03December

Finances in Light of the Call for a Poor Church

Taken from Crisis Magazine
By Dr. Jared Staudt

Finances in Light of the Call for a Poor Church

Crisis recently featured a stimulating discussion on finances centered on Dave Ramsey’s principles of financial planning. The first piece by Richard Becker, “Of Dave Ramsey, Babies, and Birth Control,” contrasted Ramsey’s approach to finances with Catholic openness to life. The response by Stephen Herreid, “Dave Ramsey—Our Favorite Catechist,” countered by arguing that Ramsey’s principles are all the more important for Catholic families in order to plan wisely for their support.

I had begun writing a response to these pieces in light of Christ’s teaching on wealth in the Gospels, but as I was writing Pope Francis issued Evangelii Gaudium. Immediately after his election, he had already called for “a Church which is poor and for the poor!” (a line renewed in §198). Now he has provided us with much more insight into what that means. The question of wealth, and also its effects on the spiritual life, is really at the heart of the Apostolic Exhortation, as Francis lays out at the beginning:

The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too (§2).

For the laity, the question is intimately bound up with the concern over Ramsey’s financial principles: what should Catholics do about the difficulty, which is real, of having a large family within our economic context? Is the family dying out, losing its voice, along with God in the world, drowned out by our own selfish concerns?

Continue to the full article at CrisisMagazine.com.

01February

Forming First Ripples: Modeling Virtue in our Homes

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Kumar Kibble

Forming First Ripples: Modeling Virtue in our Homes
“In this culture, which is selling a lot of stuff, I had a father on his knees who was showing me how to be a man of God.” —Dan Vander Woude

I vividly recall the weekend in September 2008 when I learned that a father and parishioner in a nearby parish in northern Virginia had been tragically killed. According to a Washington Post article I later read, Thomas Vander Woude’s son fell into a septic tank, and Vander Woude dove into the tank and held up his son just long enough for another to pull him out. As his son was lifted out, Vander Woude’s eyes closed and he collapsed into the tank. On that day a devoted father passed away, but his son and his saintly legacy live on. By all accounts from those who knew him, his final act crowned a lifetime of loving God and neighbor. This selfless witness by a daily communicant and loving father of seven boys has had a powerful impact on me over the years.

Striving for Holiness

As Catholic parents, few of us are called to lay down our lives in one such heroic moment for our kids. However, all of us are called to a daily, heroic struggle as we strive for holiness. As Vander Woude did throughout his life, are we cheerfully responding to that call in and through the particular circumstances of each day? Being a parent requires love, vigilance, and self-sacrifice as we seek to raise and form our kids in a secular culture that is increasingly hostile to Christian values. However, as the saying goes, more is caught than taught. Do we remember that our kids are constantly observing our response to the challenges of each day? We may tell them family is a priority, but do we demonstrate that in the way we actually spend our time? Or do we spend too much time in professional pursuits? We may say that faith is important, but do our kids see us living out an active, vibrant faith in our homes, workplaces, and communities?

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
28February

God Never Forgets Us

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God Never Forgets Us

March 2

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:14-15

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030214.cfm

We like to doubt. Our first response to good news, especially great news, is often disbelief. Ancient Israel was no different. After the prophet Isaiah proclaims the coming of the servant of the Lord who will bring deliverance, joy and singing, Zion voices her doubt. This reading starts on a note of doubt: “Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). We look to Scripture for hope and inspiration, but this reading begins with a moment of commiseration—the doubt we feel, the struggle to believe was not absent in Israel. When we experience times of difficulty, mourning, hardship, we can listen to that doubt more closely or even give in to it.

Does God forget?

Zion’s doubt is framed in terms of forgetting. (Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, which is used in the Bible as a poetic symbol for the whole nation.) The prophet is announcing a time of restoration, but Zion’s claims that God has forgotten: He’s forgotten his people, their story, the relationship he has with them. If you think about it, remembering is how we even have a story to talk about. For God to forget would be the end of the story. Yet memory and the story it contains point to a future, either a future full of hope (which Isaiah proclaims) or to the despair of forgetfulness. God responds to Zion’s doubt by reassuring her that he does not forget.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
20December

God's Surprising Christmas Gift

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God's Surprising Christmas Gift

December 22

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 7:10-14

Our God likes to surprise us, to break the mold, to reveal his awesome power in ways that we could never have anticipated. The virgin birth of Christ is one of the most surprising and yet splendid events in history—the greatest of Christmas gifts! This Sunday’s reading of a short passage from Isaiah (7:10-14) is one of the most controversial and yet crucial passages of the whole Bible. It prophesies the virgin birth of Christ during a moment of international political crisis.

Historical Context

The Assyrian empire is expanding and conquering. Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin, the king of Syria make an alliance against Assyria, the dominant superpower of the time. They want the kingdom of Judah, led by King Ahaz, to join the coalition, but he refuses. Afraid that their two-king alliance won’t be strong enough to withstand the Assyrians, these two kings seek to conquer Judah and set up their own puppet king as the third member of the coalition. At this historical moment when the kingdom of Judah is under threat, the prophet Isaiah speaks these words to King Ahaz. The two allied kings have mustered an army and come to conquer the kingdom of Judah, depose Ahaz and set up a puppet king on the throne. No wonder Ahaz is scared!

Continue to full article at Catholic Exchange.
13February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

I recently returned from England. While there, I spoke with a woman who, after forty years of marriage, feels that she is in a constant uphill battle with her spouse. He doesn’t think they need marital healing or growth. While he doesn’t oppose her going to counseling, he doesn’t think he needs it. She is exasperated, wanting more from her marriage, but is unable to initiate change for them both because he doesn’t see any reason for it. She wants her marriage to thrive, not just survive; but at the rate they are going things seem to be heading downhill. I told her to think about St. Monica. After all, she can easily relate to her situation, because she also had a difficult husband. She responded with, “Yes, but St. Monica’s husband had the good sense to die, didn’t he?” Yeah, um, so the suggestions I will be offering will not include hoping your spouse kicks the bucket.

Sacrifice for One Another

The first thing needed for a strong and healthy marriage is the ability to sacrifice for one another. Jesus Christ demonstrates His love for us at Calvary—our Lord willingly and freely gave Himself to the Father, in the love of the Spirit, so that we could be in union with Him, others, and ourselves. This healing love of Christ covers a multitude of sins when we sacrifice in our marriages. Jesus’ selfless act upon the Cross changes our lives, forgives our sins, and casts them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). When we sacrifice for our spouse, we are in fact loving them as Christ did on the Cross. Freely giving ourselves physically and emotionally are ways that don’t just idealize love, but it in fact actualize love.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
13February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

I recently returned from England. While there, I spoke with a woman who, after forty years of marriage, feels that she is in a constant uphill battle with her spouse. He doesn’t think they need marital healing or growth. While he doesn’t oppose her going to counseling, he doesn’t think he needs it. She is exasperated, wanting more from her marriage, but is unable to initiate change for them both because he doesn’t see any reason for it. She wants her marriage to thrive, not just survive; but at the rate they are going things seem to be heading downhill. I told her to think about St. Monica. After all, she can easily relate to her situation, because she also had a difficult husband. She responded with, “Yes, but St. Monica’s husband had the good sense to die, didn’t he?” Yeah, um, so the suggestions I will be offering will not include hoping your spouse kicks the bucket.

Sacrifice for One Another

The first thing needed for a strong and healthy marriage is the ability to sacrifice for one another. Jesus Christ demonstrates His love for us at Calvary—our Lord willingly and freely gave Himself to the Father, in the love of the Spirit, so that we could be in union with Him, others, and ourselves. This healing love of Christ covers a multitude of sins when we sacrifice in our marriages. Jesus’ selfless act upon the Cross changes our lives, forgives our sins, and casts them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). When we sacrifice for our spouse, we are in fact loving them as Christ did on the Cross. Freely giving ourselves physically and emotionally are ways that don’t just idealize love, but it in fact actualize love.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
17February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part II

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part II

In Part One of Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage, I spoke of the importance of making sacrifices for your spouse. In Part Two, I will address the importance of making acts of service for one another. Again, I think it is very natural when we first fall in love to serve one another effortlessly. We willingly bring the other a drink when asked, pop the popcorn without complaint, or grab the keys that were left in the house as you both sit in the car realizing someone has to go back in to get them. These acts of service can be even greater when our spouse is sick or hurting. We may bring them a drink when fevered, change the linens when they are sick, or serve them by handling all of the daily tasks for your children, and the like. These are done willingly because we know that loving our spouse is expressed in these little or great acts of service. But as marriages grow over time, there can be a tendency to want to be served instead of being the one who serves. We must stay prepared and stand against this urge. Why? Because Jesus shows us that true love is not about having others serve you; rather, He says that to be great you must be the least.

Jesus Wants Us to Serve One Another

This willingness to sacrifice and serve for our spouse certainly is a countercultural mentality, but it is a Christological certainty. In other words, Jesus wants us to serve one another in marriage because that is the example He gave to us, His bride. Jesus sacrificed everything so that the Church could be born, and His example of giving everything—showing us how to love—is meant to show us how to treat our spouse in marriage. To serve is not based on obligation, but on a willing heart. To lovingly serve our spouse demonstrates our recognition of how much value and worth they have. Even if our spouse does not notice our acts of service, this should not be a surprise, or keep us from serving; Jesus’ love for His bride often goes unnoticed too.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
10March

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

“To me, I confess, one thing has always seemed preeminently fitting: that every costlier or costliest thing should serve, first and foremost, for the administration of the Holy Eucharist.”

If one were able to compare the great churches of France in the year 1100 to those standing a century and a half later, the marked difference in architectural style would be easy to see. Many of the elements that had characterized the Romanesque style remained: high stone vaults, internal elevations of multiple stories, pointed arches, extensive sculptural programs, and prominent towers. Yet these same elements were taken up into a more generous conception of interior space and overall monumentality that successfully created what most of us think of when we hear the word cathedral: the Gothic style.

It was in the Renaissance that the new style of the twelfth century came to be called Gothic, because the Goths had been barbarians, and the men of the Italian renaissance tended to downplay the achievements of their rivals to the north. With Chateaubriand’s Genius of Christianity (1802), ideological classicism was dealt a severe blow, and it became respectable and even common to admire high medieval architecture, so much so that the name Gothic has long since lost its original, negative connotation. It is, however, well to be aware that the creators of the style did not call their own churches Gothic. Indeed, we have no idea what they called them, for these master builders left behind no narrative accounts. But their German neighbors, who admired the new style and imported it, did give it a name: the Opus Francigena, or, loosely, the French way of building.

This French style was born at the Abbey of St. Denis, just north of Paris, under the patronage of one of the most extraordinary men of the twelfth century, the Abbot Suger (1081-1151). Beginning in 1137, he presided over the reconstruction of the abbey of St. Denis. His master-builder is unknown to us, but between the builder and the abbot, a new style was forged, a style through which, to borrow from its patron’s own words, “the dull mind rises to truth through that which is material.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
14March

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 12:1-4a

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm

It is easy to think that God is distant, uncaring, comfortably sitting in the sky somewhere, and ignoring us. We have a lot of problems and if we were omnipotent, that’s probably how we would treat humanity and everybody else. Total, absolute power sounds like a quick way to establish permanent, perfectly comfortable vacation away from all the noise, evils and “issues” that take up so much of our time. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God could have condemned humanity to reap the harvest of its own sin. He could have left us to our own devices or even annihilated us. But he didn’t. Instead, he tracked down a guy named Abraham and calls him to do something unusual—to believe.

Lectionary Plan for Lent

On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Lectionary provides us with a second snapshot of salvation history. The Sunday Old Testament readings for Lent follow a chronological progression. In the first week, we hear of Adam and Eve, in the second, Abraham, then Moses and David, then finally the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah. In this way, the Lectionary takes us by the hand for a whirlwind tour of humanity’s creation, fall, and promised redemption, which will be brought about by Jesus during Holy Week. This chronological telling of Salvation History will be recapitulated in the many readings of the Easter Vigil.

God Launches His Rescue Mission

Here in Genesis 12, God launches his rescue mission to fallen humanity. Adam and Eve sinned; Noah’s generation sinned; the people after the Flood sinned. Our ancestors established a rather consistent track record. God now initiates a more drastic—and yet more subtle—plan of action. He puts in a call to Abraham, who lived in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and later in Haran (in modern Turkey). This is the beginning of the story of salvation, God’s intervention in history. In fact, when St. Stephen offers his defense to the Sanhedrin, he starts the retelling of salvation history with the call of Abraham (Acts 7:3). The Lord invites Abraham on a mission. He calls him to leave his homeland and family and go to a place where he has never been in order to initiate God’s rescue plan for humanity. Abraham plays a key role as the father of the Chosen People and the Father of Faith. His “yes” to God begins the story of Israel, within which Jesus will appear to bring salvation to the whole world.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
04November

Holiness in Photographic Negative: The Life of Blessed Junipero Serra

Taken from CrisisMagazine.com
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Holiness in Photographic Negative: The Life of Blessed Junipero Serra

The 24th of November this year will afford a significant opportunity for North Americans to reflect upon their common past: the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bl. Junipero Serra. In commemoration of the founder of the California missions, the Huntington Library has assembled an exhibition devoted to his life and work, co-curated by an historian whose new biography of Father Serra has also just been published. Steven W. Hackel’s Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father is a monument almost as astonishing as the life of the saint it reports, but what amazes is its author’s incomprehension of his subject. A true image of the great missionary indeed it is, but it is an image cast in photographic negative.

The reader of Hackel’s book would do well to keep certain essential facts in mind before beginning. Its subject, christened Miguel Serre on the island of Mallorca, lived out—in the first half of his life—the kind of rags-to-riches story that the wealth of the Church once made possible, if not exactly common. From the dirt poor son of peasants he became, at the age of 30, the prestigious holder of the chair of Sacred Theology at the university in Palma de Mallorca. A comfortable, meaningful life lay ahead: he could reasonably expect to have become rector of the university and perhaps even a bishop. We should recall that the second half of the eighteenth century in Europe was an era liberally provided with wealthy, pampered prelates. With the occasional Talleyrand out in front of the pack, it was not too difficult for a man to combine respectable clerical station with all the soft pleasures afforded by that gracious era.

But this son of St. Francis had no intention of slouching his way to Gehenna. In 1749, he left Europe forever, to spend the next thirty-four years on mission in Mexico and California. The scope of his labors defies the imagination: nine Alta California missions founded under his leadership, well over 6,000 baptisms and over 5,000 confirmations personally celebrated by him, many, many Masses, sermons, and catechetical lessons, the endless labor of building civilization in the wilderness, and much of this work while vexed by a Spanish colonial bureaucracy that did not fully share his aims. Then, of course, there is the most astonishing fact of all, that he traveled some 20,000 miles or more on foot to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the Indian tribes of northern Mexico and California.

How does one go about portraying such a life as anything other than generous and heroic?

Continue to full article at CrisisMagazine.com.
21February

Holiness Overcomes Hate

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Holiness Overcomes Hate

February 23, 2014

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/022314.cfm

Leviticus! The Lectionary avoids Leviticus like the plague. This reading from Leviticus is one of only two in the whole 3-year lectionary cycle for Sundays. Most Bible readers avoid Leviticus too. Who wants to read about how ancient animal sacrifices were supposed to be conducted or how the Israelites dealt with lepers? Yet Leviticus has at its core a powerful focus on loving, covenant faithfulness, on clinging close to the Lord even in the most mundane of our daily tasks.

The passage chosen for today’s reading is actually two snippets from the same chapter. There’s a gap of about 15 verses between them. The first snippet starts Leviticus 19; it announces the Lord’s authority as revealed through Moses. It contains one of the two key teachings of the chapter: “Be holy as I am holy.” (St. Peter quotes this teaching in 1 Peter 1:15.) The point is that our lives should be patterned after God’s life. That our seeking after holiness finds its goal in God’s own holiness.

What is holiness?

Since Vatican II, the Church has repeatedly emphasized the “universal call to holiness,” that all Christians, whether priests, religious, or laity, are called to union with God in Christ. We are all called by Jesus to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48 – in the Gospel reading for today). The holiness we are talking about is not a selfish religiosity, but an entering into the love and life of God. It is freedom from our selfishness, our sinfulness, and freedom for a loving union with God. This kind of spiritual perfection, personal holiness, cannot be restricted to mere obedience to a moral law code. Rather, it should be defined in terms of relationship. Holiness is about deeper and deeper union with God, about a more intimate experience of God’s love and a more complete giving of oneself to him. What might begin with humble obedience finds its destination in the radical freedom of love.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
30November

Hope in God's Coming Judgment

Taken from CatholicExchange.com
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Hope in God's Coming Judgment

December 1, Isaiah 2:1-5, First Sunday of Advent

The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of hope, following a time of judgment. The Lord will gather in the Gentiles from around the world to obey his law and walk in his ways. He will judge the nations and put an end to violence and injustice. In this season of Advent, we can rejoice in the hope of God’s judgment, and spend our effort in cultivating our spiritual lives with the plowshares and pruning hooks of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Indeed, we are part of God’s in-gathering of the nations to worship and obey him. By our faithfulness to the Gospel we are participating in God’s grand design to bring the whole world to himself. Advent gives us a great opportunity to renew our devotion to him and to reflect on where this whole story is headed—to the point where God will finally vindicate the righteous, punish evil and bring about the fullness of his reign in Christ. The first coming of the babe at Bethlehem points to his second coming in power and glory.

Continue to full article at CatholicExchange.com

11September

Imitating the Saints: From Don Quixote to the Whiskey Priest

CrisisMagazine.com
by R. Jared Staudt

Readers should need no introduction to The Ingenious Knight Don Quixote de la Mancha. Infected with a madness focused on the bygone era of knight errantry, Don Quixote leaves home to enact a new golden age of chivalry. As Don Quixote says to his loyal squire: “Friend Sancho, I would have you know that I was born, by the will of heaven, in this iron age of ours, to revive in it an age of gold, or golden age as it is often called. I am the man for whom dangers, great exploits, valiant deeds are reserved” (1.20). Of course, this new knight errant succeeds only, for the most part, in making a fool of himself and unwittingly terrorizing innocent people across the countryside.

In some ways Don Quixote is a fit image for the struggle against the modern world. The old golden age of Catholic culture has passed away and new age of iron (or worse) has come in its place. To look back on the great deeds of our ancestors should inspire us to action, even if the odds seem hopeless. To most around us, such action would be as foolish as attacking windmills or flocks of sheep. Yet, the fight itself is noble enough to risk the shame and humiliation of defeat.

That said, Don Quixote can also reveal an Achilles heel in the modern Catholic revolutionary. Don Quixote became delusional from reading too many chivalric books; books meant to entertain the reader with unrealistic accounts of the valor of their heroes, more fantastical accounts than ones meant to edify and imitate. In response, his parish priest burnt his books in hopes of removing the source of his madness.

Continue to full article >>

06February

It’s All Relative: Understanding Right vs. Wrong

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Stefanick

It’s All Relative: Understanding Right vs. Wrong

Right and wrong. True and false. Thanks to relativism, young people use these words when talking about things like math and science—but not faith and morals. You might be thinking, “Relatiwhatism?” If philosophical discussions aren’t your forte, stay with me! Relativism isn’t a philosophy you can afford to overlook, because it’s at the very heart of how virtually every teenager thinks about the most important things in life!

What is Relativism?

Relativism is the philosophy that there is no objective reality, but that truth is relative to what each person thinks. We’ve all encountered relativism in statements like, “Jesus is God for me, while Vishnu is God for someone else,” “You have your truth, and I have mine,” or, in regard to issues like the abortion debate, “You can’t impose your morality on another person.”

This “agree never to disagree” philosophy is considered necessary to guarantee peace, tolerance, and equality in a pluralistic world. Conversely, people who think we can know the truth in moral or religious issues are considered intolerant, bigoted, and sometimes even downright dangerous.

That caricature of us “absolutists” is reinforced at every level of society, not just among your teens’ peers. According to Justice Scalia, when it comes to the marriage debate, the Supreme Court has bypassed intelligent debate and labeled those who want to protect “traditional” marriage as “enemies of the human race.” Of course, we fail to live up to that label. In the 2,000-year history of the Church, you won’t find a single bishop on record calling for physical violence against gays.

Facts aside, perception is reality. And the reality is that people perceive those who believe in spiritual and moral absolutes as bigots. Perhaps that’s why, according to one study, 93% of teens said they do not believe in absolute truth. No one wants to be a jerk, right?!

Does believing in moral absolutes lead to hate?

If we want young people to receive the Faith as something more than “a belief system that works for me,” but rather “as something real that I’m called to conform my life to,” we need to show them that moral and spiritual absolutes don’t lead to hatred. In fact, history shows us that some of the most intolerant people in history were not real believers, but relativists!

Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, is one clear-cut example. Early in his political career, he wrote:

Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. —Mussolini’s “Diuturna”

Since Mussolini didn’t recognize any objective reality—moral or religious—to which he should conform, he invented his own moral code and enforced it on everyone he could. If truth is really relative, why not?!

And while it might seem that if we could just “imagine there’s no heaven … no hell below us … no religion, too,” then we could “live life in peace.” The 20th century proved John Lennon’s dream wrong time and again. People in the 20th century who imagined that there was no “objective immortal truth”—no heaven, hell, and no religion—made many of the crimes committed in the name of faith look like child’s play.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
12January

Jesus the Servant: Appointed and Approved

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Jesus the Servant: Appointed and Approved

It is easy for us to take justice for granted in our society with courts, appellate courts, judges, lawyers, prisons, laws, and constitutions. We rarely personally feel the sting of injustice. I like to look back on an earlier time, the Old West, when, at least in all of the fictional presentations, a strong sheriff with integrity in town is necessary for the enactment of justice. Without the sheriff, bandits and outlaws can rob banks, steal cattle and wreak havoc. Sin is the same way—it makes a moral mess of our lives and imprisons us by addiction. We need a powerful and righteous deliverer to free us from its chains.

January 12, 2014, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

The Suffering Servant

This Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 42 portrays the Lord’s “Suffering Servant,” who will bring justice not only to the people of Israel, but to the Gentiles as well. Isaiah contains four so-called “servant songs” (42:1-7; 49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13–53:12) which describe this heroic figure. This first song explains the calling of the Suffering Servant: He serves the Lord. He is upheld by the Lord. He delights the Lord. And the spirit of the Lord is upon him—just like the spirit of the Lord came upon the judges and kings of old. The Lord has appointed the Suffering Servant to fulfill a mission—bringing justice to the Gentiles (nations).

A Rescue Mission

This mission is like the mission of a just sheriff, but in the ancient world the chief law-enforcer or justice-bringer would be the king. Part of his job was to make sure that people were dealt with fairly at all levels of society, that cases were adjudicated correctly and that the poor were not oppressed. The Suffering Servant appears as a kind of Messianic king—one who will come to free people from oppression and establish the reign of justice. The Hebrew word here for justice is mishpat, which comes from the same root as “judge”—as in Gideon, Samson, etc.—in the Old Testament. So this appointed representative of God will bring justice, but he will also act with mercy. The text says “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench” (Isa 42:3). These images show him acting with clemency, not severity. He does not come to crush, but to rescue those who are oppressed and broken.

Continue at Catholic Exchange.
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