Tag Archives: Finding in the Temple

Lesson in Obedience

[A Caveat: As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.]

It is encouraging to me to realize that even Jesus needed lessons in obedience. Not that He ever disobeyed God the Father. But that obedience came into conflict with obedience to his parents. He needed to grow in discernment and understanding, to mature just as we do, to be able to listen to the Father through His mother and step-father, or, as Luke puts it, He needed to go down to Nazareth and to be obedient to them in order to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.[2] [Lk 2:52] Note that this obedience to His parents was necessary not just to advance in the opinion of men, but also, and perhaps especially, in the reality, the Truth that is God.

God had made it necessary for Jesus to be absorbed into, to become part of the fabric of his family, of the community at Nazareth, of the society around him. He could not hold himself aloof, to separate himself from the warp and woof of everyday life, to go off to study scripture with the priests in the temple, not even to go up to the mountain and pray alone, without realizing that His connection with the world, with His purpose, why He was there, with the Truth, the real reason why He went up to the mountain to pray…for His people back to Adam and forward to the end of time.

God speaks to us of this universal interrelationship through His creation, through the earth, through the everyday activities of earth. This is true of you, of me, even of the hermit and the cloistered. Their day and ours are strewn with ordinary routines, encounters with Him through our bodies, our activities, our emotions, our thoughts as we swim in the His Divine milieu of creation.

The lesson for me? As much as I may wish to be united to God and to the things of God here on earth, to go apart and have an eternal I-Thou love-in, God wants me to realize that He made me to praise, reverence and serve Him directly but also and continually through my every thought, word and action with which I interact with all around me; these repercuss in ever expanding waves washing over the whole world and over all around me.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

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Non Sequiturs: Jesus in the Temple and Dismas

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.[1] Lk 2: 46-47

I never noticed before, but the give and take in this scene is peer to peer, not teachers to disciple. While the first part of the sentence would indicate that Jesus was only an inquisitive student, listening to them and asking them questions, in the second part, the tables are turned: the teachers are bowled over with his understanding and, not questions, but answers! Cool!

Perhaps this is the way Jesus deals with us, listening and asking questions, helping us to clarify and understand Him better,…and in our conversation with Him [aka prayer], we are in awe of His understanding of us and His answers to our questions.

 

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Lk 23:42

It has been pointed out that poor Dismas, whose name is from Greek: “dying,” is the only person in any of the Gospels to address Jesus by his first name, Jesus, without a qualifier, e.g. LORD or Son of David or Teacher. As the late exegete Fr. Raymond Brown put it, “The first person with the confidence to be so familiar is a convicted criminal who is also the last person on earth to speak to Jesus before he dies,” i.e. in Luke’s Gospel.

When you go through a horrific ordeal with another person, there’s little room and no time for formality. You are thrown together by providence and see the other in the worst possible conditions; you know each other without the conventional facades of society. Being crucified with another certainly qualifies as one of these situations. Since the banter had been scorn and ridicule to that point, it was a true gesture of acknowledgement of what Jesus was going through, of who He was, of what His kingdom consisted, when Dismas spoke to him. Dismas’ very words indicate that, in some way, he recognized that Jesus was indeed the Christ, but not in the then popular conquering hero sense, but in a new way, an after death way, a beyond suffering in this life way. Like Peter’s declaration: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God [Mt 16:16], Dismas’ recognition is a sign that he is blessed, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to him but Jesus’ heavenly Father. [Mt 16:17] He recognized that Jesus would live beyond the grave, a recognition in a vague, unclear, but total sense, that this Jesus would exist beyond death and would, indeed, take his place as a rightful king. And it is this King who answers him, not just a plain answer, but prefaced by the formula that indicates that this is a pronouncement of momentous truth, for it is said by God: Amen, I say[2] to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. [Lk 23:43]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Like the I am statements in John, the I say statements in the other Gospels, as well as the prefaced Amen, or “truth” in Hebrew [from Semitic root a-m-n “to be trustworthy, confirm, support”] indicate God not only being but proclaiming truth. Online Etymology Dictionary, “Amen,” http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=amen