nations, but the nations are coming to the Lord as well. So with the return of the Israelites come the return of the nations back to the Lord.

When the disciples hear Jesus say to them, "I will make you fishers of men", we do not know if Jeremiah's statements would have instantly flashed in their minds. But one thing is sure; Jesus, in using the phrase "fishers of men", is doing far more than merely alluding to the occupation of the men he is calling to follow Him. By using an old testament image He is announcing the fulfillment of this image in His mission, as being a new Moses with a new exodus, drawing all nations out of the slavery of sin and into the new promise land of God's Kingdom.
Jeremiah presents another image that our Lord draws on.

Through Jeremiah the Lord promises to give the people new shepherds that the Lord will use to guide not only Israel out of the nations back to the promised land but also the nations as well.

Jeremiah 23:1 Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.
2 Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
3 I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply.

So here the Lord is removing the old shepherds namely the Scribes and pharisees and is replacing them with the apostles - he continues...

4 I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
5 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.

This righteous shoot is Jesus of course

6 In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: "The LORD our righteousness."
7 Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD, when they shall no longer say, "As the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt";
8 but rather, "As the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north"-- and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own land.

So Just like in Jeremiah 16, we see here in Jeremiah 23 the foreshadowings of a new exodus.
Jesus links these two images of fishing and shepherding in the Gospel of John in a round about way.

In the whole of John 21 we see the apostles going back to fishing. While doing that they see Jesus on the shore who instructs them where to catch a large number of fish. They catch a ton and realize that it is Jesus who is on the shore and so Peter jumps in the water and then eats fish with Jesus and while there Jesus asks Peter three times - do you love me? and with each response Jesus is instituting his office of chief shepherd when he says - feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep this of course is fulfilling Jeremiah 23.

Another cool tidbit is that while the apostles are fishing and catching nothing Jesus says - cast you nets over there and then Peter hauls in 153 fish.

St. Jerome tells us that at his time Greek zoologists had identified 153 different kinds of fish. Meaning that men from every nation would be called to be saved. It is also important to know that it is Peter alone who hauls in the fishing net, and that the net is not torn though under great strain. The Greek word for torn here is skizo where we get the word schism, So we see am image of the end times when all nations will be brought to the Lord through the net of Peter without schism.

Homework: Read Mark in preparation for the upcoming liturgical year.