Promises, covenant, conduct, instructions, and show help focus these readings upon interior dispositions resulting in exterior conduct.  The trick here is avoiding confusing human with divine power and direction.  One way of discernment is by juxtaposing truth and politics or power in the matter of fraternal correction.  How to Make Friends and Influence People by Andrew Carnegie is a good book, but one with room, but little room, for fraternal correction.  The matter of sin not only involves an individual contravening established human dictates, but also involves a matter of accepting those same dictates in the face of God, commanding love—in other words, sin also involves sins of omission.

 

Jeremiah 33:13-16

 

verse 14b                … I will fulfill the promise

 

The purpose of keeping the law is not to amass rewards but to find mercy and kindness.  A scholar words it, “The steps from embracing the Law as foundational to elitist arrogance and merit-mongering have to do with endemic human weaknesses that make themselves in all religious traditions, in Christianity no less than in Judaism.”[1]

 

verse 15        In those days, in that time,

                               I will raise up for David a just shoot;

                               He shall do what is right and just in the land.

 

The verse looks through Advent to Christmas and the Messiah, as part of the covenant.  A scholar observes that this “shoot is from the stump of Jesse (Isa 10:3311:10; cf. Mic 5:1-5), Jeremiah as a `righteous branch’ (Jer 23:5; cf. 33:15), Ezekiel as a tender cutting from the lofty top of a cedar (Ezek 17:22-25).”[2]  Planting of shoots is particularly pertinent to the Poor Clare Monastery in New Kent County, Virginia where nandina grow.  Nandina is an Asian evergreen shrub of the barberry family.  The ground cover plant will grow with a winter reddish hue about a foot tall.  Nandina spread by extending shoots.

 

Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

 

Up to this point these Notes have systematically used Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., The Spirituality of the Psalms (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002) ISBN 0-8146-2599.  From this point on, these Notes begin a systematic use of the trilogy by Hans-Joachim Kraus, Theology of the Psalms, translated by Keith Crim (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1979, 1986, 1992), Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, translated by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1961/1978, 1989, 1993), and Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, translated by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1961/1978, 1989, 1993).

 

Psalm 25 is a carefully crafted Hebrew alphabetical Acrostic Psalm.[3]

 

The Lectionary uses this Psalm at four Sunday liturgies.

 

Readings      Page in         Verses used

                     Lectionary

 

    3C              14               4-5,        8-9, 10, 14 (16)    The readings for today.

  23B             149               4-5, 6-7, 8-9            (cf. 10) First Sunday of Lent

  68B             523               4-5, 6-7, 8-9            (4a)    Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

136A             855               4-5, 6-7, 8-9            (6a)    Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Funerals also uses this Psalm:

 

Page  Section                                                             Verses used

 

224     Responsorial Psalms         13 Funerals for Adults #2   6, 17-18, 20          (16 or cf. #2 and 20)

254     Responsorial Psalms           14 Funerals for Baptized Children 4-6, 20-21 (16)

262     Gospel Readings               15 Funerals for Children who Died before Baptism                  4-6, 17 (16 or cf. 2 and 20)

268     Antiphons and Psalms       16 Antiphons and Psalms             1-22 (cf. 18 or ?)

 

verses 4-5     Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;

                               teach me your paths,

                     guide me in your truth and teach me,

                               for you are God my savior

                               and for you I wait all the day.

 

Kraus writes that this post-exilic psalmsinger is a sinner begging God to help him change his ways.  The response from God is to the community, rather to the individual.[4]  God will guide the Church.

 

verse 8         Good and upright is the LORD;

                               thus he shows sinners the way.

 

God is favoring sinners, showing sinners the way.[5]  The chief sinner in this instance is the psalmsinger and, by extension, the community.

 

verse 9         He guides the humble to justice,

                               and teaches the humble his way.

 

Kraus uses a different word for humble, namely oppressed.  “He lets the oppressed come into judgment and teaches his way to the oppressed.”[6]  In a racist-sexist society, oppressed carries a different connotation from humble.

 

verse 10        All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy

                               toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

verse 14        The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him

                               and his covenant, for their instruction.

 

A scholar points out that the reason to keep the covenant is mercy and kindness.[7]  Kraus writes, “For those who fear Yahweh, God is a living reality.  They look for the self-disclosure of God and are always alert to receive him.”[8]  One might examine one’s conscience in thanksgiving for the self-disclosure of God in the beauty of nature, of people, and of oneself.  Failing to find such beauty might then become a cause for penitential sorrow.

 

Kraus goes on, in Psalm 25:10 and 14 Deuteronomic theology uses covenant and commands (testimonies) synonymously.[9]  The covenant involves community, racist and sexist as community may be.  Kraus writes, “It is beyond doubt that the concept *** (hesed) involves a community relationship and expresses the element of loyalty to community, as is shown with especial clarity by the combination *** (`steadfast love and faithfulness,’ Psalm 25:10; 40:11; 61:7; 89:14; 138:2 etc.).”[10]

 

Looking for self-disclosure of God in beauty, such an approach to the spiritual life, reminds me of an officemate, who, with a twinkle in his eye, used to encourage me to thank God daily for giving both of us another day in which to excel.  In the academic world, I earned a generous livelihood offering fraternal correction in the matter of institutional racism.  The high and the haughty were never too glad to see me coming, but they did give me enough room in which to flourish.  God bless them.

 

Fraternal correction is based on the ability to recognize ugliness and to oppose ugliness.  In the matter of truth versus politics within a context of racism or sexism, orderliness and beauty apparently reside in the status quo.  Standing up to misguided but established authority is rarely, if ever, beautiful at the time of objection, even objection made with a loving heart, kindness, and, if possible, without embarrassment.  

 

verse 10        All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy

 

The Vulgate (circa 410):               CAPH.  Universae viae Domini Misericordia et veritas

 

Douay-Rheims (1582-1610):         All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth

 

King James (1611):                      All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth

 

Jerusalem (1966):                        All Yahweh’s paths are love and truth

 

New American (1970):                  All the paths of the LORD are faithful love

 

New Jerusalem (1985):                Kindness unfailing and constancy mark all Yahweh’s paths

 

Truth, love, and constancy intertwine the translations.  Identifying truth with love is helpful for contemporary Christian living.  Truth is not only for the scholar, but is also for the lover.  While love is blind, that blindness is selective.  Love includes grounding in reality, namely truth.

 

verse 14        The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,

                               and his covenant for their instruction.

 

Kraus offers, “Yahweh’s counsel (comes) to those who fear him, and his covenant (becomes known), to teach them.”[11] The translation by Kraus offers a greater role for the Faithful than that by the Lectionary.  Molding society, whether secular or sacred, to love is an appropriate function for all of the Faithful in all of their many ways.

 

1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2

 

verse 4:1-2    Finally, brothers and sisters,

                               we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,

                               as you received from us

                               how you should conduct yourselves to please God

                               —and as you are conducting yourselves—

                               you do so even more.

                     For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

 

Here is a development for the First Covenant into the New Covenant with a new focus on interior disposition over exterior behavior.  Both interior and exterior are present in both covenants, but the emphasis is different in each.

 

Psalm 85:8

 

verse 8         Show us, Lord your love;

                     and grant us your salvation.

 

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

verse 27a      And then they will see the Son of Man

 

The Vulgate (circa 410):               Et tunc videbunt Filium hominis

 

Douay-Rheims (1582-1610):         And then they will see the Son of Man

 

King James (1611):                      And then shall they see the Son of man

 

Jerusalem (1966):                        And then they will see the Son of Man

 

New American (1970):                  And then they will see the Son of Man

 

New Jerusalem (1985):                And then they will see the Son of man

 

Why Man is capitalized in some translations and not in others is a mystery.

 

verse 28        But when these signs begin to happen,

                               stand erect and raise your heads

                               because your redemption is at hand.

 

The grammarian observes that the evangelist describes a slave lifting his head from his chest, because God is redeeming the slave from slavery.  The primary slavery the Church has in mind is slavery to sin.  If discerning slavery is difficult, so is sin and the human history of both.

 

Some of the Fathers of the Church have proved not to be very good historians.  Let this historian explain what they really mean.  By Jews, Saint Ambrose (339-397), Confessor, Bishop of Milan, really means the souls of the Faithful.  By Babylon and Syria, he means sin.  By Jerusalem, he means an individual soul and by Judea, he does mean Judaism.  The basis of these analogies is the greater stress on Christian interior life than on keeping the Jewish Law.  Thus understood, Ambrose writes:

 

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon . . . Here is a linked chain of prophecy, and the reason for the mystery why the Jews, already twice led captive, to Babylon and to Syria, will again be captive in all the world: because they have denied Christ; and why Jerusalem, as was later seen, was to be laid waste by an invading host, and her people fall by the edge of the sword; and why all that was Judea was to be vanquished by the believing nations, by the sword of the spirit, which is the two-edged word of God.[12]

 

Saint Leo (+461) turns to the stars to write,

 

. . . perceiving in this that nothing is exempt from the divine commandments, and that all the elements serve through the world of God for our instruction, so that by the very turns of the earth itself, as by the four Gospels, we learn both that which we are to proclaim and what we are to do.[13]

 

Advent is a time of penance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah into the hearts of the Faithful.  The readings invite the Faithful to reflect upon their own behavior as part of the direction the covenant gives to history.  Jeremiah the prophet implicitly reminds the Faithful to listen to things about their conduct they may not want to hear because the Messiah is on his way and the promise of His coming is all that matters.  The psalmsinger, aware of his own sinfulness, includes the Faithful in not despairing, but in placing hope and trust in the covenant.  Thessalonians is about receiving instructions on how to live in love with one another as an aspect of the promises.  The Gospel connects the Son of Man with the cosmos, the sun, the moon, and the stars serving God by instructing about Divine purposes in history.

 

For more on sources, besides the footnotes, see the Appendix file.



[1] Vincent M. Smiles, “The Concept of “Zeal” in Second-Temple Judaism and Paul’s Critique of It in Romans 10:2,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2 (April 2002) 292.

 

[2] Adrian M. Leske, “Context and Meaning of Zechariah 9:9,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 4 (October 2000) 665.

 

[3] Hanan Eshel and John Strugnell, “Alphabetical Acrostics in Pre-Tannaitic Hebrew,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 3 (July 2000) 443.

 

[4] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, translated by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1961/1978, 1989, 1993) 320-321.

 

[5] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, translated by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1961/1978, 1989, 1993) 321.

 

[6] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, translated by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1961/1978, 1989, 1993) 317.

 

[7] Vincent M. Smiles, “The Concept of “Zeal” in Second-Temple Judaism and Paul’s Critique of It in Romans 10:2,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2 (April 2002) 291.

 

[8] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Theology of the Psalms, translated by Keith Crim (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1979, 1986, 1992) 157.

 

[9] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Theology of the Psalms, translated by Keith Crim (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1979, 1986, 1992) 56.

 

[10] Since I do not read Hebrew and my computer does not write Hebrew, *** represents Hebrew letters in the following text.  Hans-Joachim Kraus, Theology of the Psalms, translated by Keith Crim (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1979, 1986, 1992) 44.

 

[11] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, translated by Hilton C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 1961/1978, 1989, 1993).

 

[12] St. Ambrose, “On the Gospel,” The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: Volume One: From the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima, tr. and ed. M. F. Toal, D.D. (P.O. Box 612, Swedesboro, NJ 08085: Preservation Press, 1996) 8.

 

[13] St. Leo, Pope and Doctor, “On the Fast of the Tenth Month and on Almsgiving,” The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: Volume One: From the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima, tr. and ed. M. F. Toal, D.D. (P.O. Box 612, Swedesboro, NJ 08085: Preservation Press, 1996) 15.