“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2)
What seems familiar is just the start of an amazing plan or ordering God’s vision for us.
The opening verses of Genesis do far more than describe God’s creative actions. It it a masterpiece of writing that leads us to know God’s loving intention to form a holy place where He and all creation dwell in Rest, a continuing Rest that does not end.
In Jesus’ day there was one thing that dominated the skyline of Jerusalem – the Temple – easily seen from across the way on the Mount of Olives, hovering over the Old City, and visible from every balcony in the upper city. It wasn’t the original Temple, but the second temple completed by King Herod the Great who make it a “wonder of the world.” While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings (Luke 21:5).
And so, there are the disciples taking in the view – the Temple and all its glory. They looked at the Temple and saw one thing. Jesus looked at the Temple and saw another.
In today’s readings, Jesus “entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things” (Luke 19:45). This is a scene that occurs in all four gospels. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the story appears towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. In the Gospel of John it appears at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
In Jesus’ day there was one thing that dominated the skyline of Jerusalem – the Temple – easily seen from across the way on the Mount of Olives, hovering over the Old City, and visible from every balcony in the upper city. It wasn’t the original Temple, that had been destroyed some 600 years before by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. This the second temple. Construction started about 520 years before Jesus’ time but it was King Herod the Great who make the temple a “wonder of the world.”
This coming Sunday is the celebration of the Solemnity of the Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – commonly known as Christ the King Sunday. While the formal declaration of the feast only dates to 1925, it origin of the consideration of Christ as King dates back to the patriotic period of the Church appearing in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, but is also found in the Gospel of Matthew 28 which Cyril saw as part of his foundation of thought. The celebration, originally placed in October, has an eschatological dimension pointing to the end of time when the kingdom of Jesus will be established in all its fullness to the ends of the earth. It leads into Advent. Attention to the nature of the Advent reading reveals anticipation of the second coming of Jesus. A detailed commentary can be found in Matthew 25:31-46.Continue reading →
If you do a web search for “the Day of the Lord,” you’ll find all kinds of end-of-the-world predictions. But if you carefully trace this theme throughout the story of the Bible, you’ll discover a very different picture.
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The anger of the LORD blazes against his people, he stretches out his hand to strike them;The mountains quake, their corpses shall be like refuse in the streets. For all this, his anger is not turned back, his hand is still outstretched. (Isaiah 5:25)
Yikes! Dead bodies in the streets? That’s a lot of anger. In the passage above Isaiah is warning Israel that God’s judgment is coming. In fact, the entire chapter is one long indictment against the people of Israel. They’ve become corrupt and arrogant, and God has had enough. Invading armies are coming and the result will be death and ultimately exile.
God’s anger understandably makes us uncomfortable. In fact, God’s anger is one of the main reasons people state for not liking the God of the Bible. But if we take a closer look at scripture about God’s anger, we will find a more complex and nuanced picture than we might assume.
To be an exile is to experience the devastating reality of being driven out of a secure place of belonging. Israel experienced exile under the Assyrians and most notably at the hand of the Babylonians. Especially in the Babylonian exile, the Israelites began to understand how they were called to rely on God in the midst of isolation and uncertainty. While we might never experience exile as a nation, each of us have know times of isolation and uncertainty.
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The gospel today is part of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. The revelation of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:27) marked the beginning and the arrival in Jerusalem will mark the end of the journey at the Cross. In between, the warnings and admonitions regarding the coming judgment that began with 12:1 reach their conclusion with a sobering call for repentance. Just as the debtor on the way to court (12:59) is warned to make every effort at reconciliation, so also Jesus uses the sayings about calamity in 13:1–5 and the parable of the unproductive fig tree in 13:6–9 to make the same point:
1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. (Matthew 5:1-12)
Today’s gospel continues Jesus’ encounter with the religious leadership of his day.
“When you see (a) cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and so it does; 55 and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is.
The illustration (vv.54-55) seems to point to the weather patterns in the Near East. The Mediterranean Sea was to the west and winds from that direction brought rain. The desert was to the south and winds from that direction brought heat. Continue reading →