These readings are about the merit available in suffering.  The reading from 2 Chronicles includes a Deuteronomist revision and rereading of the First Testament to take into account suffering associated with the Babylonian Exile.  The 137th Psalm draws the history of Israel into the history of the African-American dimension of United States history.  Ephesians joins the Faithful with Christ in his death, resurrection, and eternal glory.  The Gospel of John contains the famous saying that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to redeem it.

 

2 Chronicles 36:14 points away from Jerusalem, regarded as polluted.  Jesus would reexamine and redeem the outrages at the temple with his own blood.  In Sacred Scripture, Jerusalem is a metaphor for the souls of the Faithful.  The meaning is that the suffering of Jesus redeems not only the Second Temple at Jerusalem, but also the individual souls of the Faithful.

 

2 Chronicles 36:22 carries a wonderful opening for Gentiles of every stripe, where Cyrus, the King of Persia, of all places, issues the proclamation of the Lord.  In 2 Chronicles 36:23, the Lord entrusts Cyrus with rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  Metaphorically, this means that the Lord entrusts the Faithful to rebuild the temple of their own hearts to worship God.  The Faithful can redeem the suffering associated with the current scandal of the Church hierarchy, within the temples of their own hearts.

 

In a book review for The American Historical Review, Mary Jo Weaver expressed the scandal of the current hierarchy.[1]

 

The final chapter, from Vatican II (1962-1965) to Humanae Vitae, sets the stage for the battle between progressivism and the “unyielding claims of tradition” (p. 205).  Lay voices were increasingly public, speaking openly of sexual frustration and lobbying for change.  The losers in this battle were the priests and the bishops:  the encyclical and its aftermath “was very bad for authority … many Catholics and their priests simply lost confidence in the Church’s leaders” (p. 263).

 

This is not to say in any absolute way that the Teaching Magisterium is wrong.  The Teaching Magisterium is never absolutely wrong until it admits it.  Maybe, yet, there is a way out.  What this means is suffering for the Faithful, as they try to discern the holy will of God.

 

The antiphon from the 137th Psalm, Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!  works either as a result of suffering, riches, or indifference.  The Faithful must make an effort to keep focused on God.  Psalm 137:6 issues a call to place Jerusalem ahead of my joy.  As Saint Ignatius of Loyola worded the same thing differently to say to Saint Francis Xavier, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his soul?”

 

Psalm 137 applies to the Black experience in the United States as a community lamentation.  Lamentations are “characterized by the following elements:  an address to God (or invocation), a statement of complaint (or description of the situation), a confession of trust, a petition, words of assurance, and a vow of praise.”[2]  The selection used by the Lectionary captures all of these elements, even without using the final three verses.

 

Soul has special meaning for African-Americans.  Some scholars trace the spirituals to historic incidents, such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion,[3] rather than as some forlorn hope for a pie in the sky.  The need is to stay focused on God, through it all.  One purpose of Lent is to make it through the Winter and early Spring with that discipline required for living holy lives.

 

The Faithful have to look closely to find the resonance of the original eclectic Greek in Ephesians.  There is some question about whether Ephesians was written by Saint Paul.[4]  Ephesians bonds the Faithful with Christ.  Ephesians 2:5 uses the words with Christ about being brought to life.  Ephesians 2:6 uses the words with him about being raised up and seated in the heavens in Christ Jesus.  The lexical problem is that the Greek expresses the union in the verbs, where the English uses the preposition with to lose some of the effect.

 

By mistake, I translated the Greek for Ephesians 2:3 that contrasts the nature of the Faithful with the nature of God, the former deserving the wrath of God, the latter full of mercy.  The Greek is about the core of being.  The very nature of humanity is to deserve wrath.  The very nature of Divinity is mercy.

 

I have a problem translating the Greek for Ephesians 2:4.  The Greek uses two words for love, where the Lectionary only uses one.  The Vulgate has caritatem and dilexit.  King James and the New Jerusalem use love twice.  With generous and mercy the Jerusalem implies love twice.  I guess the meaning is that God loves to love the Faithful.

 

Ephesians 2:4

 

Lectionary (1998):                        because of the great love he had for us

The Vulgate (circa 410):               propter nimiam caritatem suam, qua dilexit nos

Douay-Rheims (1582-1610):         for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us

King James (1611):                      for his great love wherewith he loved us

Jerusalem (1966):                        that he was generous with his mercy

New American (1970):                  because of the great love he had for us

New Jerusalem (1985):                through the great love with which he loved us

 

Ephesians 2:10 goes so far as to write in the Greek that the Faithful are created in Christ.  The Greek carries a sense of finality[5] about how the Faithful ought to live because of their new creation in Christ.  God makes it possible for the Faithful to live his very life with him.  Such a life includes and explains suffering.

 

To rise with Christ in Ephesians carries a double meaning, both lifted up on the Cross and lifted up in glory.  In the Greek, the word for grace also carries different meanings between Ephesians 2:5, by grace you have been saved and Ephesians 2:8, for by grace you have been saved through faith.  The meaning of the first grace is that salvation is a gift of God, freely given.  The meaning of the second grace is the gift of the Son to the Faithful.[6]

 

Is grace the Holy Spirit?  According to the dictionary definition, grace is an unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.”[7]  I regard that assistance as the very life of God, common to all three persons of the Blessed Trinity, not simply the Holy Spirit.  I do think of the Holy Spirit as a form of grace.  I do not think Saint Paul realized that the Holy Spirit reached the individuality of a person of the Blessed Trinity.

 

Agneta Schreurs, the psychotherapist, approaches the problem as follows:[8]

 

The meaning of the word `person’, for example, has since the arrival of Latin civilization on the world stage changed into its exact opposite.  Its original meaning was `mask’ (for example the masks actors used when acting a part in a play), while in its modern meaning a `person’ refers to who somebody really is when he is not hiding behind a `mask’.[9]

 

… a communication problem for religious and spiritual people.  As illustrated above, they are more or less caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  On the one hand our dominant linguistic system offers them objective language which is as inadequate for conveying religious and spiritual meaning as it is adequate for scientific studies and procedures.  On the other hand the religious traditions, which in themselves are so important to the believer, invite understanding in a language of symbols and metaphors which, while once adequate for the task, are no longer so.  Many have lost or changed their original meaning and coherence.  This exacerbates the communication problem between believer and non-believer, and can easily put a halt to any useful dialogue between the two.

 

The double meaning about lifted up carries over into John 3:14, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.  Margaret Barker, with her usual irreverence, wonders whether John 3:14 links an actual post-resurrection Transfiguration with the earlier pre-resurrection Transfiguration.[10]  In any event, the Transfiguration and crucifixion are linked.  John is playing upon the Greek words.[11]

 

Waiting until Chapter 12, John takes a while to explain what he means about the suffering.[12]  In this Chapter 3, John is still explaining the need to be born again through Baptism.[13]  Ultimately, John is driving at a loving personal relationship between God and the Faithful.

 

Pope Benedict XVI in his first encyclical, God is Love, cites John 3:16, as part of the Introduction, to link Faith with eternal life.  ”God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life.”[14]  Benedict omits the part about not perishing.  Benedict writes, “We have come to believe in God’s love.”  Evidently, Benedict means that God’s love is not self-evident, but requires Faith.  That leaves me, for one, confused.  After all that has happened, I think that the love of God is self-evident to the Faithful.

 

With Faith, the great Black Educator, Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)[15] took her sense of self-worth from John 3:16.[16]

 

It was the word “whosoever” [everyone] through which she saw herself joined to a common humanity through God’s love that ignited her determination and passion:

 

“Whosoever,” [everyone] it said.  No Jew nor Gentile, no Catholic nor Protestant, no black nor white; just “whosoever.” [everyone] It meant that I, a humble Negro girl, had just as much chance as anybody in the sight and love of God. These words stored up a battery of faith and confidence and determination in my heart.

 

Jesus does not approach his ordeal of suffering as an act of servitude, but as an act of love. This is love of both Jesus and God almighty.[17]

 

John does not leave the matter as a pie in the sky.  John 3:19-21 insists that works have consequences culminating in whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.[18]  This matter of living in the truth is especially meaningful to a college professor, even a retired one.  This effort to write these Notes is such an effort to live the truth.

 

The truth is that suffering comes into every life, especially towards the end of life. 2 Chronicles shows that how one lives has consequences.  The 137th Psalm laments the suffering that accompanies life, with a prayer to remember that God is God. Ephesians brings suffering and glory close together in the life of God himself.  The Gospel closes with insistence that God does love the Faithful, beginning with Jesus Christ, through it all.  There can be merit and glory in suffering.

 

 

For more on sources see the Appendix file. Personal Notes are on the web site at www.western-civilization.com/CBQ/Personal%20Notes



[1] Mary Jo Weaver, review of Leslie Woodcock Tentler, Catholics and Contraception: An American History in The American Historical Review, Vol. 111, No. 1 (February 2006) 218.

 

[2] Wilma Ann Bailey, “The Sorrow Songs: Laments from Ancient Israel and the African American Diaspora,” citing Toni  Craven, The Book of Psalms 27 in Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation, Randall C. Bailey, ed., (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003) 64.

 

[3] Wilma Ann Bailey, “The Sorrow Songs: Laments from Ancient Israel and the African American Diaspora,” in Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation, Randall C. Bailey, ed., (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003) 80.

 

[4] Jeremy Corley, “The Pauline Authorship of 1 Corinthians 13,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 2 (April 2004) 259.

[5] Maximilian Zerwick, S.J., English Edition adapted from the Fourth Latin Edition by Joseph Smith, S.J., Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblico—114—Biblical Greek (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1994) 43.

 

[6] Maximilian Zerwick, S.J., English Edition adapted from the Fourth Latin Edition by Joseph Smith, S.J., Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblico—114—Biblical Greek (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1994) 57.

 

[7] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate ® Dictionary: Eleventh Edition (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2003) 542.

[8] Agneta Schreurs, Psychotherapy and Spirituality: Integrating the spiritual dimension into therapeutic practice (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002) 69-70.

 

[9] M Mauss (1938) `Une catégorie de l’esprit humain: la notion de personne celle de “Moi’.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 68 (Huxley Memorial Lecture, 1938) (Eng. Trans. By B. Brewster in Sociology and Psychology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.) is a still relevant and much quoted essay about the changes in the meaning of `person’ from antiquity till the twentieth century, cobbled from fn. 7 and Bibliography in Agneta Schreurs, Psychotherapy and Spirituality: Integrating the spiritual dimension into therapeutic practice (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002) 283, 301.

 

[10] Margaret Barker, The Great high Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (London: T & T Clark International: A Continuum imprint, 2003) 13.

 

[11] Margaret Barker, The Great high Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (London: T & T Clark International: A Continuum imprint, 2003) 67.

 

[12] Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B., “The Gospel of John as Scripture,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 3 (July 2005) 458, 461, 462.

 

[13] Dennis M. Sweetland, review of Wai-Yee Ng, Water Symbolism in John: An Eschatological Interpretation in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (January 2003), 133.

 

[14] Benedict XVI, “Encyclical Letter: Deus Caritas Est of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious and All the Lay Faithful on Christian Love,” http://www.vatical.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclixals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_2... 1/30/2006 1/25.

 

 

[16] Mary McLeod Bethune as found in William L. Andrews, Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century as cited by Demetrius K. Williams, “The Bible and Models of Liberation in the African American Experience,” in Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation, Randall C. Bailey, ed., (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003) 52.

 

[17] Mary L. Coloe, P.B.V.M., “Welcome into the Household of God: The Foot Washing in John 13,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 3 (July 2004) 415.

 

[18] Loren L. Johns and Douglas B. Miller, “The Signs as Witnesses in the Fourth Gospel: Reexamining the Evidence, the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 3 (July 1994) 525.