The readings for this Sunday are about how to deal with suffering. The example of suffering that all must endure is death. Death, then, as a change, rather than as an end to life, brings the readings into focus. To find comfort in my own death is one thing; but to find comfort in the death of anyone else is something else. How this can be so, strikes me as the mystery contained in these readings.
The readings begin with Isaiah who offers consolation
to those having returned to
Neither Isaiah nor Psalm 116 realizes that eternal
life solves all problems of this life.
To recapitulate and elaborate, Isaiah 50 is Second
Isaiah, written about 500 BC, after the return from Exile. This reading
overlaps with Palm Sunday, anticipating the death of
The Lectionary uses Psalm 116 on Holy Thursday, as well as here. Care for the Sick and Funerals also use Psalm 116. Psalm 116:2 about the LORD inclining “his ear” reminds the Faithful about Isaiah 50:5, “GOD opens my ear.” Love is a two-way street between God and the Faithful and the Faithful and God. That love extends beyond death to comfort the suffering of those dying and the witnesses thereto. Psalm 116:3 continues singing about the cords and bonds of death, but with renewed hope for better things to come.
Only in the last several centuries have Western scholars begun to see the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms. There is a problem with the poetry and with the rest of the translation of Psalm 116. The problem begins with identifying the original inspired text, whether Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint, or the Latin Vulgate. The Council of Trent identified the Vulgate as the inspired Word of God. The current on-going retranslation of the Lectionary is using the Vulgate.
To continue with the translation difficulties, Psalm 116 poetically uses the same Hebrew word for seized and fell into. “The snares of the netherworld seized upon me; I fell into distress and sorrow.” The Psalmist uses the ambiguity of language to open up the mystery of death. The Hebrew poetry reveals a mysterious link between the netherworld and distress and sorrow. The Psalmist invites the Faithful to contemplate that mystery. Psalm 116:4 calls, “O LORD, save my life!” The Savior does that by offering eternal life to the Faithful.
The Psalmist probably has the courage of his
convictions in Psalm 116:8, when he sings about God, “he has freed my soul from
death.” I read the Psalmist to mean that God freed his soul from the fear of
death, but not from death itself. By offering eternal life,
The Christian belief in eternal life after death
includes realized eschatology. The Lectionary instructs that just
because the Faithful have a taste of the hereafter in the present is no excuse
for neglecting the present. In helping form the church communities, the Epistle
of James insists on demonstrating Faith with good works. What the Lectionary
translates as “nothing to wear” in James 2:15, the Greek has “without clothes”
or “naked,” far different in meaning from having nothing suitable to wear, as that phrase is usually taken.
Questions offer a segue from the Epistle to the
Reading Mark is tricky and the more scholars delve
At the time of
John Kloppenborg questions whether Mark 8:31, “The Son
of Man must … rise after three days” alludes to Hosea 6:2, “on the third day he
[Yahweh] will raise us up.” Kloppenborg concludes that the connection is
possible, but not necessary. 1 Cor 15:4 and Luke 18:33, however, do have a
necessary connection to Hosea 6:2. In other words, there is precedent for
In the Gospel of
Part of the problem may rest in the difference between
Swiss clock time and Mediterranean enveloping time. Swiss clock time is
sequential and what
Mediterranean readers could see it differently. Mediterranean
time envelops potency and act.
In this way,
The other Synoptic Gospels also use this turning point
in Mark 8:30, "You are the
Mark 8:34-35 is about taking up one’s cross for the
The readings for this Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary
Time help the Faithful cope with suffering and death. Isaiah is about
comforting the disappointment at the end of the road returning from Exile.
Psalm 116:9 is about facing death with faith in God, proclaiming, “I will walk
before the Lord, in the land of the living.”
For more on sources see the Appendix file. Personal Notes are on the web site at www.western-civilization.com/CBQ/Personal%20Notes
 The Roman Ritual: Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and Published by Authority of Pope Paul VI: Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum: 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: Prepared by International Commission on English in the Liturgy: a Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co. 1983) 327.
 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) 227, 274.
E. Best, “
 F. Gerald Downing, “`Honor’ among Exegetes,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 1 (January 1999) 59.