This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Nation with highest rape rate in world urged to feel outrage at “penis painting” of President
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
THESE (ABOVE) REFLECT ON WHAT ROBERT BURNS CALLED HONEST POVERTY. IT’ S HARD TO BE POOR BUT WORSE TO BE POOR IN A SOCIETY THAT GIVES NO HONOUR TO THE VIRTUES OF THE POOR.
18 Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife, but those who are slow to anger calm contention.
19 The way of the lazy is overgrown with thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.
20 A wise child makes a glad father, but the foolish despise their mothers.
THIS LAST DEALS WITH THE SMART KID THAT MAKES HIS DAD PROUD; BUT IF THAT LEADS HIM TO DISRESPECT HIS MOTHER, THE TRUE SOURCE OF FAMILY WISDOM, HE’S AN IDIOT
21 Folly is a joy to one who has no sense, but a person of understanding walks straight ahead.
22 Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.
BUT TOO MANY COOKS CAN SPOIL THE BROTH
23 To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone, and a word in season, how good it is!
YES, WHETHER WE SAY OR HEAR A WITTY, TRUTHFUL WORD, WE SHOULD BE HAPPY
24 For the wise the path of life leads upwards, in order to avoid Sheol below.
25The Lord tears down the house of the proud, but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
SOMETIMES. IF HE DID IT MORE OFTEN, IT WOULD BE GOOD FOR BOTH THE PROUD AND THE WIDOW
26 Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.
27 Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households, but those who hate bribes will live.
PERHAPS THIS COULD BE INSCRIBED IN THE OFFICES OF ALL OUR POLITICIANS
28 The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
AND OFTEN THE RIGHTOEUS HAS TO TAKE THAT AS HIS/HER ONLY CONSOLATION
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the body.
31 The ear that heeds wholesome admonition will lodge among the wise.
32 Those who ignore instruction despise themselves, but those who heed admonition gain understanding.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honour.
THE WISDOM OF ISRAEL ABOVE ALL DESPISES THE SMARTASS WHO IS SO POPULAR IN OUR CULTURE
<!– 33 –>
A Tree and Its Fruit
33 ‘Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.34You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.35The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.36I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter;37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’<!– 38 –>
The Sign of Jonah
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’39But he answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.40For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.41The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!42The queen of the South will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
Matthew shows firstly that Jesus can use the methods of traditional wisdom to rout his opponents. In this instance Jesus uses an apt comparison to expose the superficial morality of the pharisees. Their rule-based morality is made to look shallow by Jesus’ metaphor of the tree: only a good tree will produce good fruit; only a good person will produce good deeds. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”-from kindly hearts come kind words and deeds; from hard hearts cruel words and deeds. Jesus seizes on the way our real state of heart is revealed by our casual words, to urge the necessity of inward transformation. It’s not that Jesus despised rules: he invented some himself; but he knew that obedience to rules might cloak hypocrisy. God desires the heart.
Secondly Matthew reports Jesus’ claim that what he provides is greater than Solomon! This apparently arrogant claim is accompanied by a almost incomprehensible reference to his suffering, death and resurrection. As Jonah was three nights in the whale so he (the leader of his people/ Son of Man) will be three nights in the earth. The thing that is greater than Solomon is the unflinching love which will take Jesus to his death. This love does not dismiss the religious wisdom of Israel; it uses and transcends it. In Jesus’ words, he has come not to discard the Torah but to fulfill it.