Thursday, April 29, 2010

God in the Book of Wisdom

In the Book of Wisdom, why is Wisdom referred to as a female?

In the Book of Wisdom, Wisdom is a "she" because the book is written in Greek, and the Greek word for "wisdom" is sophia, which is a feminine noun. But, we should not take this to mean that God is actually a female.

The author of the book (traditionally considered to be King Solomon) is simply using a literary device called "personification" to emphasize one of God's divine attributes: wisdom. This is fitting, considering that God IS his various attributes. God is not simply loving, He IS love. God is not simply wise, He IS wisdom. So, to strive for Godly wisdom -- to be wise as God is wise -- is to strive for God Himself. Where ever wisdom prevailed throughout all of human history, that was God at work, caring for His people and striving for their salvation.

Technically speaking, God is neither male nor female. We read from the Catechism:
239 By calling God "Father", the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.

370 In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Monday, April 26, 2010

Does the Church Approve of Cohabitation?

“Cohabitation” typically refers to a situation in which a couple is living as husband and wife before they are married. The Church does not condone this arrangement. For one, sexual intercourse is meant to occur within the context of marriage. It is only then that the sex act is able to achieve it’s proper ends: the free, total, faithful, and fruitful union of husband and wife.

Even when the couple is living together without having sexual relations, cohabitation is unacceptable. It causes grave scandal to those who find out about this living arrangement, and it creates a near occasion of sin for the two people involved.

Finally, from a sociological point of view, studies have shown that couples who cohabitate before marriage are twice as likely to get a divorce and are significantly less happy in their marriages than those couples who wait until after they are married. No matter how you look at it, cohabitation is not a good situation, and the Church has always advised against it.

For more information on cohabitation, see the following articles:

Pax Christi,

Friday, April 23, 2010

No Divorce ... Unless?

What did Jesus mean when he said that a couple could not get a divorce, “except in the case of unchastity” (Mt 5:32; 19:9)?

This is a difficult passage at first, considering that the Church has always taught that a marriage entered into lawfully is indissoluble, or cannot be broken. But, we should not let difficult passages in Scripture sow doubt within us regarding the truth of Catholic teaching. Invariably, the error is not in what the Church teaches or in what Scripture says but in our own understanding.

In this case, the key to solving this riddle is in the meaning of the Greek word porneia, which the RSV translates as “unchastity.” What type of act does Jesus actually have in mind here that would allow a couple to no longer be married? Porneia is sort of a “catch-all” word that can be used to refer to many different kinds of illicit sexual unions: adultery, incest, sodomy, fornication, bestiality. However, it can also be used to refer to an unlawful marriage. In other words, only when a marriage was never lawfully entered into in the first place are the two individuals free to marry someone else. Jews considered a marriage to be unlawful if the two persons involved were too closely related by blood, or if one of them was a Gentile.

This is the only meaning that reconciles Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel with what He and the Apostles say elsewhere about divorce. In every other passage, their prohibition against divorce is absolute. They admit no exceptions. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

St. Paul says:
“To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) -- and that the husband should not divorce his wife. [. . .] A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” (1 Cor 7:10-11, 39)
The model for marriage is always the relationship of Adam and Eve before the fall. Jesus says:
“For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8).

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19:4-6).
That is the teaching of Christ and of the Church. Of course, at this point, further questions are usually raised: What if one of the spouses is abusive, or commits adultery? Am I really called to stay with such a person?

I invite correction on this point, but as I understand it, in extreme cases such as these, one is allowed (and perhaps, with the case of abuse, even encouraged) to separate, or move out, or what have you. No one is asking a woman to sit back and get pounded in the face her whole life. Seek the help and the safety you need. But, as far as the Church is concerned, there's no such thing as a "divorce", in which two people, lawfully married, suddenly become "not married." Once married, always married. That's the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Church.

So, you can call a lawyer, file the papers, and get a "divorce" but it is only in the eyes of the state that you would be free to marry someone else. In the eyes of Christ and of the Church, you are still married, and if you marry someone else you commit adultery. The only time you cease to be married is when your spouse dies, or when it is discovered, through the annulment process, that the Sacrament of Matrimony was not lawfully received.

I realize that this sounds harsh, I really do. But, the Church is not so willing to give up on marriage as the world so often is. Even something like infidelity can be overcome through hard work and a renewed commitment to what you promised to each other when you stood before God and the Christian community and you promised yourselves to each other forever. It is no small thing to make such a promise. We should FIGHT for our marriages, and never let them go.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where Are Deacons Found in Scripture?

First, it may be helpful to define what a deacon is. Scott Hahn’s Catholic Bible Dictionary defines a deacon as:
“An ordained assistant to priests responsible for such ministerial duties as preaching, baptizing, witnessing marriages, distributing Communion, and presiding at funerals (but not saying the funeral Mass). In the modern Church there are two forms of the diaconate: the permanent diaconate (including single and married men) and the transitional diaconate (for those who will eventually be ordained as priests).”
Sometimes, finding these offices in Scripture can be a little tricky. It’s not because the offices didn’t exist, it’s because, in the apostolic age, the terms used to describe the different positions of leadership in the Church were rather fluid. For example, Paul occasionally describes his work by using the Greek word for “deacon” (diakonos, cf. 2 Cor 3:6; Eph 3:7), even though he held the much higher office of “apostle.” Peter described himself as a "fellow elder," (1 Pet. 5:1) even though he, being an apostle, also had a much higher office. However, in Scripture we definitely see persons fulfilling the functions that we would today consider to be those of a deacon, and by the second century, there is much more agreement on the terms used to describe the three offices.

Traditionally, Acts 6:1-6 is considered to be the point in Scripture where the establishment of the office of deacon is described. It reads as follows:
“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch'orus, and Nica'nor, and Ti'mon, and Par'menas, and Nicola'us, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.”
We see from this that the first task of the deacon was to serve the poor. They had other functions too, such as assisting the bishops (cf. Phil 1:1), preaching (cf. Acts 7:2-53), and administering baptism (cf. Acts 8:38). Paul has high standards for anyone who desires to serve in such a position (cf. 1 Tim 3:8-10).

Pax Christi,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jesus and the "Daughters of Jerusalem"

While Jesus was carrying His Cross, He stopped and spoke to the “Daughters of Jerusalem,” but what He said to them was difficult to understand. What did He mean?

This scene is found in Lk 23:27-31:
And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
I did some research on this passage and, as I understand it, Jesus is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple there when He speaks of these terrible days that are coming. Earlier, in Lk 19:43-44 and Lk 21:20-24, Jesus prophesied that this day of destruction was near, as a punishment for the faithlessness of the Jews, and He described that day in much the same terms that He is using here.

I’m sure that Jesus is touched by their mourning for Him, but He also knows that the greatest possible good will come from His current suffering. I think Jesus is basically telling the women that they need not worry about Him. Instead, they need to worry about their people, particularly the faithless from among them. When the Temple comes crumbling down and the entire city is destroyed, that will be such an awful day that people will consider it a blessing to be barren (and thus spared from bringing a child into those dreadful days). They will rather have mountains and hills fall on them then suffer the torments of that day! History tells us that, in 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and it was every bit as bad as Jesus said it would be.

As for the green and dry wood that Jesus mentions at the end, this is His clever way of warning them of their impending doom. If you’ve ever tried to make a fire, you know that green wood is still moist and thus unsuitable for burning, but dry wood makes excellent kindling. In Scripture, fire is often a symbol of God’s wrath (cf. Ezek 20:47). The green wood are thus the innocent, those who do not deserve to be punished, and the dry wood are the wicked.

Knowing this then, Jesus is basically saying, “If this is the type of thing that happens to the innocent (to Jesus, who is being beaten and crucified), just wait and see what happens to the wicked!” Our God is a Just God. The wicked never go unpunished.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Rosary Encyclicals

Fr. Thomas A. Thompson, S.M. wrote a very helpful article on the Rosary encyclicals that provides some of the historical context for this flourishing of papal thought on one of the Church's greatest prayers.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Church Documents on Sacred Scripture (in English)

Since no website that I have found has all of these documents in one place (although this site comes close), I decided to post the following list of links on my blog.

Note that this is only a collection of the documents that are available in English. There are still many other Church documents that pertain to the Bible that do not have an available English translation online.

Church Documents (in chronological order)

Analysis and Commentary on the Documents (a work in progress)

On Providentissimus Deus:

On the Documents of the Pontifical Biblical Commission:

On Spiritus Paraclitus:

On Divino Afflante Spiritu:

On Dei Verbum:

On the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

On Verbum Domini:

Also see:

Pax Christi,

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Please Excuse the Mess

In the spirit of Easter, I plan on spending the next few days giving my blog a rebirth. I'm tired of how it currently looks and I think a new color scheme is long overdue. I'm also going to finally make the jump to the new template that blogger has. Hopefully this will be a change for the better, and not the worse. I'm still a rookie when it comes to web design, so we'll see how it goes.

Pax Christi,
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