God can fix history. That is the story behind the following readings. The readings begin easily enough with God calling Amos to be a prophet (Amos 7:15). Psalm 85 is a lament about the reality of history in the making. Ephesians is about the ability of God to purify past human history. The Gospel of Mark is about the disciples correcting history in the sense of healing the sick. The readings for today are not only about healing bodies, but also about healing souls developing their identities within a context of sin and history.
Amos had some of the goods of this world. Owning cattle, he had to give up something, when God called him. Amos had been on a path of worldly success, which he gave up to prophesy with a message that could not have been good for business. Amos trusted the ability of God to make things right, eventually.
Stockmen from Tekoa, Sycomores from Sheba; A Study of Amos’ Occupations,
Lectionary (1998): I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores
The Vulgate (circa 410): sed armentarius ego sum, vellicans sycomoros
Douay-Rheims (1582-1610): but I am a herdsman plucking wild figs
New American (1970): I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores
New Jerusalem (1985): I am merely a herdsman and dresser of sycamore-figs
Both the 1998 and the 1986 Nova Vulgata have it right, sycomoros. Interestingly both the Nova Vulgata and the Douay Rheims purchased more recently are reprints of copies made earlier. However, what is the difference between a sycamore and a sycomore?
American Sycamore (plantanus occidentalis)
Sycamore fig (ficus sycomoros)
Plant type tree tree
Mature Height 70-90 feet 50-70 feet
Environment Prefer full sun; soil should be wet
Prefers partial shade or partial sun to full sun; soil should be moist
Bloom colors Red White/Near white
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction.
Leaves Leaves, alternate, simple, lobed, with three main veins palmately arranged
Foliage Evergreen, velvet/fuzzy-textured
Fruit Fruits, achenes in ball-like aggregate, on long stalks
Monocromatico from Rio De Janeiro (BR) (Zone 11) has the following:
The Sycomore is historically one of
the most important trees. It’s cited in
the Bible several times. The wood and
figs have been used by people in
It's a fig tree, and a large one. The height depends on the soil and water available. The trunk is vigorous and can grow larger than taller sometimes, making it look like a Baobad. The leaves are simple, or more often lobate, with tiny hairs on its surface. Dunno much about cultivation, and never seen (or tasted) the figs myself.
The trees are different in foliage, fruit, height, and where they grow.
Even the history of the relationship between Amos and his fig trees requires the type of fixing only God can heal. The discrepancies among the various translations require human trepidation before settling on a resolution. All sorts of sin cloud human reason, sin that God can remedy in history.
Psalm 85 laments having turned away from God. Again, the inspired writer has confidence that God is a God of history. The lament also implies suffering from racial prejudice. Psalm 85:13, justice shall walk before him is about the activity of God looking down from heaven, in history. This phrase is also found in Isaiah 58:8, so was part of the original expectation of the Jewish people. Psalm 85 proclaims that God can correct history gone badly. Laments are suitable prayers for those suffering from racism, sexism, or other unfair human biases.
The Lectionary for this Sunday exemplifies history gone badly. One problem is with the documentation referencing Psalm 85. The Lectionary uses the exact same words from Psalm 85 in three places: (1) 5B, The Second Sunday of Advent; (2) 104B, the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (here); and (3) 115A, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Lectionary uses Psalm 85:8 as the alleluia verse for the 2B, the First Sunday of Advent reading. The embarrassing problem is the inconsistency referencing verse 9, only part of which the Lectionary uses. Nowhere does the Lectionary acknowledge that only part is used.
There is an internal inconsistency between the references for readings 5B and 114B, and 115A. 115A has 9, 10, rather than the 9-10 for 5B and 114B. While none of the references is accurate, 9, 10 (by leaving room for the unfinished verse 9), is better than 9-10 (which appears to be a complete verse 9 before verse 10. This is one more example of sloppy scholarship, mentioned again below. Just as the sycomoros in Amos cause consternation, so does the Lectionary documentation for Psalm 85:9
The antiphon, then, makes great sense for me. “Lord, let us see you kindness, and grant us your salvation.” Kindness and salvation would mean setting forth the truth more carefully in the Lectionary.
Psalm 85:9, where “justice shall look down from heaven” runs parallel to Ephesians 1:3, “with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” The Greek in Ephesians not only implies coming down from the heavens, but also reaching up to the heavens. The blessing is Christ. Christ heals history in all of its meanings.
When Ephesians 1: 4 holds that God chose the Faithful
to be without blemish before him, Ephesians means that God is actively
participating in human history to the point of correcting human mistakes. Utilizing Ephesians 1:4,
Ephesians is about the good will of God toward the Faithful. I wonder about translating good will as entitlement, a matter of entitled justice, rather than a matter of optional charity. Here I am thinking about correcting the consequences of racism and sexism. I am not arguing, just wondering. Good will is an excellent translation, as it is. Other nuances include taking pleasure, being pleased. Both racism and sexism require healing.
Time is a dissonant element in Ephesians 1:10, the fullness of times. This is not Western clock time, but eastern sequential time. The sense is that the time was suitable.
There is another Western-Eastern dichotomy at work with the Greek word oikonomian in verse 10, translated, a plan. That plan refers to cosmic unity, rather than, for example, taking up a collection for church kneelers. I suspect the hierarchy uses Koinonia for Parish Council in order to disabuse Koinonia members of any democratic sense of authority. As best I can tell, in the mind of the hierarchy, all authority rests with them. Koinonia is not in the dictionary. In that sense, at least, Koinonia does not belong in the West. My guess is that the hierarchy wants the Faithful to plan without decision-making authority of what plan to implement.
Neither is Koinonia limited to Eastern Christianity. Founded in 1942, Koinonia Partners is a
small, interracial, Christian farming community in
Koinonia Christian Fellowship is an Ontario Canadian church founded in 1984. In 2001 this church released their first Praise and Worship CD entitled “Everlasting Love.” I doubt the hierarchy is trying to use either of these churches as models, churches that also use the term Koinonia. In taking charge of history, healing the scandals causing Protestant Christianity to flourish is something else for God to look after.
The Greek for a
plan in Ephesians 1:10 is different from the Greek in Ephesians 1:11, the intention of his will. The
mystery of his will is in Ephesians 1:9; the intention of his will is in Ephesians 1:11. The mystery is unraveled in the intention as
explained in the way in which
The sloppy scholarship in the Lectionary is part of the mystery of his will in Ephesians 1:8. The need is to meditate on the mystery of existence for the purpose of finding God. The life of Jesus best describes the mystery of existence.
This Ephesians 1:10 is about all things being summed
Ephesians 1:13, the
word of truth, means that the promises of
From the Greek, my sense of entitlement, mentioned above, is at Ephesians 1:5, the favor of his will; 1:8, the riches of his grace, and 1:8, in accord with his favor. With all of the intellectual running around in Ephesians 1:2-14, the rite of Funerals has a place for this reading.
Mark 6:13 writes about correcting history in the sense
of driving out demons and curing the sick.
Though this verse is about the anointing of the sick, Pastoral Care of the Sick does not use this verse. Mark 6:7-13 is part of a recognized intercalation of Mark 6:7-32. The story about healing is the beginning a
story that ends with the disciples asking
in Mark 6:7,
this point, after indicating in Mark 3:13, that those whom Jesus chose for his
disciples did not yet realize who Jesus was, Mark narrates their initial
successes (Mark 1:16-20; 2:13-14; 3:13-19, and 6:6b-13(here)). Mark is leading his readers through the
successes, doubt, failure, and final Faith in the risen
There is another aspect of
The readings for today are not only about healing
bodies, but also about healing souls developing their identities within a
context of sin and history. Amos leaves
his career-path to prophecy for God. Psalm
85 promises that justice, redeeming justice, shall walk before God. Ephesians draws all healing from the ministry
of Christ. Mark describes how this
ministry developed in the life of
For more on sources see the Appendix file. Personal Notes are on the web site at www.western-civilization.com/CBQ/Personal%20Notes
Because the following Nova Vulgata wore out, I began using the above beginning with the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 23, 2004. While the above volume is bound better and is the edition seminarians used at The Catholic University of America in the Spring of 2004, the 1986 date is twelve years before the one below, which wore out.
The Holy Bible:
Translated from the Latin Vulgate and diligently compared with the Hebrew,
Greek and other editions in divers languages (The Old Testament, First published
by the English College at Douay, A.D. 1609 and The New Testament was first
published by the English College at Rheims, A.D. 1582) With notes by Bishop
Challoner and also The Encyclical Letter “On the Study of the Holy Scriptures.” By Pope
The Holy Bible: Translated from the Latin Vulgate with Annotations, References, and an Historical and Chronological Table: The Douay Version of The Old Testament, First published by the English College at Douay, A.D. 1609: The Confraternity Edition of The New Testament: A Revision of the Challoner-Rheims Version Edited by Catholic Scholars under the Patronage of the Episcopal Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1950).
 http://www.answers.com/topic/koinonia-partners 060616.
Donald A. Hagner, review of Peter T. O’Brien, “The Summing Up of All Things
(Ephesians 1:10)” (pp. 106-219), P. J. Williams, Andrew D.
 N.a., International Commission on English in the Liturgy: A Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, The Roman Ritual: Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by Authority of Pope Paul IV: Order of Christian Funerals: Including Appendix 2: Cremation: Approved for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Confirmed by the Apostolic See (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1998) 252.