See the Gospels With Fresh Eyes

jesus-teaching

(This is a reprint of an article I posted on my Abraham’s Journey Facebook Page about a year ago. Some of the things I do here I initiate – though more and more I find myself posting things that you, dear readers, have made clear are important to you. It has become kind of a hidden dialogue. For this one, anyway, the prime mover to get it here is a reader, Kathleen)

For a period of a decade and a half, beginning when I was 16, I rarely spoke of religious matters at all, except to people who were very close to me. I would not get involved in religious disputes. I had seen how much damage religious people could do, how they could take the heart out of others. So I prayed that I say nothing at all until what I had to say would help build up rather than tear down. Despite my reticence, religion was the most important thing in my life. I read and re-read the Bible intensely, praying I might see it with ‘fresh eyes,’ without the cultural gloss that comes with most teaching. I was well aware that many who had a reputation for vast knowledge of Scripture knew very little at all. Most partisans I met knew 20-30 verses by heart which supported their doctrinal emphases and were almost completely blind (whether willingly or unintentionally I don’t know) to all the verses that contradicted their emphasis. It seemed to me that either the whole thing must hold or none of it did. Just because a system is internally coherent does not make it true, but if it is not internally coherent it cannot be true.

Obviously, I knew Jesus and various heavenly beings, so I was Christian – and I really wanted a spiritual home. For a period of years, I would go to a denomination until I found the sticking point – the parts of Scripture ignored or glossed over because it contradicted their doctrinal emphasis. I would question the preachers about it – and when they brushed me off would, with no little sadness, move on, knowing this could not be my home. I am profoundly grateful for this now, for in the various denominations I discovered important charisms that are profound and authentic. Though they could not be my home, I left with deep respect for many denominations. It was fullness most lacked, not authenticity. It was God’s plan that I should search so long in the wilderness that I might see my fellow Christians with affection and respect rather than as rivals. But it was important to me to see what Jesus’ listeners actually heard, not just how our late second millennium cultural assumptions interpret it.

When I was 16, an event occurred which sent me to the library for months, researching the origins of various denominations. Even today, some 40 years later, I can tell you the name of the man or woman who founded many of them and their doctrinal emphases. It was a startling discovery – and I think played a large role in why I became so absorbed by history in general. We assume the world is very much like we know it, with only minor variations; but it is not. For many years, like most, I assumed Samaritan was synonymous with good. It was a shock to discover that Samaritans were considered the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth in Jesus’ time. It added profound new depth to Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. His parable shocked His listeners in its pointed emphasis that it is not your status that sanctifies you, but the reach of your heart’s compassion. To get the same shock value in today’s terms, you would need to tell the story of the Good Pimp or some such. It made me want to learn more about the cultural norms of the society Jesus lived in, for I suspected we were probably hearing other things in a very different way than His original audience did. Today, I want to tell you of just a couple; things that particularly irritate me because our modern sensibilities in some cases have completely turned some of Jesus’ teachings on their head. I do it in hopes it will inspire you to look at Scripture with fresh eyes, too.

camelthrougheyeofneedle

First, Matthew 19:24, where Jesus tells His disciples that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” This is almost invariably cited as a condemnation of the rich. But if that is what it is, why were the disciples so astonished, asking if this is so how is it possible for anyone to get into heaven? It helps to know that in Jesus’ time, Jews considered temporal wealth to be a sign of God’s special favor – that the rich were the ones with a sure ticket to heaven. To get a sense of how shocking this saying was, imagine Jesus saying, “..it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for Pope John Paul, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham to enter the kingdom of God.” That would shake you up…and get across Jesus point that it is through grace and not our feeble efforts that we may enter – and it would be no more a condemnation of John Paul, Mother Teresa or Billy Graham than Jesus’ original saying was a condemnation of the rich.

The most over-simplified and misunderstood passage is Matthew 5:39-42. It begins with Jesus telling the people to not resist or fight one who is evil, then goes into the sequence of turning the other cheek, giving your cloak to one who takes your coat, and walking the second mile with one who forces you to go the first. Far from a command to meek subservience, this was a brilliant prescription for effective civil disobedience that would emphasize the dignity of the oppressed. Let me explain:

In Jesus’ time there were factions of Jews, called Zealots, who were ever plotting armed revolt against the Roman overlords. Cooler heads at the Sanhedrin tried to suppress this because there was a massive power imbalance between the Romans and the Jews. A revolt would trigger a retaliation which would lead to deeper oppression for Jews who survived it. But many in the Sanhedrin, over time, had crossed over from prudent restraint to active collaboration with the oppressors, like Vichy French officials. If you were slapped by an official, either a Roman or a Jewish religious official, the prescribed response was to immediately fall to your knees and, with your forehead touching the ground, beg forgiveness.muslim praying To remain standing with your other cheek turned was not an act of submission, but of cool defiance. When Rosa Parks responded to the slap of being sent to the back of the bus by refusing, she turned her cheek to receive the additional slap of being fined and detained at the local jail. Cohorts of soldiers frequently passed through the city. These cohorts were authorized to force random citizens to walk the equivalent of a mile with them to help carry supplies. If you walked two instead of one, you were volunteering citizenship rather than merely conscripted. If a thief robbed your cloak and you gave him extra, focusing on his presumed need, you were a philanthropist instead of a victim. In each case, Christ urged his listeners to decisively assert their dignity in a way that was not provocative – and calculated to cause the oppressor to recall his own humanity. And in each, there is a subtle, but real, shift of power in the encounter. The Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther King’s leadership was a living example of these instructions.
Jesus worked from a perfect set of guiding principles; love, dignity, and responsibility among them; and perfectly applied them to whatever the situation at hand was. People try to reduce Him to formulaic legalisms that match their own preferences, but Christ will not be contained. Though often indulgent of sins of weakness, He was not a ‘do-your-own-thing’ feel-good guru. Though He defined and condemned sin in clear terms, He was not a joyless scold. Though He sought the most peaceable solution to every problem, He was not a reflexive pacifist. He is tTrue God and Perfect Man.

I pray that some of these writings will encourage you, too, to look at the Gospels through fresh eyes; to see Jesus for the dynamic, charismatic and joyful man and leader He was while He walked this earth. (To that end, swear off watching any movie that depicts the Master as a joyless bore who drones on constantly in a sleep-inducing monotone. Whatever Jesus was here, He was certainly not a bore.)

 

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
This entry was posted in Discernment, Obedience and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to See the Gospels With Fresh Eyes

  1. John says:

    Reminds me of our local priest who was recently telling us that Jesus was not only a very excellent orator, but he packed a certain witty humor to boot. He brought up the example of when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and said “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!” (Matt. 23: 23-26). He felt that Jesus not only got his point across, but would have caused quite a bit of laughter as well.

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  2. johnmcfarm says:

    All true wisdom comes from love…I firmly believe that Jesus loves all that come to Him…indeed, the bible states so in various places. For me, John 3:16 sums up about 90% of what the New Testament is trying to teach us. The minor man made differences each sect or denomination has is unimportant in the scheme of things. Love…is what matters I believe in the end.

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  3. Rich DiClaudio says:

    Hi Charlie. Excellent post again. It’s helping me to better remember/understand all needs to be rooted in love of Christ and not solely good memorization of Scripture or doctrine, as in important as both are. God bless you.

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  4. Kati says:

    Charlie,
    This understanding of Scripture is vitally needed today. I am wondering if you or anyone else might be able to list a few books that could help people with this? It is extremely important that Catechists are aware of such things to avoid the constant distortion I fear is taking place.

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    • charliej373 says:

      Honestly, Kati, I don’t. I majored in history and it has been a lifelong subject of study. I have written pieces and helped edit others for scholarly journals. I am fascinated by it in and of itself – but I also was partially motivated because I wanted to know what things meant to the people who are living them. What we hear and what they heard are so often dramatically different. I get frustrated because the world in general – and Americans, in particular, I think – just think of ancient times as being more primitive versions of modern mores. If that is all you know then, by definition, you cannot even begin to understand what Scripture meant to the people for whom it was first written. I know some dense, scholarly books that give a good picture, but I really know of none that is easily geared to the layman or non-professional historian or theologian. A good place to start getting a picture that is set properly in the times is Pope Emeritus book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” from a few years ago. It does a marvelous job of seeing who Jesus was seen as in His time, the historical context, with the fullness of who He is to all times. History is not just a case of, “what happened?”; but also a case of what was the culture in which it happened and how did it affect the people in that culture.

      But Kati, I have gone in back with priests more than a few times when they gave a homily that completely missed the cultural and historical context of events. Thanks be to God, in almost all cases, they have been glad to see from history and Scripture a better context. Once, a priest exclaimed in joyful relief (I worked entirely from Scripture here), “Thank God I don’t have to teach that poppycock any more. I did because that’s what everybody says and I thought I had to.”

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      • Brian says:

        hi Kati and Charlie;
        Charlie and I were kicking the same can a little while back when I too was asking; got directed here this morning looking for something John of the Cross: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/index.html
        and just came on this getting prepped for Mass this am (see Sunday Readings left vertical menu); haven`t been able to leave the site since I got back from Communion; had LOTS of context/historical BUT most important (for me) non-stop Biblical scriptural links to explain Scripture and references to Catechism.
        AAA from Catholic Culture crowd with Dr. Mirus a confidence booster for me, as well as their links, many of which I am very confident in referring

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        • Kati says:

          Brian,

          I am SOOOO happy that you posted this! I just read through all the readings, etc. for today and this is a phenomenal website! It is downright spectacular and extensive!!! I just showed it to my hubby and he is equally enthralled…for a number of reasons. I have bookmarked it in a special file for him. I noted the references to the CCC as well. 🙂
          Our catechists will be enriched as well…because our Religious Ed. Children’s Program is based on the Sunday Gospel and readings.

          Thank you….thank you….THANK you!!!

          Charlie, Thank you for linking us all back to this. Our God is SO GOOD!

          Liked by 1 person

        • donna269 says:

          YIPPPEEEEEEEEEEEEE, thank you Brian….just what I needed.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Kati try Scott Hahn’s book, “A Father Who Keeps His Promises”. It is an immensely readable synopsis of how the Old Testament culminates in the Eucharist. Not sure that is what you are lookjng for, but worth checking out in any case. Our parish is giving away copies this Christmas through Dynamic Catholic’s parish book program.
      http://dynamiccatholic.com/parish-book-program/ . Our K of C is funding it.

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  5. aj says:

    Speaking of “Fresh Eyes”…I want to share with all of you some very, very fresh eyes on The Eucharist. To endorse Charlie’s point, one of the biggest problems with modern day interpretation is a lack of cultural and historical understanding of the audience at the time of the gospels. English speaking persons see the gospels in a modern western civilisation setting. In reality, Jesus was a Jew and spoke to Jews so that they could understand. As a matter of fact, many things were not “explained’ in the gospels because those writing expected everyone reading to understand. They weren’t writing to Americans or the British. They were writing to their own…for the most part. Some may say then that JESUS must have known the gospels would be read through time by people who were ignorant of Jewish culture…and so He did. That’s why He set up His Church to teach us with His authority. 🙂

    And so I am posting a link to an extremely fantastic, deep and yet simple talk on the Eucharist from a Jewish perspective (I just had to be going wow and ahhh yes, so many times in the talk). It’s 72 mins of grace. So get the popcorn, the drinks and listen. The talk is by Dr. Brant Pitre. What I like about him is that he really simplifies what would have obviously taken him many years to absorb.

    God bless and may the HOLY SPIRIT open your hearts to this teaching.

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    • charliej373 says:

      I am mildly familiar with Pitre, but from what I have read of his work, he is solid as both historian and in his theological speculations.

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    • Bev says:

      Oh, aj, I am so delighted that you patched this in! Some time ago (1 or 2 years) I was trying to find a book that would describe what life and Passover had been like during Jesus’ lifetime. I found it and bought it immediately. Guess who authored it?! Brant Pitre, called “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist”. I always scan at least five to ten pages at random before I purchase a book to make sure I am getting what I want. The first page I opened to was the description of the sacrifice of the lambs at the temple by the priests, and the number of people who would be celebrating Passover in Jerusalem at that time in history. I bought the book, went home and….nothing else got done that day. I can hardly wait to read the comments and listen (it’s gonna make me get to bed very late, but worth it). Thank you, thank you.

      Charlie, I did not know that.

      And let me tell you, I have heard at Mass, and read quite a few different interpretations. Thank you very much. What a totally different perspective! And how far I have to go … the learning will never end. (I think that has to be second best of things about heaven. First would be being with God and Our Lady and our parents and friends etc. I don’t feel any urgency to “see” them. Most of all I long to be at the very back, checking that all the people I’ve prayed for are there and accounted for. Same with the banquet table-to be three, and slip under and go and see who I want)

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  6. MM Bev says:

    Like you, Charlie, I have understood that we cannot really fathom what Jesus was saying and doing without an understanding of the age in which He lived. I mean He picked it for a reason, and we are so far removed from any understanding of what it was really like that only through study can we begin to glimpse the effect it had then, and should have now. I wanted very much to know exactly what Passover was like when He was a child (since He was there at Jerusalem every year) and what the context of the Last Supper was in relationship to the Jewish Passover at that time. I waited a long time, but a couple of years ago a very readable book was published called “Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist – Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper)”. I always open a book and spot read before I buy to make sure I am getting what I really want. Well, the first spot I opened this book to, blew my mind. I didn’t go any further, I just bought it. As I have been able, I have purchased it for other people, often for a priest. It is so good, everybody should read it. We have absolutely no concept of Passover and/or it’s relationship to what Jesus did without the knowledge and scholarship (in very readable language) provided. It still blows my mind, and not many books can do that. Those first two pages that opened at random and read are almost indelible in my mind! Its by Brant Pitre, Foreword by Scott Hahn.
    (And if anyone knows an excellent book on what the Jewish life and rituals in families were during that time, I have been hunting same for some time.) It is excellent to read Just read, and think about what a passage means, and then become aware of what actually happened in life then and discover an entire new way of looking and experiencing.
    One other thing I learned only recently that I should have known, but didn’t was a fact about crucifixion.
    The crucified person writhed constantly, never still, on the cross. In order to breath, Jesus had to pull himself up by his nailed hands, because the air in his lungs could not be expelled out in the downward position. So He had to push up on his nailed feet as high as He could, pulling on His hands pierced through the median nerve (really unbelievable pain), in order to breathe out and inhale a little air. I will not describe the anatomical and excruciating, and permanent cramping that affected all His limbs and torso as this happened. However, the victim on a cross was never still. In order to be able to breathe even a little, the body had to move up and down, constantly up and down, about a 12 inch distance, becoming more and more frantic as the time progressed….and on a rough, splinter filled wooden plank, with, as in Jesus’ situation, almost no skin on His back. We have NO IDEA. This is never depicted but every Jewish person was well aware that this form of execution was devised to inflict the absolute maximum pain. (And why a Roman citizen was exempt from death that way, as in St. Paul).
    I say I should have known….my baby “climbed” me as I held him when he couldn’t breathe (which was almost every night for the first three years). By the second night, my neck and sometimes the side of my face were clawed and bleeding from his efforts to raise himself higher in the effort to be able to exhale air and get some air into his lungs. As he grew older and I could no longer hold him, I found a Spanish Labor chair, which allowed me to position him sitting with his arms raised upwards, and leaning forward, as he sat on it backwards.
    What you have said is so vitally important for us, because we Christians are so far removed by not only centuries, but a complete lack of knowing what those centuries were like to leave in. Unless in some way we learn what the temple sacrifice of the lambs was like, and how they were prepared afterwards for roasting, we have absolutely NO understanding whatsoever. And every year, from infancy on, Jesus was there and participated with His parents and kin, and the hundreds and hundreds of people all participating together. So He knew.
    Bev

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  7. MM Bev says:

    Darn it. While I was typing, I got beaten to the draw. However, I am exstatic to find out there is a tape I can listen to. Thank you so much aj. That’s next right now on my agenda. Bev

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    • June1 says:

      That is too much of a coincidence that both you and aj posted something about Brant Pitre… too much so that it cannot be coincidence. 🙂 Crazy!

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      • Mack says:

        He also has a great book on Jesus as the bridegroom of the church. Jewish bridegroom s wore a crown and this ties into Jesus’ crown of thorns on the cross. The cross was his espousals to the Church.

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  8. Jim M. says:

    Thanks Charlie for reminding us that context is absolutely necessary in imparting the truth. This unfortunately is a major failure in today’s preaching. One has to ask what seminaries are teaching. Jesus is the truth. Context is part of the truth. Most of us aren’t getting the truth.

    The Bible is not an al la carte menu. It is all or nothing. But without context, some critical points are missed or ignored. With context, it all makes sense. Like turning the other cheek. In my view, the most abused passage in our world today being peddled as total submission. Without context, people tend to dismiss Jesus telling the apostles to get a sword, or telling those who don’t have one to sell the clothes off their back to buy one. When you see that turning the other cheek was actually a sign of continuing to stand for ones beliefs despite the admonishment, you begin to see that our faith does not require us to acquiesce to submissive slaughter.

    If you do ever happen to come across a publication that rounds out the historical context (like “Biblical Historical Context for Dummies”) please let me know.

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  9. donna269 says:

    Charlie:
    Many members of my family are Jewish (by marriage) and they are religious. Their children have been raised strictly in the faith. Funny thing is, I think there is STILL a belief that temporal wealth is a sign of God’s favor to this day….I don’t think that has changed much. The other half of my family is European Catholic and wealth to us is something to be taken in humility if it so happens to you. And if you don’t receive wealth, our belief is, “well we are wealthy in our rich spiritual graces”…..isn’t that odd?

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    • donna269 says:

      But an important fact about my Jewish relatives is their important emphasis on sharing their wealth with the poor in the Mitzvah….the good deed. My nephews spent many more days in Homeless Kitchens than my children did for Confirmation hours….

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      • charliej373 says:

        Interesting, Donna. Having spent most of my life in the Chicago area, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with practicing Jews. (Of course, the Republican Jewish Coalition I often interacted with in politics was a minority within a minority!) The continuum between Jews and Christians is quite striking. As St. John Paul said, “They are our elder brothers in the faith.”

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        • Mark says:

          I think it is important to remember the Catholic faith is the fulfillment of the Jewish faith and the next right step 🙂 (where have I heard that before) in Gods ultimate plans.

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  10. aj says:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j30c6nG8o2w

    Well as we’re at it…here’s an 8 minute spirtual visine to help give us some fresh eyes…Jewish roots of the Papacy and authority of Peter. Wonderful stuff for us to grow in our faith and to understand the Pope is the authority of Christ Himself. I used to use my knowledge of the truth of the Catholic Church as a baton against my protestant brothers but the truth of the matter is beating someone into submission won’t bring conversion of heart, as a matter of fact it usually repels them even if they intellectually know that the arguments are sound. Conversion is a thing of the heart…and that’s God’s job, not mine :-). I now understand that these lessons in Catholicism are for me to grow in faith so that “I” can be constantly converted and therefore Love more. And when I Love it makes the soul of others hearts more fertile for God’s converting Grace.

    I’ll close with a quote from Saint John Cantius that’s so simple and true…I can hear Papa Francis saying these words as well: “Fight all error, but do it with good humour, patience, kindness, and Love. Harshness will damage your own Soul and spoil the best cause.” Wish I found this quote a long time ago…JESUS I Trust in You. Help my repair for what I have lost.

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    • Nancy says:

      aj, reparation has long been one of my consolations. I used to beat myself up about all my sins, mistakes, etc., I am sure that the reminders, even after confession, were not coming from Jesus. He had thrown them into a bottomless lake with a sign that said “no fishing.” (from Father Clifford on EWTN,I think). Then I realized that God, even in respecting our free will, can make things new again. I composed this prayer that I say every time I start thinking the old way:
      O Lord, you are the Lord of time. I know that you can’t undo the damage I have done–since you respect my free will. You can, however, repair the damage I have done. You can make things right again–not the same, but even better. You can make good come from evil because you are infinitely more powerful than evil. Please, repair the damage I have done.
      I have also discovered that reaching out to make a simple act of reparation or repentance to the one I have offended gives the Lord something to work with. Otherwise, I pray for them and leave the rest to Him. I really suspect the satan hates this.

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    • jaykay says:

      aj: your last three sentences are so true, and something I need to remember constantly. Thank you. J.

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  11. aj says:

    And so God speaks to us…the first few paragraphs of Mark Mallett which I’ve just read, repeats what I just posted about words and learning do not bring conversion. A change of heart comes only through the power of The HOLY SPIRIT. Now that’s a Godincidence. Mark’s latest: http://www.markmallett.com/blog/wisdom-the-power-of-god/#more-16087

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  12. Anne says:

    We have lost sight of theTruth. My whole day Friday confirmed that .We have placed ourself in void …… Self glorification . And next …..in despair we will be ripe for a charmer

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  13. Stephen Maresch says:

    Charlie,

    What I don’t understand is why so few priest and Bishops will not speak the truth from the pulpit. Catholics pratice contraception, abortion, premaritail sex, ( and don’t get me started on the way they dress for mass) and so on and on and make excuses like, ” I don’t believe that”, or God understands my situation. There is no reverence for the God of the universe. I have only ever heard a few handful of priest ever speak about sin from the pulpit. I recently heard a priest say from the pulpit jokingly that “he was so grateful that God gave him a parish where no one sins because no one go’s to confession”. I told him later that was a funny comment but the real reason is becuase sin is not preached from the pulpit. Too this day he still has not preached about sin. Everything is pladitudes no real meat on sin. Is there a command that came down from on high to never offend anyone by speaking about sin. I just saw a blog post by Monsignor Pope of the Washington DC about the NY St. Patty days parade allowing the Homesexual groups to march carrying their banners in the parade, of which he spoke out against allowing the groups to promote their life style; and he was forced to apoligize and remove the post. Unbelievable we are sheep without sheppard’s! “The pot is boiling and the frog does not know that the water is killing him”. There is a new athieism ” There is a God and he thinks just like me!”
    Sorry I just had to vent!

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    • charliej373 says:

      Go ahead and vent, Stephen. there is a legitimate balance between justice and mercy…and over the years we tilt too far in either direction. I agree with you that we are almost toppled over by how far we have tilted towards do-your-own-thing-permissiveness. Several years ago, I lived for maybe a year and a half in Galesburg, Illinois. We had a wonderful priest there at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Fr. Ernie Pizzamiglio, who was completely orthodox and tough – but so incredibly loving and humble that he could give powerful rebukes from the pulpit and, amazingly, no one took offense and many corrected their errors. He is an amazing priest. On a matter of politics once, filled with the spirit, he rebuked me publicly at a Daily Mass. Afterwards he was almost in tears apologizing to me…for we were good friends. But he was right. I told him so and I thanked him. My face should have been burning red as he spoke, but I was astonished that all I felt was gratitude that he had cleared a big error up in my mind. Not a hint of resentment. It astounded me. Since then I have thought that the method is not to start speaking boldly first…but first, the priests must fall in love again and then, with that extraordinary love, their rebukes and corrections would be received with gratitude. I know everyone at Immaculate Heart just loved Fr. Ernie all the time, whether he was laughing with them or rebuking him. What a grace to have had such a pastor in my life!

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      • June1 says:

        Could you imagine if there were more priests like this? We would truly have a glimpse of paradise on earth… We must remember to pray for our shepherds as Our Lady keeps drumming into our heads over and over and over at Medjugorje. They are under horrific attack and many are succumbing.

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  14. Serendipity says:

    Hi Charlie,
    I think that there is another gospel passage that I think is misunderstood. It is contained in the story of the death of Lazarus – John 11:35-36.
    Jesus wept. See how much he loved him the people said.
    I don’t think the people watching, nor the people who would read about it later, really understood why ‘Jesus wept’.
    Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead for 4 days before arriving at his friends home. He waited in order to give maximum glory to the Father. He was in no hurry for He knew what He was going to do. And when He did finally arrive, it wasn’t as if suddenly the full reality of Lazarus’ death suddenly ‘hit’ the Son of God in the head causing him to break down and cry. He could have hurried. He didn’t. He couldn’t mourn the loss of his friend because He already said what He was going to do and knew then there was no reason for tears. Except perhaps for the tears of joy that would come with the raising of Lazarus. So no, from Jesus’ point of view there was no reason to cry because of Lazarus’s death; no matter how much He loved him.
    However, this is still a really important passage. If Jesus isn’t crying over Lazarus’ death, then why?
    This passage is so important because it illustrates that when we cry, when the friends of Jesus cry, Jesus cries too.
    Death is so painful to the people that are left behind. Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us from our sins, enabling us to live with Him forever in heaven if we so choose. But all this happens after we die, behind the veil. Our faith gives us hope in things unseen. When a loved one dies, all we have is that hope and a gaping bleeding hole of emptiness that nobody else but the departed can ever fill. It is a pain so all encompassing that it hurts at every level of our being. It is a suffering unlike any other and it is a sorrowful part of our journey here on earth.
    Jesus knew although His death would conquer death and the ravages of sin, He also knew that those who lived after He died would still have to deal with the pain of loved ones dying.
    First He met Martha then He met Mary and then all who were crying with her. He was deeply moved. He felt their sorrow, and all the sorrow of all those weeping over loved ones, and all the tears that were yet to be shed.
    And Jesus wept.
    *********************
    I love that this is a concrete example of when we cry, Jesus cries too. I don’t think that most people believe that when we cry, Jesus actually feels our pain and actually cries. But there it is – His friends wept and He wept too.
    A great tool for Hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. charliej373 says:

    Reblogged this on The Next Right Step and commented:

    There is a lot of theological incoherence rising right now. I thought it would be good to resurrect this post originally from September of 2013 that cuts through some of the misunderstandings out there.

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  16. Denise Lee says:

    Hi, Charlie.
    This post has brought me from the shadows, where I usually lurk in silence.
    Do you have any references for your explication of the “Turn the other cheek…” passage? It would greatly help me if you do.

    Kithri

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    • charliej373 says:

      Hi Denise, I am pulling up some research. I came to this realization in college while in a course on ancient history. I think the text I was reading was “From Gilgamesh to Diocletian.” It did not reference the Bible, just went through the laws for interactions between common people and authorities. When I read that particular dictum, my mind immediately leapt to that injunction, for it immediately changed the context of what it actually was. I no longer have the text in my personal library (gave it away along with everything else prior to my pilgrimage). It is a fairly narrow proscription of ancient Roman law and custom. But it is good you ask, for I should dig to find another reference now to replace it and have handy. And if one of the readers happens to be expert in that period and has a ready reference, type on. But I will dig it out.

      (One of the great losses of having given away my library is that I always noted in the front of historical and theological texts, the page and footnote citations of such references when they made such a connection in my mind – and could quickly display them. Ah well, I am pretty good in researching such things).

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  17. donna269 says:

    Fr James Martin has a fantastic book out entitled “Jesus: A Pilgrimage. He takes us on his Pilgrimage (first one) as a priest with his fellow priest, and they visit the places of the New Testament. I learned so much….for instance. Remember when Jesus was preaching to the crowd and went out on a boat some yards from the shore to speak from the boat? Do you know why He did that? Because of acoustics! The way the shore was designed he would be louder to the crowd a few yards in the water on a boat!!!!!! Fr James accidentally discovered that in his travels…when he went to the place…he couldn’t hear anyone on the shore. But some children in a boat a little ways out were heard perfectly as if they were right next to him! Jesus knew this, and that’s why He spoke from the boat a few yards out! Incredible….such a smartie, that Jesus!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mack says:

    Knowing the cultural background of the gospels helps us greatly to understand them better. I once heard a wonderful talk by a man who had studied this. He spoke about the saying of Jesus, “You are the salt of the earth.” He said we misunderstand that because we think they used salt as a preservative. They didn’t because it would have made them more thirsty in their dry climate. Instead, they made dung cakes for fuel and put salt in them to be the catalyst that would light them up. So being the salt of the earth means to be the catalyst that will start the world on fire for the Gospel. Then the next thing Jesus says makes more sense, “You are the light of the world.” salt – light I never forgot that talk!

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