A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for July, 2014

Did I say that?

Stop and think about this for awhile.  When was the last time that you were truly embarrassed?  For me, it was the time that I said something which I shouldn’t have said.  The person who had been the object of my criticicism had gotten wind  of my comment long before I was able to confront the individual.  But the harm had already been done.  It was then that I began to realize the power of the word.  I’m told that words are the extension of the person.  A serious topic for serious reflection.

In the the first reading for the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Isaiah 55:10-11), we are reminded of the power of the word.  The prophet Isaiah makes it clear that AS the rain and the snow accomplish their task (fertility) when they come from the heavens to the earth, SO the word of God will accomplish what it is supposed to do.

We can see exanples of this in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).  In the Genesis creation account we read, “And God SAID ‘Let there be….”  And it was so.  God speaks and creation takes place.  An example of the power of the word.

The Hebrew equivalent of “word” is DABAR, which can mean either either “word” or “deed.”  The book of Deuteronomy begins  “These are the words (DEBARIM) that Moses spoke to all Israel…” (Deuteronomy 1:1)  The words depict God’s saving history of Israel including the comments of God and the actions of the people.  These words expressed the reality of what was an ongoing dialogue.

In the New Testament, John the Evangelist begins his Gospel, “In the beginning was the WORD and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God…) (John 1:1) John, of course, was speaking of Jesus.  “And the WORD became flesh…”  (John 1:14)  Divinity became human in the person of Jesus.  Another illustration of the power of the word.

What can we learn from this reading from Isaiah?  First of all, it is important to note that words have power.  This means especially that we have to be careful of what we say to and about others.  Gossip is a trap into which we must not fall.  Remember that words are extensions of people, so that people can know something about us by what we say.  Indeed, the word does have power.

Secondly,  prayer and Scripture are two good ways to keep the dialogue with God going.  Keep in mind that prayers are always answered, even though it may not be the answer we want.  The answers might be “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”  The dialogue, however,  continues as we try to figure out what our answer means.

Scripture has become a crucial liturgical experience.  It demands the same kind of attention as does the Eucharist at Mass.  Reading, hearing, and reflecting on the sacred Word enables us to enter into deeper dialogue with God, because in dialogue hearing and understanding are more important that speaking.  What is important, above all, is to realize that words have power no matter how we use them.


What’s in a name?

For many years one’s name was considered to be very important, precisely because the name stood for the person.  I suspect that throughout history the classic example for illustrating this was the Bible.  For example, Mary Magdalen was from a town called Magdala.  When the name was common (as “Mary” was) then the place of birth served as further identification to avoid confusion.

However, it is highly probable that the quintessential illustration for the name representing the person is the name of JESUS.  The name comes from the Hebrew word for “savior,” for that is what he did.  In the story of the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is to name the child “Jesus.”  (Luke 1:31)

In the first reading of the vigil Mass for the feast of Peter and Paul (Acts 3:1-10) , Peter and John go to the Temple to pray.  It is crucial to note that Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit) had recently happened, so Peter and John are “fired up” to proclaim the message of Jesus to the world.

As they are about to enter the Temple, they encounter a beggar, crippled since birth, asking for money.  After a brief pause, Peter looks at the crippled man and says, “Silver and gold I have none.  But what I do have I will give you.  In the NAME of Jesus the Nazorean,  rise and walk.”  Peter reached out to the man, gave him his hand, and as the crippled man began to stand, he was healed from his infirmity.  Sight of this miracle brought wonder to those who watched.

What happened here? Note the context of the miracle.  Three things seem rather significant:  Prayer; the Name of Jesus; and Touching the infirmed.

First,  Prayer.  After having received the Holy Spirit and ready to proclaim Jesus, Peter and John go and place themselves under the influence of divine help.

Second, the Name of Jesus.  Since Jesus was no longer physically accompanying the disciples, the mention of his name, along with the presence of the Holy Spirit, was sufficient to bring about this miracle.

Third, Touching the sick person.  Peter took the sick man by the hand and immediately the sick man was cured.  The healing power from the Holy Spirit and Jesus passed through Peter to the sick man.

After reflecting on this reading, what can we learn from it?  Well, we can use the tripartite schema as a guide.  To be effective Christians, we must be immersed in prayer.  Why?  So that we can be assured of divine help whenever we continue Jesus’ ministry.  In addition, when we are baptized we receive the NAME “Christian” and the power of the Holy Spirit.  To be a Christian means to be a follower of Christ.  This is what the word Christian really means.

Finally, Touch.  Peter touched the man physically, and the healing took place.  We can touch others emotionally by means of our patience, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.  There is high probability that a healing will take place.

Consequently, by means of prayer, we are placing ourselves under the influence of the divine.  Our Baptism reminds us that as Christians, we are followers of Jesus, for the name represents the person.  We do what he did to others, especially as we touch others emotionally through compassion and forgiveness.  In effect, what’s in the name of  “Christian”? The potential power to heal.


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