bible blog 1571

The readings are from the Catholic lectionary for daily mass, while the headline is mean to keep my thinking real:


last year's helpers

last year’s helpers

First reading 

2 John 1:4-9 ©
It has given me great joy to find that your children have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father. I am writing now, dear lady, not to give you any new commandment, but the one which we were given at the beginning, and to plead: let us love one another.

To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.

There are many deceivers about in the world, refusing to admit that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist. Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and not get the reward it deserves. If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him: only those who keep to what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.

Although the exact status of the three Johannine letters is unknown, they share the two concerns evident in this passage: the commandment to live in love; and the need to hold to the truth of God, that Jesus was truly human. These concerns are linked. God’s love is shown in the humanity of Jesus, especially in his real death on the cross. If as some people were apparently teaching,  Jesus was never truly flesh and blood, then for the Johannine writer(s) the gospel of God’s love was void. John’s gospel is based on the theology of Jesus the “word made flesh” whose crucifixion is a supreme demonstration of God’s love as well as the “way” in which Jesus goes back to the Father. The letters show traces of this theology.

The Greek word for truth “aletheia” is prominent in the vocabulary of the gospels and the letters. It means “unconcealment”: In the humanity of Jesus, God is unconcealed. We might have thought that in Jesus’ human life, God is concealed. The Johannine tradition says the opposite: here, in Jesus, is God; here in Jesus, his glory is revealed. This is the great truth in which the lady’s children have chosen to live. We sing a hymn of the crucifixion which has these words:

the arms of the cross embrace the world

the arms of the cross embrace the world

Here is God, no monarch He

throned in easy state to reign;

here is God whose arms of love

naked, spent, the world sustain.

Luke 17:26-37 ©

Jesus said to the disciples:

‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.

‘When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, the other left; two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.’ The disciples interrupted. ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He said, ‘Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.’

I’m sure that Luke interpreted these words of Jesus as a prophecy of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE, which was seen as a cosmic disaster by Jewish people everywhere, casting them out into what proved to be 2000 years of exile. It was also seen by Luke as God’s judgement on Israel. Jesus’ words warn that like previous “judgments of God” this can come almost without warning, a sudden and final catastrophe. 

Lot’s wife who looked back because she was reluctant to leave her belongings is put forward by Jesus as the type of person who wants to save their life / livelihood and will be destroyed; whereas those who leave their belongings behind will be safe. For those who remain, disaster will be haphazard, sparing one and taking another. The meaning of Jesus’ answer to the question “where?” is ambiguous. He does not name Jerusalem. His words may mean, “When you see the vultures you’ll know where the bodies lie,” a savage response which leaves his hearers to identify the place of God’s judgment. Or it may mean, “Wherever there are bodies, the eagles will gather” which would be a reference to the predatory nature of the Roman Legions whose standards carried the image of an eagle. 

Roman standard

Roman standard

As depicted by Luke, Jesus, like many prophets, warns of the uncertainty of worldly security and the certainty of God’s judgment on evil. God keeps to no obvious timetable, and is all the more dangerous for that. There will come a moment when my fundamental choice already made between God and possessions will become determinative. There won’t be time to think. I’ll either abandon possessions and head toward life or seek them and head toward death. It occurrs to me that I’ve never heard a sermon on this text.  I wonder why. One of the consequences of the Word being made flesh, is that believers have to take seruously what he said even if they don’t like it much.

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