The Lectionary readings model courage in the face of the unknown. Just as the ancient Jews had reason to question the credibility of institutional religion, so do modern Christians have similar reason. What unites the living Faithful with the ancestral Faithful is the courage Faith requires in the face of the unknown.
In the modern world, the credibility of the word of God and the credibility of the Church are linked. Both are apparently in deep trouble, but nothing deeper than what faced the authors of the Lectionary readings for today. These reflections begin with the latest insensitive behavior of the papacy.
On Saturday, December 1, Pope Benedict XVI called for more discussion of morality and the natural law at international organizations. Apparently he is concerned about family planning services by the United Nations. The Pope spoke before Catholic-inspired nongovernmental organizations, asking them to make the social teachings of the Catholic Church better known and accepted.
The problem with making the social teachings of the Catholic Church better known and accepted is uncovering hidden agendas. That part of Catholic social teaching, which confronts such modern issues as slavery, abortion, birth control, and general passivity in the face of suffering, has consistently shifted over the course of time since the 1789 French Revolution. What has not shifted has been papal insistence on its own authority to override civil decisions.
grandiose claims of the Papacy to authoritativeness, Catholics in the
The Prophet Isaiah was outside the teaching Magisterium of the
Judaism of his day. When Isaiah 49 was
originally composed, the Faithful were upset that returning to
The Responsorial antiphon Psalm 40 catches the spirit, Here I am Lord, I come to do your will. That seems similar to what the
I do see a consistency of courage in the face of the unknown
throughout the readings. In his letters
to the Corinthians,
In 1 Corinthians,
Benedict will arrive in the
Referring to knowledge, the Catechism holds that Wisdom . . . grants us the long range view of history. The long range view of history in this instance is that the papacy has used Catholic social teaching in an attempt to regain lost papal authority. The Pope is trying to regain a place at the table of reason, based on his authority as the apostolic successor of Peter, rather than on his ability to give a reason for the Faith that is in him. The Pope might do this by demonstrating the courage required either to meet the generally established standards for the treatment of professors incurring administrative disapproval or challenging the standards as inadequate.
The Gospel also touches upon courage in the face of disconcerting knowledge. The Gospel is about John the Baptizer recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah. Basically, John is placing the truth of the Divinity of Jesus before his own authority as a prophet. Jesus is the broker between humanity and God, especially in the sense that authority of God remains upon Jesus (John 1:32) whereas the authority of God is only a passing phenomenon for others.
Material above the double line draws from material below the double line. Those uninterested in scholarly details should stop reading here. If they do, however, they may miss some of the fun stuff scholars are digging up.
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Richard Clifford, S.J. and Khaled Anatolois, "Christian Salvation: Biblical and Theological Perspectives"
Clifford writes that for Second
Isaiah, who wrote chapter 49, the time of punishment was over and the time of
restoration was at hand. Clifford goes
on, “in the large-scale typology that the prophet used, exiled
Isaiah 49:1-6 is one of four Servant Songs, so that the Messiah is coming to serve, rather than dominate.
Isa 49:1-4 +5c
Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., “Deutero-Isaiah: Major Transitions in the Prophet's Theology and in Contemporary Scholarship”
Stuhlmueller develops the circumstances in which Isaiah wrote, as mentioned above the double line.
Heil writes that the servant of God is
both a corporate entity,
Bridge explains, “In the epistles, Isaiah is used to confirm and clarify the situations experienced and the questions faced by the early Christian communities. His words thus speak to … the missionary outreach to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6) …”
Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
J. Ross Wagner, “From the Heavens to the Heart: The Dynamics of Psalm 19 as Prayer”
And he stooped toward me and heard my cry Psalm 40:2). Wagner writes that the Hebrew for cry can also refer to inaudible or incomprehensible speech as voice.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3
1 Cor 1:1-11
1 Cor 1:1-2
Margaret Barker, The Great High Priest: The
This is Barker at her best.
The duties of the Levites could well have described early Christian worship: invocation/remembrance, thanksgiving, i.e. Eucharist, and praise. Since breaking bread was the Sabbath ritual for the priests in the second temple, and the Christians described themselves as saints, literally holy ones, and identified themselves as the royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9), it is more likely that their worship was modeled on that of the angel priests in the temple, than derived from the synagogue. They worshipped in song (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19) and the song expressed the unity and harmony of the community (Col. 3:16). None of the elements of early Christian worship was out of character with temple worship: prophesying was a priestly activity, as was the interpretation of Scripture and the receiving of revelations. They also sang psalms, understanding the LORD as Jesus, another continuation of the temple cult.
1 Cor 1:5
John Fotopoulos, "Arguments
Concerning Food Offered to Idols: Corinthian Quotations and
Fotopoulos writes that “
Neyrey develops the notion of broker mentioned above the double line.
For more on sources see the Appendix file.
 Bernard Laurent, “Catholicism and Liberalism: Two Ideologies in Confrontation,” Theological Studies, Vol. 68, No. 4 (December 2007) 808-838.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 3 (July, 2007) 544.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 1 (January 1980) 23.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 1 (January 2006) 71-72.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 1 (January 2007) 190-191.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 2 (April 1999) 251.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 1 (January 2007) 85, 87.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 4 (October 2005) 624.
 the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 2 (April 2007) 282, 285.