Jonah: a story in art

From today’s readings: Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. (Mt 12:38-41) Continue reading

Resurrection: more questions

resurrection-of-christ-iconBut along the way…. Jesus makes a statement that perhaps needs a second look: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Does this mean that Christians shouldn’t get married and have children? First of all, Jesus makes a contrast between “this age” and “that age”. He has made similar distinctions earlier: Continue reading

Resurrection: questions

resurrection-of-christ-icon“Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”

The Sadducees are attempting to destroy Jesus’ credibility by raising the question of who interprets Moses faithfully, as they seek to demonstrate the alleged unreasonableness of faith in the resurrection of the dead, which Jesus shares. The starting point of the question concerns levirate marriage. Continue reading

Resurrection: Sadducees

resurrection-of-christ-icon27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” 40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything. Continue reading

Resurrection: context

resurrection-of-christ-icon27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” 40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything. Continue reading

Easter Ongoing

eastermorningAs a liturgical season, Lent is rather straightforward. It is kinda’ easy to write about. There is Ash Wednesday to dramatically mark its beginning, and we all know we are moving relentlessly towards Easter. We count the days even as we mark Lent’s beginning. The Ashes make a visible mark upon us, reminding us that we are dust and to dust we shall return – but that is not the end of the story. We are reminded to repent and believe in the Gospel – but that is not the end goal. We are encouraged to pray, fast, and give alms – but those practices are meant to make room in our lives for God that we too may rise to the newness of life at Eastertide.

Perhaps some will wonder why I did not write, “the newness of life at Easter.” Isn’t Easter that day when we celebrate Jesus’ being raised from dead? Isn’t Easter the finish line, the ultimate, the highest of the high holy days, the pinnacle of the Church’s liturgical celebrations? No, yes, yes, and yes. Easter is not the finish line. Allow me some poetic license here, but Easter is to Eastertide, what Ash Wednesday is to Lent. It is the day we begin to count.

Eastertide is the 50-day season beginning on Easter Sunday with a dramatic mark in the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, relentlessly moving to Pentecost Sunday. Easter and Pentecost correspond to two Jewish holy days, the first day of Pesach and the holiday of Shavu’ot. In the Jewish tradition, the days between these holidays are known as Counting of the Omer. The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Easter is not the finish line, but the “Ash Wednesday” of Eastertide when we again begin to count, to spiritually prepare and anticipate the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost. If in Lent we have traditional practices to help prepare us to celebrate the Risen Christ, what are we practicing in Eastertide? I think the answer is profoundly simple: we practice what we witnessed on Easter – resurrection.

The Catholic writer, Megan McKenna, has a wonderful vignette about practicing resurrection in her book, Not Counting Women and Children: Neglected Stories from the Bible. She had shared in a Bible study, “that life happens when we are interrupted, and that some of the most powerful acts of resurrection happen to the least likely people; that we are the people of resurrection and hope, called to live passionately and compassionately with others, to defy death, to forgive, and to bring others back into the community, to do something that is life-giving, that fights death and needless suffering.” It is at this point that someone asks, somewhat harshly, “Have you ever brought someone back from the dead.”  I love her answer: “My response was, ‘Yes … Every time I bring hope into a situation, every time I bring joy that shatters despair, every time I forgive others and give them back dignity and the possibility of a future with me and others in the community, every time I listen to others and affirm them and their life, every time I speak the truth in public, every time I confront injustice — yes — I bring people back from the dead.”’

If in Lent we made room for God, here in Eastertide we work with Christ, practicing what he has already shown us: newness of life. And so we practice resurrection in our own lives by introducing joy, forgiveness, listening, justice, compassion… and so much more. And we count the days to Pentecost when the Spirit is given that we may take the honed skills of resurrection into a waiting world.

The Gospel of Luke – The Resurrection

resurrection-of-christ-iconIn the Book of Job, chapter 14, Job is pondering the deeper things of life. He is asking the age old question in the face of pending or possible death?  Will a person, once dead, live again? (יִ֫חְיֶ֥ה cf. Job 14:14). The question has now been answered. The tomb is empty. The defining conviction of Christian hope is that because Jesus was raised from the dead, the grave is not the final reality of human experience. “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is risen. Continue reading

What now: witnesses

Luke-upper-roomPointing to the life in the Early Church. Since these disciples are to continue Jesus’ ministry, perhaps it is not surprising that they are to proclaim the salvific message “in his name.” In fact, what is done in the “name” of Jesus surfaces as an important motif in Acts. Luke will portray a community very much oriented around Jesus (1:1, 21–22)—with salvation offered to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (= Jesus; cf. 2:21, 36), and people directed to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ” (2:38), appropriating the blessings available through and signaling their allegiance to him. Subsequently in Acts Christians heal (3:6, 16; 4:10, 30; 19:13), preach (4:12; 5:28, 40), and are baptized (8:16; 10:48; 19:5) in the name of Jesus; suffer for his name (5:41; 9:16; 21:13); and are those “who call upon the name” of Jesus (9:14, 21; 22:16). The mission role of the disciples is summarized in the words, “You are witnesses of these things.” Continue reading

Now what: proof

Luke-upper-roomOffering Proof. Jesus does not rebuke them for their lack of faith but offers two proofs of his own materiality as evidence of his resurrected existence. Negating two among the several possible categories for imagining the afterlife—one barbaric, the other more sophisticated—Luke first shows that Jesus’ disciples do not mistake him for a cadaver brought back to life (v.37), then confirms that Jesus is not an “immortal soul” free from bodily existence. It is why Jesus assures them with the phrase egō emini autos – “it is I myself” – or in modern English, “It’s really me!”

In the face of such proof, the disciples “were still incredulous [apisteō – lit. not trusting, not believing] for joy [charas] and were amazed [thamazontōn].” A little closer to the literal Greek is “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering” (NRSV) – but perhaps more colloquially, “for it seemed too good to be true” (NEB). The other instance of “not believing” (apisteo) in Luke occurs when the women tell the disciples about their experiences at the empty tomb. “These words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe (apisteo) them” (24:11). In the next verse, after Peter has been to the empty tomb, he goes home, “amazed (thaumazo) at what had happened.” Both the empty tomb and, so far, this appearance of Jesus produced only incredulity and amazement – two emotions that seem to get in the way of believing.

Jesus next offering of proof is presented with much fewer words and with no response from the disciples. Jesus eats in their presence. However, if we look back to the previous appearance story in Emmaus, we know that Jesus eating with the disciples opened up their eyes to see the truth about Jesus.

Bible Study. The second part of the appearance to the eleven and the others looks both backward and forward. Neither the text of the Emmaus Road story or this account provides any hints at the specific OT texts Jesus points to: “in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms…”(v.46). As Jesus “opened their minds” this interlude serves both to bring closure to the disciples’ period of “fear” by recapping major themes of the Gospel and setting the stage for the coming of the Spirit and the work of the disciples as witnesses in the book of Acts. Verses 44–46 return to the theme of the necessity of Jesus’ death and the fulfillment of Scripture, while in vv. 47–49 Jesus commissions the disciples, promises their empowerment from on high, and outlines the mission that lies ahead. There are three parts of his instructions about what has been written.

  • He is to suffer — the messiah.
  • He is to be raised from the dead on the third day.
  • They are to be his witnesses, going in his name to proclaim repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Green [857] writes:

“Which Scriptures portend messianic suffering and resurrection? One would be hard-pressed to locate specific texts that make these prognostications explicit. Even to attempt to do so would be wrongheaded, however. The point of Jesus’ words is not that such-and-such a verse has now come true, but that the truth to which all of the Scriptures point has now been realized! Even so, Luke does provide direct hints for the scriptural basis of the reversal Jesus has experienced in his life, death, and resurrection, by drawing above all on the psalms and Isaiah in his presentation of Jesus’ passion. Similarly, the proclamation of repentance for forgiveness of sins to all nations is scripturally based, with the Lukan narrative suggesting in this respect the pivotal importance of Isa 49:6. Simeon borrows from this text in Luke 2:32, Paul cites it in Acts 13:47, and it is echoed again in Acts 1:8 (cf. Acts 26:23; 28:28). This scriptural background manifestly portends the mission to all peoples.”

Now what: terrified

Luke-upper-roomJesus had predicted his passion and death – and that those predictions have come to pass is all too apparent to the small community of disciples sequestered away in the upper room, unsure of all that has passed, and even more unsure of what awaits them. But Jesus had also predicted his resurrection. In this Lucan narrative Jesus manifests himself not only to selected individuals (vv. 31, 34) but to the whole company of his followers. Their reaction is less than stellar: But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Only in the later Lucan account of the Ascension (vv.50–53) do fear, amazement, and doubt (vv.37, 41) give way to worship, great joy, and obedience. Continue reading