Friday, May 31, 2013

How do Hebrew Scriptures show Jesus as the Messiah? -- part 2

Continued from last week…..

At the time of Christ, it was believed that the Messiah would renew the manna given in the wilderness. This is why the crowds got terribly excited when Jesus fed them all with only five loaves and two fishes. He told them to calm down, because that was just lunch. He was the true bread come down from heaven and that unless we ate his flesh and drank his blood, we would have no life in us. This made the crowds a little queasy and they decided to pack up and go home. So has the Messiah reestablished the manna of the Exodus? You betcha! It’s called Holy Communion. Every Sunday the Messiah and His lovely Bride, the Church prepare a wonderful sacrificial banquet for 1,200,000,000 Catholics and another 250,000,000 Eastern Orthodox. That’s around one billion five hundred million folks. Not all them come to the feast, but it’s there for them. What a wonderful way to fulfill this Messianic expectation to a degree and in a way that none of the prophets or patriarchs could even have imagined. See you there Sunday?

Here is another expectation. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court will be re-established.  “And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as in the beginning.” (Isaiah 1:26) Some claim that Christ did not establish a government or structured Church. These are people who are clueless about how to read the Bible. Whenever you see the number twelve it refers to government. Twelve tribes, twelve judges in the Book of Judges, etc. Jesus gathered twelve students and says they will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This expectation of governmental restoration certainly seems to reflect the Messianic council of twelve expected by the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Manual of Discipline 1QS 8:1). Similarly, Jesus’ council of twelve was clearly headed by three leaders, Peter, James and John, just as the council of twelve in the Qumran document was headed by three priests (1QS 8:1). We Catholics have maintained a Church government for 2,000 years. In this sense, the Messiah Jesus has certainly fulfilled the Sanhedrin expectation.

Yet another Messianic expectation: “Once He is King, leaders of other nations will look to Him for guidance.” (Isaiah 2:4) I think most people resent the involvement of the Church in secular politics, but this involvement is a Messianic expectation! Nations have warred against the Church and its leadership while at the same time looking to that leadership for guidance. The West was incapable of defeating European Marxism until Ronald Reagan consulted with Carol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II). World leaders turn to Rome whether they are Catholic or not. So the leaders of the world do look to Christ in the person of His Vicar, the Bishop of Rome.

In 1917, Pope Benedict XV proposed a seven-point peace plan to end the hostilities of the First World War, but President Woodrow Wilson rejected the plan. A peace treaty was never arrived at, an armistice was signed, but not a peace treaty. That finally arrived too late in 1923. Germany was heavily punished for the war and the Versailles Armistice practically guaranteed the Second World War which the Germans saw as a resumption of the Great (First World) War. President Woodrow Wilson, one of the most thick-headed of American Presidents, fired his Roman  Catholic adviser Joseph Tiumulty in 1916 because of the anti-Catholic bias of his wife Edith  and his adviser Col. Edward M. House. House was the promoter of the US government’s effort to aid Mexican Freemasons in their  attempt to destroy the Catholic Church in Mexico. Edith then had complete control of Woodrow’s schedule, and was her husband’s major foreign policy adviser. 

This meant that the pope would be excluded from the Versailles peace negotiations. If the world had listened to Pope Benedict XV, six million Jews and countless other would not have gone to their deaths, Hitler would have remained a schlock artist selling his post cards in the gay bars and flop houses of Vienna and the whole world would have been different. Oh, by the way, there was a Vietnamese busboy named Ho Chi Minh in Paris at the time of the Versailles conference. He hoped that Woodrow Wilson would help negotiate independence for Vietnam from the French, but Woodrow and Edith were no more available to Ho Chi Minh that they had been to the pope.  Bad call. So the pig-headed Edith and the compliant Woodrow can be blamed, to some degree for the Second World War, the Vietnam War, the  Holocausts -- Jewish and Cambodian -- and the deaths of the Cristeros. It’s a good thing at least to listen to the Pope, and even to the busboys.

Yet another expectation. He will be descended from King David (Isaiah 11:1) through Solomon
(1 Chronicles 22:8-10, 2 Chronicles 7:18). Jesus has two separate and different genealogies. One in Luke traces Jesus’ descent from David through Solomon, one in Matthew traces Jesus’ descent through Nathan, David’s fourth son. Sextus Julius Africanus (160- 240 AD) a native of Jerusalem who lived in Emmaus claims that the family of Jesus claimed that Joseph had legal genealogies and a natural one. The family of David was much intermarried as was the custom and still is in the Middle East, near relatives adopting children of one branch into their own branch to keep that particular blood line from dying out. There is another objection to Jesus Davidic descent. The genealogies in Matthew and Luke are those of Joseph. Joseph was a son of David, but the Scriptures are quite emphatic, he was not the father of Jesus. Jesus had no human father. The ancients answered this objection quite simply by pointing out that Mary was also a descendant of David, and a relative of Joseph, which too was a custom and still is in the Middle East. So Jesus is descended from David.

    The “Spirit of the Lord” will be upon Him, and He will have a “fear of God” (Isaiah 11:2) The Holy Spirit certainly was upon Jesus, and Jesus certainly had a fear of the Lord. It was not the fear of a creature before a mighty God, but the awe of a Son who fears nothing more than disobeying or disappointing His Father in heaven.

Another expectation.  Evil and tyranny will not be able to stand before his leadership (Isaiah 11:4). Have you been following the recent past? Hitler tried to kidnap or kill the pope. Stalin did the same. As did Robespierre and Napoleon. So did the Roman Emperors and the Holy Roman Emperors, some of whom were none too holy. Now presidents are giving it a shot. We’ll see how that works out.
“He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful.” (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 9:13-15, Ezekiel 36:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9) It is an interesting side note that the wilds and wastes of Europe in middle ages were opened up by the farming know-how of monks. In their quest for ever greater hardship and solitude, monk moved to the fringes of civilization, and where they went others followed. This is continued by the long history of priest-scholars who have blessed the world with learning. Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) – Augustinian monk and father of genetics, Bishop Nicolas Steno (1638–1686) the father of modern geology and stratigraphy (look it up) and Georges LemaĆ®tre (1894–1966), father of the Big Bang Theory (the theory, not the sit-com). There are maybe a thousand more. Look it up at “List of Roman Catholic cleric-scientists” on Wikipedia. 

Everybody knows that the Catholic Church is opposed to science and progress. Take it from me. Everybody is an idiot. I’ve met him. He’s nothing like his cousin Everyman. Perhaps you’ve heard that “None of us alone is as stupid as all of us together.”  When you here someone say, “Everybody knows that....” assume that what everybody knows is wrong. The efforts of the Catholic Church, clergy and laity, have advanced the well being of the world inestimably. They have made barren land fruitful over and over again.

There are a number of expectations that are very similar, and I believe, are fulfilled in a very direct and clear way by the Roman Catholic Church, the Bride and Body of the Messiah Jesus. First, the peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23) Second, knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9) and, third, He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations (Isaiah 11:10). Fourth, The people of Israel will have direct access to the Torah through their minds and Torah study will become the study of the wisdom of the heart (Jeremiah 31:33) When we hear the words “People of Israel” we assume that it is synonymous with the “Jews.” This is not so. Jews are a subset of the people called “Israel,” especially as the prophets used the term. They were thinking of all twelve tribes, not just the tribe of Judah, which is rendered “Jew” in modern English.

Dr. Hahn makes the point that the in-gathering of the Lost Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel would be impossible without the in-gathering of the peoples among whom they were dispersed and with whom they intermarried. There are Jews in China who look Chinese . There are the Lemba in South Africa and Zimbabwe who look as African as any African, but who have a higher percentage of men descended from Aaron the high priest than do most obviously Jewish communities. Among Jews there is a particular genetic marker, CMH. It is prevalent among Jewish “Kohanim” a word the means priests descended from Aaron. The Lemba of South Africa and Zimbabwe tell the story that the founder of the Buba clan led Lemba out of Israel. A genetic study found that 50% of the men in the Buba clan had the Kohanim marker. That means that more of the Buba are descended from Aaron the brother of Moses, than, for instance the population of Bensonhurst, New York, or even, dare I say, than Skokie, Illinois!!!

 I once met an appliance salesman who was clearly from India. I noticed his last name was clearly not from India, so I asked him if he were a Cochin Jew. Cochin Jews are a community of Jews in India, who claim to date to the time of King Solomon, 950 BC. He was astonished that I knew about his community. I told him I don’t get out much, so I have time to learn a lot of obscure and pointless things. As it turns out , he too was descended from Aaron the priest. 

There were Israelites in India at the time of Christ, which is why St. Thomas the Apostle went there, to tell the Israelites about the Messiah from the Tribe of Judah, Jesus, Son of Joseph, Son of David, Son of God. Many of those Cochin Israelite/Jews accepted the Messiah, and became “Nasrani” followers of the Nazarene and they have been Christian since the time of Christ and they come to the 7:15 AM Mass at my parish. Fr. Simon, a man  more Teutonic than the former pope, had a mother who was the most Jewish looking woman I have ever known. When she was asked to disclose her religion on a form or questionnaire, they would say to her “Mrs. Simon, it’s no shame being Jewish.” She would respond, “I know, but I’m Catholic!”  To gather Israel in, the Messiah will have to bring in the Chinese, the Indians, the Lemba, the Germans and even perhaps the Irish. When the Bible mentions Israel is does not necessarily mean “Jew.” Jews are certainly Israel, but we Catholics think that we are too, at least by adoption, and often enough genetically. 

So, is the in-gathering of Israel that is the great work of the Messiah, the Son of Joseph, and the universal knowledge of the One God, accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus? Been to the Vatican lately? All those theology and Scripture students scurry about getting to class on time. The Books of Moses are read there in a way that the prophets would have thought inconceivable.  For instance, Pope John Paul’s funeral was the single largest gathering of world leaders in history -- four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended.  The funeral was the most-watched television broadcast in history. Billions of people heard “The Lord is my shepherd.....”) As for the gathering of the nations, these days in Rome you have to stand in line to get into a line. The whole world goes to Rome to marvel at the art and beauty inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Could you imagine the amazement of Abraham to see how the word that God gave him was to be fulfilled?

Yet more expectations. All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:12) and death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8). At that same funeral those billions of watchers heard the beautiful chant In Paradisum 

 “May the angels lead you into Paradise. May the martyrs come to welcome you on your way, and lead you into the Holy City, Jerusalem.” 

If our understanding is right, then death is swallowed up and all Israel, scattered through the nations will be gathered into the true and eternal Jerusalem, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) So in this Jesus has fulfilled another expectation “There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease.” (Isaiah 25:8)

The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness. (Isaiah 51:11) Those Jews who accept the Messiah Jesus, they seem to think this is true. Nations will recognize the wrongs they did to Israel. (Isaiah 52:13-53:5) Even the Vatican has been making apologies.  The ruined cities of Israel will be restored. (Ezekiel 16:55) Take a trip to Israel. Lots of construction going on.

There are still just a few Messianic expectations to go He will be a messenger of peace. (Isaiah 52:7) Ever heard the words, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) If the Messiah has come, why is there no world peace? Remember the story of Rabbi Joshua Ben Levi and Elijah? If you here his voice, he has come and if you receive he gives peace not as the world gives peace, words repeated at every Catholic Mass.

Weapons of war will be destroyed. (Ezekiel 39:9) We are working on this one. It’s not easy because the governments of this world are so thick headed. Still we have some proud moments, like the Peace of God in the Middle Ages, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II who brought down Marxism in Europe without a shot being fired or a soldier being killed.

He will give you all the worthy desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4) Remember that the desires of the heart and the desires of the head are quite different. Most of us think that the desires of our head and heart arm the same. When you get to know the Messiah, you find that He’s all that’s worth desiring.

And finally, all of the dead will rise again. (Isaiah 26:19) We still wait for this with our fellow Israelites, the tribe of Judah. We already have a taste of the Resurrection in the Messiah, risen from the dead and present in our tabernacles, but we still await the resurrection of our own bodies. Though our bodies have not risen, our hearts have, and those who were dead in their souls have found hope and life and purpose by learning to hear the Messiah’s voice. I invite you to do the same, to ask Him in the quiet of you own heart if all this could be true, ask Him to speak to your heart and mind and to make His home within you. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  

As the little golden banners fluttering on cars in Skokie and elsewhere proclaim, “Khai Melech Hamoshiach!” (That’s Hebrew for “Long live Christ the King, or Viva Cristo Rey!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How do Hebrew Scriptures show Jesus as the Messiah?

Warning: this is very obscure and somewhat turgid. Only read it if you are Biblically and historically hardcore.

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

Apollos is said to have “vigorously refuted the Jews in public, establishing from the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.” Do you know any resource where the argument that Apollos made can be found?

Judy Eizer

Dear Judy,

First let’s look at the passage you quote from Acts the 18th Chapter (24-28):

 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace, for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Two things about this passage: First, notice that a Jew is refuting Jews. I have spilled a lot of ink trying to understand what the term Jew meant at the time of Christ. The word Jew is a fairly modern word. The word in the text is “Judaios,” the Greek word for Judean. To avoid, or perhaps to create, confusion I will use this term. I suspect that Judean was an ambiguous term that could mean a person from the province of Judea, a person from the tribe of Judah, and/or a person who was a member of the religious/political faction that backed Judean political and religious autonomy. So that would mean that Apollos, a member of that group was arguing with his fellows, insisting that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah.

Second, I think the mention of John the Baptist is completely fascinating (not to be confused with John the Beloved Disciple, the Evangelist who is traditionally credited with the authorship of the fourth Gospel.)  John the Baptist seems to have led a sect of his own, or at least to have been prominent in a faction of the Hebrew community. He had followers in Turkey perhaps twenty years after his death, as is evidenced by the passage above. He still has followers today, the Mandaeans. They are Gnostics, people who believe that one is saved by secret knowledge. There are about 60,000 - 70,000 of them, mostly in the Near East. They believed that John the Baptist whom they call Yahya ibn Zakariyya was the Messiah. Mandaeans maintain that Jesus was a false messiah who perverted the teachings entrusted to Him by John the Baptist.  This bring us squarely into the Gospel of John. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)

It seems that the Gospel of John is unlike the others because he is addressing it to a very specific group of people, Eusebius of Caesarea, around 325 AD, dedicates quite a few lines in explaining the difference between the Gospel of John and the synoptic, or look alike, Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). In his Ecclesiastical History (Book 3, Chapter 24) he makes the point that the Gospel was written to clarify the ministry of Jesus when John the Baptist was alive. Whomever John the Evangelist was writing to, he was clearly making the argument that Jesus, not John was the Messiah. I suspect it was to John the Baptist’s disciples that the Gospel was addressed. 

In answer to your question, perhaps Apollos arguments against the Jews are similar to John the Evangelist’s arguments against the followers of the Baptist. And there is certainly a need for such a refutation if Jesus was in fact the messiah. There were certain things the Messiah was going to do. In the days of the false Messiah, Sabbatai Zevi (around 1650) an excited disciple ran in to his rabbi’s study and said “Rabbi, the Messiah has come!” The rabbi went to the window, threw open the shutters and exclaimed, “Nothing has changed!” the rabbi’s point was this: If the Messiah had come why was nothing different? Point well taken! So then what were the Messianic expectations?

Not many people know that the Talmud, the definitive text of Rabbinic Phariseeism (Judaism), expects two Messiahs, the suffering servant and the conquering son of David. We, Christians just believe that they are the same person. Interestingly, according to the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth is called both Son of David and Son of Joseph. Certain of the Messianic expectations are fulfilled by the Son of Joseph, some by the Son of David.

This Son of Joseph is already expected in the Qumran documents as early as 200 BC. In the Judean Desert texts, He appears as a suffering righteous Joseph, who cries out to God in His death-throes as ‘My father’, citing Psalms 89 and 22, and predicts that He will arise to do justice and righteousness. He will gather the children of Israel around Him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, reestablish the Temple-worship and set up His own dominion.

Strangely, the Talmud expects the Messiah to sit at the gates of the city of Rome!

“The Messiah at the Gates of Rome” is a traditional story, found in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a. “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (250 AD) while meditating near the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, was visited by the Prophet Elijah. "When will the Messiah come?" asked Joshua. "Ask him," replied the Prophet. "The Messiah is at the gates of Rome, sitting among the poor, the sick and wretched. Like them, he changes the bindings of his wounds, but does so one wound at the time, in order to be ready at a moment's notice.

Then Joshua went to Rome and met the Messiah...Joshua then asked “When will you be coming?” and was told “Today!”. Joshua went back to Elijah and was asked what the Messiah said....Joshua then said that the Messiah had not told him the truth, because he had promised to come today but had not. Elijah explained “This is what he said to thee, To-day, if ye will hear his voice”, a reference to Psalms 95:7, making his coming conditional with the condition not fulfilled.” 

It gives two completely unknown Messianic expectations, that the Messiah son of Joseph will sit at the gates of Rome and that His coming will be conditional, only recognized by those who hear His voice. 

Though the Talmud is certainly not considered inspired by Christians it does give a sense of what people were looking for at the time of the Second Temple. It makes the point that the Messiah will take up residence in Rome. Hmmm... The Messiah in Rome.... Ever heard of the Roman Catholic Church? Ever heard of the Vicar of the (Messiah) Christ? If there is any prophetic sense to the expectations of the Hebrew people, then its not simply arbitrary or anti-Christian that the Church, the body of the Messiah, would have its headquarters in Rome. 

Though it is true that Jesus founded the Church in the Holy Land, they seemed to have moved the head offices to Italy pretty fast because that’s where the good restaurants are. (Just kidding) This story also answers the question of “Why has nothing changed?” Everything has changed for those who “hear His voice.” Nothing is changed for those who do not. 

The Talmud also contains a very odd Messianic expectation, that the Son of David would pray to be spared from death. The Talmud (Suk. 52b) speaks of how the Son of Joseph's death frightens the Son of David, so that He urgently prays for his life to be spared. If Jesus was both Son of Joseph and Son of David, then this expectation is fulfilled in the story of Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus both submitted to and prayed to be delivered from death and His prayers were answered we reads in the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:7)” During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.”

Some people think that the creation of the state of Israel is the beginning of the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. I don’t know the eschatological meaning of the state of Israel, but it most certainly is not the in-gathering of the tribes of Israel. If anything, it is the in-gathering of the tribe of Judah, which is not part of the messianic expectations. We Catholics maintain that Israel, scattered among the nations is gathered into the Church from the nations where they were first scattered. We, the Church are the in-gathering of Israel as well as the gathering of the nations to mount Zion, another of the essential Messianic expectations.

( I know this is obscure, but to be continued anyway.......)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why didn't God make Eve First?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

Don’t you think it’s degrading that  God took a rib from Adam’s side to make Eve? Why didn’t he make Eve first?

Earl Lee Byrd

Dear Earl,

Lots of male chauvinist humor comes to mind, but I will take the high road and keep the jokes to myself. Personally I think it’s a beautiful thing that God made Adam first. The Rabbis explain it this way.

Man was made on the Sixth day, the same day as the beasts. Eve wasn’t really created on the sixth day, she was created in the twilight, just before the 7th day. Remember that the Jewish day starts in the evening because the Book of Genesis says,  “It was evening and morning, the first day.” (Genesis1:5) Most people think the Jewish Sabbath, as well as every other Jewish day starts at sundown. This is not quite true. It is Sabbath when one sees the first two stars in the heavens, or when one can no longer distinguish between a black and a white thread by natural light.  There is an intermittent period that is not quite Sabbath, but it isn’t quite Friday either. Adam fell into a deep sleep before God took a rib from his side. 

When does one sleep? When the sun goes down. When Adam woke up on Saturday morning, there was his bride, the very personification of Sabbath, the promise of heaven. It is Eve who humanized Adam by drawing him into the joy of Sabbath. Eve was a creation nearer and more conformed to Sabbath. She was the summit of nature, not just an afterthought. That she was a “helpmate” means not that she was to be less than Adam. 

The Scriptures say elsewhere “Blessed are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?  He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.” (Deut. 33:26,29) The Hebrew word for helper is “Ezer.”  It appears about twenty times in the Bible and usually refers to God. It is a quality of Godliness, not of inferiority. Eve “civilized” man who shares his creation with the beasts. Adam is made from dust. Eve is made from humanity. Thus, it is in the relationship of man and woman that the image of God, and true humanity are found. 

Men, left to their own devices, can be pretty uncivilized. I know. I am one. It is in the give and take, the yielding and the asking of vastly different men and women and especially their submission to the needs of the children their love may produce that the man and the woman are divinized. It is in the service of complimentary and sometimes discordant needs that humanity learns sacrificial love. Man and woman don’t simply take pleasure from one another, but they learn the very nature of God in their mutual sacrifice, and in the sacrifices they make for the sake of their children, if it please Heaven.

The rabbis tell us that woman was not taken from man’s feet that she might be beneath him, nor was he taken from his head lest she boast, but that she was taken from his side, that they might walk hand in hand, side by side.  There is one more thing to remember. It is the job of the rib to protect the heart.

Sabbath is all about marriage and family and the royal dignity of God’s people. Sabbath is regarded by the Jews as a bride. There is a beautiful song, sung on Friday nights in the Synagogue. All in the synagogue turn toward the door and sing the “Lekah Dodi”

Come, my beloved friend, to meet the bride, and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat. .........In fame and splendor and praiseful song.....For she is the wellspring of blessing, Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil.......Long enough have you sat in the valley of tears....He will take great pity upon you compassionately.....Shake yourself free, rise from the dust...Dress in your garments of splendor, my people...Your God will rejoice concerning you as a groom rejoices over a bride....  Come in peace, crown of her husband...Come O Bride! Come O Bride!

I ponder and ponder and ponder what the heck happened. In 1865, Lewis Carroll wrote a book called “Through the Looking Glass.” It is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In it Alice walks through a mirror (a looking glass) into a world turned inside out, like a mirror image, precise, but backwards. There she meets the brothers Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. They wonder if everything isn’t just a dream. Alice herself might be just a figment of their imagination. 

Well, we in this age are definitely “through the looking glass.” In our attempt to redefine marriage, we are trying to live in the figment that marriage is not about man and woman, and most certainly not about children. We are trying to pretend that a behavior, that I shall not mention here, is the equivalent of the act by which an immortal human being is brought into the world. We insist that babies in the womb are not human life. We insist that we don’t have slaves because we can’t see them, far away in China or India or Latin America. We insist that we are a free people though we are enslaved by our desires and spied on by government drones. I could go on indefinitely, but our prosperity, our freedoms, our educational system and our values have all become figments of our imagination. I maintain that it started when in the name of freedom we introduced a new kind of slavery into the society because we wanted to have more freedom.

When I was a boy, there things called Sunday blue laws. All businesses were closed down on Sunday. You went to church, had dinner with your family and then went out to play with your friends. Someone somewhere decided that Sunday closings were discriminatory against those who did not observe Sunday as a quasi-Sabbath. Jews, Seventh Day Adventist, non- Christians should not be restricted by Christian custom in a secular state. People should be free to buy and to sell on Sunday if they so chose. A blow for freedom! 

Now we, like slaves, work seven days a week, plus shift work, husbands and wives never have a day together and on Sunday as well as Saturday, the kids have sports, ballet, piano, yadda, yadda and so on. There is never a moment to enjoy the freedom of the garden in which we were designed to live. Family and marriage never have a place, a time. Husbands and wives are roommates who see each other between shifts at work and the kids are farmed out to other shift workers.  For the sake of an imaginary freedom we have become slaves. Through the looking glass. The chaos began there, at least in my experience. I am sure there are a thousand causes, but the rejection of this first gift of God to humanity, the Sabbath-Bride, has caused untold misery. 

We work harder and harder just to keep up with our own luxuries and the government taxes imposed on them. A slave works 24/7. A free man has some leisure. We have become slaves. Our children, our spouses and our homes have been devastated by our voluntary slavery, our worship of wealth.  “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat, skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales?”
(Amos 8:5) We are all about money and not about love. We are about pleasure, not the gift of life.

I have the strangest idea. If we lost the battle for sanity in this country when we threw away any restriction on avarice by opening the stores on Sunday, why not undo the harm by restoring the Sabbath. We Catholics are forbidden to work on Sunday. Read your catechism.  Paragraph 2185
 “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.” 
And paragraph 2194 
“The institution of Sunday helps all to be allowed sufficient rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.” 
 I can hear you say, “The canoe is over the waterfall! If I tell my boss that I won’t work on Sunday, He’ll fire me!” Alright, we can’t turn back the clock, but we can do something else. We can refuse to spend money on Sunday. No fast food, no restaurants, no theater, no K-mart, no dry cleaner, no trip to the gas station. We eat at home, we don’t go to the show, we don’t go out for pizza or for ice cream after Junior’s tiddlywinks tournament.  We don’t even go to the tiddlywinks tournament.

"But Junior loves his competitive tiddlywinks. If we forbid him sports on Sunday or say no to him, he won’t like us. Tiddlywinks builds character and sportsmanship." 

Believe me, when Junior is fat, balding and 40, he wont remember getting creamed as a third string tiddlywinks player, but he will remember that he had a family and parents who loved him if Sabbath is kept as a festival of marital and familial love. There is a saying among the Jews. “If you keep Sabbath, Sabbath will keep you.” We do our shopping on Saturday and if it doesn’t happen on Saturday, it won’t happen until Monday. No shopping!!! No spending money.

There are 91.76 million Evangelicals in this country and 77.7 million Catholics. That’s almost 170 million people, more than half the US population. If half the country refused to shop on Sunday, you had better believe that stores would close, and even Mexican migrants would get to come out of the restaurant kitchens and go to their parks with spouses and children instead of sweating in some cramped back room for your dining pleasure. It is a matter of justice. Do realize that by going to a restaurant on Sunday, you are forcing your Mexican co-religionists to work, and thus endangering their families and their souls?  We may not be able to turn back the clock, but we can rediscover the Sabbath. We can no longer impose our will on the country. We can still impose our will on ourselves. If we rediscover the Sabbath in our own lives as Catholic Christians, perhaps we will rediscover the Sabbath Bride and the exalted role of Eve who creates a home in a way that Adam never could and still can’t. 

Come my beloved let us greet the Bride, the Sabbath” (from the Lekah Dodi) and “the Spirit and the Bride say 'come!'” Rev. 22:17

Yours, the Rev. Know-it-all.

PS I am going to try to do this in my own life. Baby steps! Start with Baby Steps!