Transfiguration

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
(Matthew 17:1-9)

Scripture Study

17:1–8 Jesus’ Transfiguration confirms his divine Sonship (3:17; 16:16). It also strengthens three early Church leaders (Peter, James, and John) after Jesus’ first Passion prediction (16:21). Being transfigured before them (17:2), Jesus unveils his glory, later manifest in his Resurrection and shared by his angels (28:2–3) and Virgin Mother in heaven (Rev 12:1) (CCC 555–56). ● The OT background for this event is God’s self-revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai. (1) Both take place on the seventh day (17:1; Ex 24:16); (2) both occur on a mountain (17:1; Ex 24:13, 15); (3) both Jesus and Moses take three companions with them (17:1; Ex 24:1); (4) the faces of both Jesus and Moses shine with God’s glory (17:2; Ex 34:29); (5) both involve the glory-cloud of God’s Presence; (6) and both events involve God speaking through a heavenly voice (17:5; Ex 24:16).

17:3 Moses and Elijah: Represent the testimony of the Law and the Prophets, respectively (cf. 5:17; 7:12). They are the only OT figures to hear God’s voice atop Mt. Sinai, also called Horeb (Ex 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8–18). They here witness to the surpassing glory of Jesus as the lawgiver and prophet of the New Covenant (cf. Jn 5:39; Rev 11:3–6).

17:4 I will make three booths: Peter desires to prolong the heavenly experience. The booths are small, tentlike shelters erected yearly at the Jewish Feast of Booths (Lev 23:39–43). This liturgical feast became an early Church symbol of the ongoing joys of heaven (cf. Rev 7:9–10).

17:5 beloved Son … listen to him: A similar proclamation was made at Jesus’ baptism (3:17; cf. Is 42:1). ● The final statement, “listen to him”, evokes Deut 18:15. In context, God promised that a prophet like Moses (Messiah) would come to Israel to be heeded by his people (cf. Acts 3:20–22).

17:6 fell on their faces: The posture of those overwhelmed by God’s glory (Gen 17:3; Ezek 1:28; Rev 1:17).

Scripture Reflection

The transfiguration scene serves as “a twin of sorts” to the execution narrative. In the one, a private epiphany, an exalted Jesus, with garments glistening, stands on a high mountain and is flanked by two religious giants from the past. All is light.

In the other, a public spectacle, a humiliated Jesus, whose clothes have been torn from him and divided, is lifted upon a cross and flanked by two common, convicted criminals. All is darkness.

We have here a pictorial antithetical parallelism, a diptych in which the two plates have similar lines but different colors. The parallel scenes highlight the horror of Good Friday and the splendor of Jesus’ love for us. It is no ordinary man that will be crucified on Calvary, but the beloved Son of God revealed in glory at the transfiguration. This same glorified Son will freely submit himself to utter humiliation in order to redeem the human family.

– Davies and Allison

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV

Shunned

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.
(Matthew 14:1-12)

Scripture Study

14:1–12 John the Baptist’s martyrdom is a narrative “flashback” on events of the past. Matthew’s account has a double purpose: (1) It marks a clear distinction between John and Jesus in light of popular rumors about their identity (14:2; 16:14). (2) It underscores the high cost of Christian discipleship (5:10–11; 10:39). The execution of John by governing authorities anticipates the fate of Jesus (17:12) and the early Christian martyrs (Rev 20:4).

14:1 Herod the tetrarch: Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, who governed Galilee and Perea from 4 b.c. until a.d. 39.

14:4 It is not lawful: John publicly denounced the union of Herod Antipas and his mistress, Herodias. While the NT gives little background, extrabiblical history details how Antipas desired Herodias while she was married to his half-brother Herod Philip. Antipas and Herodias then abandoned their respective spouses in order to be united. The Mosaic Law, however, forbids the union of a man with his brother’s wife while the brother is still living (Lev 18:16; 20:21). Since Philip was yet living, John the Baptist spoke out against the union of Herod Antipas and Herodias and publicly disgraced them (Mk 6:19).

14:9 he commanded it: Herod succumbed to peer pressure by swearing an illicit oath (14:7) before his distinguished guests (14:9). Condemning an innocent man without trial, he stands in a stream of immorality historically linked with the Herodian dynasty.

Scripture Reflection

This Gospel begins as Jesus returns to his “native place.” When he returns home, he immediately goes to the temple and begins to teach the people. Many were amazed and astonished. After all, many of them had seen Jesus grow up. Yet here he was preaching and teaching! They asked one another: “Where did he get all of this wisdom? How is he able to perform such mighty deeds?” They knew he was a simple carpenter, like his father, Joseph. And they knew his mother and all his siblings. They had great difficulty comprehending all of this!

Rather than being proud of Jesus and his intelligence and wisdom, some of his neighbors and relatives took offense at him. I wonder: were they jealous of Jesus? Did they think that Jesus thought that he was better than they were? Or were they envious of him? By their words and actions, they scorned Jesus! And thus, he was not able to work any great deeds there. Their lack of faith was too deep!

Take a moment and “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” Imagine the emotions that must have raced through Jesus during this encounter. He was so happy to be home. Jesus loved his hometown. And he loved the people of the town. And yet, they could not accept who he had become. They wanted him to remain as he was when he lived among them. Were they jealous? Or were they intimidated by this side of Jesus? Would they not accept him as he was? Could they not love him as a neighbor and kinsman?

Do we ever shun or judge people who seem to be more than we think they should be? I assume we all do! At times, we have judged another before we are aware of judging them. At these moments, we have a choice: to continue judging them or to choose to let go of our judgment when we realize that we are judging the individual. The choice is always ours to make.

Today may we consciously and deliberately “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” If we do so, we may find that we are more peaceful, gracious and loving! We also may be more joyful and light-hearted! And we may receive more gifts than we have given!

– Kristine Anne Harpenau, OSB

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Jealous Judgement

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
(Matthew 13:54-58)

Scripture Study

13:54–58. The Nazarenes’ surprise is partly due to people’s difficulty in recognizing anything exceptional and supernatural in those with whom they have been on familiar terms. Hence the saying, “No one is a prophet in his own country.” These old neighbors were also jealous of Jesus. Where did he acquire this wisdom? Why him rather than us? They were unaware of the mystery of Jesus’ conception; surprise and jealousy cause them to be shocked, to look down on Jesus and not to believe in him: “He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11).

“The carpenter’s son”: this is the only reference in the Gospel to St Joseph’s occupation (in Mk 6:3 Jesus himself is described as a “carpenter”). Probably in a town like Nazareth the carpenter was a general tradesman who could turn his hand to jobs ranging from metalwork to making furniture or agricultural implements.

Scripture Reflection

This Gospel begins as Jesus returns to his “native place.” Rather than being proud of Jesus and his intelligence and wisdom, some of his neighbors and relatives took offense at him. I wonder: were they jealous of Jesus? Did they think that Jesus thought that he was better than they were? Or were they envious of him? By their words and actions, they scorned Jesus! And thus, he was not able to work any great deeds there. Their lack of faith was too deep!

Take a moment and “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” Imagine the emotions that must have raced through Jesus during this encounter. He was so happy to be home. Jesus loved his hometown. And he loved the people of the town. And yet, they could not accept who he had become. They wanted him to remain as he was when he lived among them. Were they jealous? Or were they intimidated by this side of Jesus? Would they not accept him as he was? Could they not love him as a neighbor and kinsman?

Do we ever shun or judge people who seem to be more than we think they should be? I assume we all do! At times, we have judged another before we are aware of judging them. At these moments, we have a choice: to continue judging them or to choose to let go of our judgment when we realize that we are judging the individual. The choice is always ours to make.

Today may we consciously and deliberately “put on the mind and heart of Jesus.” If we do so, we may find that we are more peaceful, gracious and loving! We also may be more joyful and light-hearted! And we may receive more gifts than we have given!

– Kristine Anne Harpenau, OSB

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place

My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!

Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.

I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
(Psalm 84:3-4, 5-6, 8, 11)

Scripture Study

84:4 As a sparrow finds a home The psalmist illustrates how God will never turn a faithful person away from His temple.

84:5 Blessed are Refers to those who are faithful to God above all else. those who dwell in your house This may refer to the literal servants in the temple or it may be a depiction of people who are so consumed by the experience of worship that they are almost always worshiping at the temple.

84:6 pilgrim roads The Hebrew word mesillah is a general word for a “road” or “track”; here, it seems to hold the idea of pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

84:7 through the Baca valley A valley associated with either balsam or weeping, depending on how the Hebrew text is understood. It was possibly located along a pilgrimage route to Jerusalem.

84:9 God of Jacob Compare 82:1, 4.

84:10 our shield The Hebrew word used here, magen, seems to refer to God’s anointed ruler in this instance, the king, who was also Israel’s military leader. your anointed Although God is called melekh (“King”) in v. 3, His mashiach (“anointed”) is His human representative: the king of Israel.

84:11 Better the threshold The psalmist states that simply being close to Yahweh’s temple is better than being in any other place.

Scripture Reflection

Of all the psalms that celebrate Zion and its temple as God’s dwelling place, the eighty-fourth has been the favorite. For Christians, the era when ark and temple were visible signs of an invisible presence of God in Jerusalem belongs to the time of the Old Testament, but that does not mean for us that God is placeless.

We exist in space and time. How could God deal with us if not through space and time made holy by divine claim? God is everlasting, but he has his appointed times. God dwells in heaven, but he has place on earth. We “go” to God. Every visit to a temple or church or meeting of believers is in a profound sense a pilgrimage.

We “go,” not just for practical or personal reasons; we go theologically. The psalm has interpreted churches and chapels as “dwelling places of God’s love, the abode to which our hearts aspire with warm desire to see our God.”

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Inrushing of Grace

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
(Matthew 13:44-46)

Scripture Study

The idea of a hidden treasure that is not seen by everyone is appropriate for this chapter’s theme about the kingdom not being fully revealed to all. Like the treasure buried in a field, something of great value is present in the kingdom Jesus proclaims, but few are aware of it.

A new theme also emerges here: the urgency of responding to the good news of the kingdom. The person in the parable recognizes that he faces a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and makes a great sacrifice to obtain the treasure: he sells all that he has and buys that field. The kingdom of heaven is a priceless treasure that completely alters one’s priorities in life. Things that at one time were considered very important now no longer carry as much weight in light of the wealth of God’s kingdom. One joyfully abandons everything in order to obtain these treasures. This image also recalls how the disciples left everything to follow Jesus (4:20, 22), and stands in contrast to the many in Israel who remain indifferent to Jesus’ kingdom announcement (see 11:20–24)—especially the Pharisees who are fighting against it (see 12:14).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today Jesus offers two parables about the kingdom of heaven. Let’s focus on the first one: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again….”

Sometimes God’s love is found that way. There’s the saying, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Sometimes in the course of our everyday lives, something happens that vividly and surprisingly summons us to union with God. We realize, in a flash, what it’s all about. We weren’t particularly looking for it, but it found us.

That’s what Jesus is getting at today. As you walk through the fields of life, be open to the inrushing of grace, when you least expect it. And when it comes, give up anything that holds it back.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Weeds and Wheat

Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the Kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
(Matthew 13:36-43)

Scripture Study

13:36 went into the house: Jesus shifts attention from the “great crowds” (13:2) to his private instruction of the disciples.

13:39 the harvest: A biblical image for the Day of the Lord—i.e., the time when God will judge all nations (3:12; cf. Jer 51:33; Hos 6:11; Joel 3:13; Rev 14:14–16).

13:42 gnashing of teeth: The wicked will experience punishment (CCC 1034).

13:43 shine like the sun: Those resurrected to eternal life share in Jesus’ glory. ● The expression evokes Dan 12:3. In context, Daniel foresees the general resurrection, when the “wise” will be delivered from God’s judgment and “shine” for ever (Dan 12:1–4).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel today is the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God sows his good seed, his word, his love and compassion, but his project is met with opposition. And the evil is such that it insinuates itself right into the very fabric of the good.

In classical theology, we speak of evil as a privatio boni, a privation of the good, meaning that evil is always and everywhere parasitic on the good. Just as a parasite is living off of the healthy body (and thereby weakening it), so moral evil lives off of the good soul, the good society, the good Church (and thereby weakens them).

What is the result? That it is exceptionally difficult to extricate the evil from the good without damaging the good. That’s why it is extremely difficult—and often counter-productive—to go after these evils with a crusading spirit.

To be sure, there are certain evils that simply have to be addressed—right now, no questions, no hesitations. But there are other evils (and they really are evil) that are best left alone for the time being, lest more damage is done in the process of extricating them.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Give Thanks to the Lord

Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.

They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.

Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.
(Psalm 106:19-20, 21-22, 23)

Scripture Study

106:19-23 The psalmist recounts the story of the golden calf in Exod 32:1–6

106:19 Horeb Another name for Sinai, where God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses.

106:22 Ham One of Noah’s sons; here his name is used to refer to Egypt (see Gen 10:6).

106:23 he would exterminate them Recounts the exchange between Yahweh and Moses in Exod 32:7–14.

Scripture Reflection

Israel had learned that sin is intergenerational and social. If any penitence does not comprehend that, it fails to grasp the profundity and tragedy of the sinful predicament. Paul found in verse 20 the clue to the fundamental error that underlies all sin in the human race, and he seems to have drawn broadly on the language of Psalm 106 in his depiction of universal sin (Rom. 1:18–32.)

Though the focus of the psalm is on case studies of Israel’s failure, it never loses confidence that the determining factor of God’s way with sinful Israel is the relationship that God has initiated. Because of the abundance of his steadfast everlasting love he saved them, in spite of their sin, again and again. But the psalm has an important understanding of how God’s just wrath is restrained from the destruction of his people.

Deliverance from punishment does not come automatically. At the Red Sea the LORD acted because his name and power were at issue. But when Israel itself rejected the name and power by idolatry and apostasy, only the intercession of Moses turned away the wrath. The psalm gives the office of the intercessor a significant place in God’s relation to his sinful people. God answers when he hears the cry that they lift up on behalf of sinners.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

A Pearl of Great Price

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”
(Matthew 13:44-52)

Scripture Study

13:44–46 Two parables, the Hidden Treasure (13:44) and the Pearl of Great Value (13:45–46), that underscore the same point. Both stress that the kingdom’s value is inestimable, and surrendering earthly attachments is required to obtain it (19:21, 29; Phil 3:8). This may entail literal poverty (religious) or spiritual poverty (5:3) for those whose state in life involves ownership of property (laity) (CCC 546). ● Allegorically (St. Irenaeus, AH 4, 26, 1): Christ himself is the great treasure hidden within the field of the OT Scriptures. Only in light of his Cross and Resurrection can the mysteries of the Old be fully understood to announce the advent of God’s Son.

13:47–50 The parable of the Dragnet envisions the Day of Judgment when the righteous are separated from the wicked . Leading up to this event, men and women are gathered into the kingdom from all nations, just as a net pulled through the sea collects various species of fish. The fishermen of the parable are the apostles and missionaries of the Church (see 4:18–19). The angels are elsewhere linked with the coming of Christ in judgment (16:27; 2 Thess 1:7).

13:52 every scribe: Legal experts in first-century Judaism. Here it denotes the apostles instructed for the kingdom. Jesus equips them to evangelize and catechize (28:18–20) the world about the treasures hidden in the old Covenant and manifest in the new. Matthew’s own ministry follows this pattern: he continually cites the OT to explain its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel for today includes several of Jesus’ better-known parables. I’d like to comment on this one: “Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls…”

What does this tell us? That there is often something interruptive about the Kingdom of God. It is a breakthrough, a radical change, a surprise.

Once we find the pearl, everything else must go. We must “sell” all of our other preoccupations and concerns, all those things and people that we once put in the center of our lives. They must go. There is something uncompromising to what Jesus is getting at.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Life Eternal

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
(John 11:19-27)

Scripture Study

11:22 even now: Martha’s faith fills her with confidence. Although she neither begs nor even asks Jesus to intervene for Lazarus, she knows that God’s love is more powerful than death and leaves Jesus to handle the situation as he sees fit.

11:24 the resurrection: A doctrine already current in Judaism (Dan 12:2–3; 2 Mac 7:9). Only the Sadducees denied that our bodies would live again on the last day (Mt 22:23; Acts 23:8).

11:25 I am the resurrection: Jesus places all hopes for a future resurrection upon himself. He possesses the absolute sovereignty over life and death that was always believed to be the sole prerogative of Yahweh (1 Sam 2:6; Wis 16:13; CCC 994).

Scripture Reflection

Here we have one of the most concise definitions Christ gives of himself, and which St John faithfully passes on to us: Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Resurrection because by his victory over death he is the cause of the resurrection of all men. The miracle he works in raising Lazarus is a sign of Christ’s power to give life to people. And so, by faith in Jesus Christ, who arose first from among the dead, the Christian is sure that he too will rise one day, like Christ.

Therefore, for the believer death is not the end; it is simply the step to eternal life, a change of dwelling place. By saying that he is Life, Jesus is referring not only to that life which begins beyond the grave, but also to the supernatural life which grace brings to the soul of man when he is still a wayfarer on this earth.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Commandments

In those days:
God delivered all these commandments:

“I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
him who takes his name in vain.

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother,
that you may have a long life in the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you.

“You shall not kill.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him.”
(Exodus 20:1-17)

Scripture Study

20:2–6 The first commandment mandates monotheism. Yahweh demands exclusive adoration from his people and refuses to tolerate either service to other gods (Deut 6:13–14) or the making of idols (Lev 26:1). Together, monotheism and imageless worship make the religion of Israel radically different from the pagan cults of the biblical world (CCC 2084–2132).

20:4 likeness of anything: Prohibits representations of Yahweh in material form, in the image of any living creature (Deut 4:15–18). In view is the danger of fashioning an idol; the commandment does not prohibit such things as literary descriptions of God that make use of anthropomorphic or other figurative language. • The coming of Jesus as the true “image” of God introduces a new economy of worship that transcends this restriction of the Sinai covenant (Col 1:15). Since the Father has made himself visible in the Son (Jn 14:9), the believing Church can rightly depict his image in visible and artistic ways. the water under the earth: Semitic cosmology envisioned a subterranean ocean lying beneath the solid surface of the earth (called “the deep”; Gen 7:11; Deut 33:13; Jon 2:5). This is why the authors of Scripture sometimes describe the world as a three-tiered structure with heaven above, earth below, and a lower region under the earth (Phil 2:10; Rev 5:3). The commandment thus prohibits depicting God in the physical form of anything in the sky, on the earth, or beneath the earth (“water under the earth”), i.e., in the form of anything in the visible created order.

20:5 you shall not bow: Bowing is here understood as an act of worship before an idol. The commandment does not forbid—or even envision—honoring another person with such a gesture.

20:7 The second commandment forbids irreverent use of the divine name, especially in legal contexts where perjury profanes the name of God invoked by oath. Beyond this, to inject the divine name into foul, hateful, or blasphemous speech is to abuse it and to offend the Lord who bears it (CCC 2142–59).

20:8–11 The third commandment requires a Sabbath rest for households and herds. The day is set apart as a memorial of the world’s creation (Gen 2:1–3) and of Israel’s redemption (Deut 5:15). So important is this ordinance that Exodus repeats it six times throughout the book (16:26–30; 20:8–11; 23:12; 31:12–17; 34:21; 35:2–3) (CCC 2168–72) • Christians fulfill the Sabbath rest by observing Sunday rest. Two factors underlie the shift from Saturday to the Lord’s day in the liturgical rhythm of the week: (1) Sunday commemorates the day Jesus rose from the dead (Lk 24:1–5), and (2) the dying and rising of Jesus bring about a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Rev 21:5) and a new redemption (Eph 1:7; Rev 5:9–10) that surpass the old order memorialized by the Sabbath. Sunday worship can be traced back to the earliest days of Christianity, according to Scripture (Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10) as well as ancient Christian writings (Didache 14, 1; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Magnesians 9, 1; St. Justin Martyr, First Apology 67) (CCC 2175–76).

20:12 The fourth commandment requires children to treat parents respectfully, to obey them faithfully, and to care for them materially (Sir 3:3–7; 7:27–28; Eph 6:1–3) (CCC 2197–2220).

20:13 The fifth commandment forbids the killing of innocent persons (23:7). Instances in which lives are taken in warfare, self-defense, and capital punishment are generally not covered by the precept insofar as other factors that threaten the common good of individuals and societies come into play. Scripture insists that human life is sacred because human persons bear the image of their Creator (Gen 9:5–6) (CCC 2258–83).

20:14 The sixth commandment forbids marital infidelity, which constitutes an offense against God, a violation of spousal trust, and a breach of the exclusivity of marriage. In traditional catechesis, the prohibition covers a spectrum of sexual sins such as fornication, prostitution, rape, incest, etc. (CCC 2331–91). • Jesus broadened the Mosaic definition of adultery to include, not only the act of sexual union with another’s spouse, but also thoughts of lust that arise in the heart (Mt 5:27–28). So too, Jesus declared that remarriage after divorce is a form of adultery so long as one’s first spouse is still living (Mt 5:32; Mk 10:11–12).

20:15 The seventh commandment forbids seizing another’s belongings against his will. Other forms of robbery, including extortion, fraud, and unfair wages, are also prohibited by this commandment (CCC 2401–49).

20:16 The eighth commandment forbids deceptive and dishonest speech. Sins of the tongue prohibited by this commandment include lying, calumny, and perjury (CCC 2464–2503).

20:17 The ninth and tenth commandments forbid desiring another’s house and/or spouse. The wording of these precepts reflects the fact that, in ancient Israel, a man’s wife was considered one of his possessions. • According to the NT, covetousness is a form of idolatry (Col 3:5) as well as impurity (Eph 5:3) (CCC 1456, 2514–50).

Scripture Reflection

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (cf. 1 John 4:7-12). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the inverse is true also. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:9-14, 17 [2]

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments. But Jesus speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21): “This is my commandment: Love one another.” He also says: “The entire law and the prophets is summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another.”

Perhaps we don’t want to hear this commandment because we can never live up to it through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle it down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday.” But who of us can say we have really loved yet? We’re all beginners. We’re all starting anew every day, and we’re failing anew every day. Loving as imperfect, egoic human beings keeps us in utter reliance upon the mercy, compassion, and grace of God. We can never fully succeed by ourselves.

It seems God gave us a commandment that we could not obey. Perhaps this is so we would have to depend upon the Holy Spirit. This is the greatness, the goodness, the wonder, the impossibility of the Gospel, that it asks of all of us something we—alone, apart, separate—cannot do! Only by living in love, in communion—God in us and we in God (see John 17:20-26)—do we find, every once in a while, a love flowing through us and toward us and from us that is bigger than our own. And we surely know it’s not “we” who are doing it!

– Richard Rohr

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.