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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE – “AT LAST THEY KNEW THE MYSTERY OF JESUS”

“‘WITH GREAT JOY’

After the Ascension of Jesus to His Father the Apostles returned to Jerusalem. St Luke tells us that they returned ‘with great joy. And they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God’ (Luke 24:52-53).

WHY DID THE APOSTLES REJOICE – AFTER ALL, THEY HAD LOST JESUS’ PHYSICAL PRESENCE?

At first sight it seems strange that they should have rejoiced at the departure of Jesus, their Lord and Master, from this world. By His going they had lost the physical presence of their Friend, their Master, indeed, their God. But, they rejoiced, they praised and blessed God. What explains their joy, their praise of God? It must be – what the Gospel story intimates – that in the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus they learned, through the instruction of Jesus Himself, the real meaning of Jesus, the significance of His life, His death, His Resurrection and His Ascension. This new knowledge was so important, so filled with blessing for them and for the world that, in spite of their sadness at the departure of Jesus Himself, they rejoiced and, in turn, praised the God they had known in Him. At last they knew the mystery of Jesus, and they believed in Him, hoped in Him and loved Him. They would spend their lives giving to the world this belief, this hope and this love.

TRANSFORMING THE LIVES OF MEN

What was this new understanding of Jesus which so filled them with joy and with the desire to communicate this joy to the whole world? Since the time of the Apostles innumerable books have been written to explain the mystery which is Jesus. Here we must be content to give the simplest outline of the belief of the Apostles, a belief which was to change the face of the earth, to transform the lives of men.

JESUS IS THE SALVATION WHICH GOD HAD PROMISED TO MANKIND

First of all, we must remember that the Apostles were Jews, members of God’s Chosen People. They saw Jesus against the background of the sacred history of their own people. Thus they saw in Jesus the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel and, through Israel, to the whole world. In Jesus they saw the salvation which God had promised to mankind.

THE FIRST FRUIT

They knew that Adam, the forefather of all men, had by his sin brought death and disorder to mankind. They remembered that it was the malice of the devil which had led to the sin of Adam. God had promised that sometime the son, the child of woman, would triumph over the devil and sin. In the Resurrection of Jesus they saw the first fruit of that triumph. By the power of God Jesus had risen from death to eternal life with the Father in heaven.

HE WHOM THE NATIONS SHALL OBEY

They knew, too, that when mankind had grown to some maturity in the disordered world which sin had created, when the great empires of Babylonia and Egypt had flourished, bringing civilisation and human culture to the world, then God had chosen Abraham to be the father of God’s Chosen People. He had promised great blessings to Abraham and, through Abraham, to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).

This blessing has descended from Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob. And Jacob had passed it on to Juda [Judah]. Jacob had promised that the rule over the Chosen People would belong to Juda until ‘he comes to whom it (the sceptre) belongs and to whom the nations shall obey’ (Genesis 49:10).

From the house of Juda then was to come the great ruler of the people of God, a ruler whom even the nations of the world would obey. The prophet Balaam had also foretold that a ‘star’ would rise from Jacob, a sceptre from Israel (Numbers 24:17).

THE LORD ‘BEGOTTEN’ BY GOD

In the tribe of Juda the blessing was given to King David. The prophet Nathan promised to David, ‘Your house and your kingship will exist forever before me; your throne will remain firm forever’ (2 Samuel 7:16).

In the Psalms David himself described the ‘Anointed One,’ the Christ Whom the Chosen People awaited. In Psalms David portrayed the kings and peoples of the earth conspiring against God and His Anointed. But God says to His Anointed, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you. Petition me and I will give you the nations as an inheritance, the ends of the earth as your possession’ (Psalm 2:7-8).

In Psalm 110 David spoke of a ‘Lord’ Who sits at the right hand of God, Whom God sends forth from Sion to ‘rule in the midst of your enemies.’ This ‘Lord’ is ‘begotten’ by God, and a ‘priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech.’

MORE PROPHECIES

To Achaz, one of the descendants of David, God had said, ‘Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and she will call his name Emmanuel’ (Isaias [Isaiah] 7:14). At the time when the armies of Assyria were advancing on Jerusalem Isaias had foretold that this child would be born to the Chosen People. ‘Sovereignty’ would rest upon his shoulders; he would be called ‘Wondrous-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.’ He would sit upon the throne of David and rule his kingdom ‘through righteousness and justice’ (Isaias 9:1-6).

A DESCENDANT OF JESSE

Again Isaias had described the Anointed One of God as a descendant of Jesse, the father of David: ‘A twig will come forth from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a sprig will sprout. The spirit of Jahweh will rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jahweh’ (Isaias 11:1-2). The descendant of Jesse will rule with justice and righteousness.

Both Isaias and Micheas [Micah] had foretold that in the time of the Anointed One of God all the nations of the earth would enter the Kingdom of God. The word of God would go out from Jerusalem to all the world (Isaias 2:2-4; Micheas [Micah] 4:1-3).

Micheas had proclaimed that the promised king would be born at Bethlehem: ‘from you will he come forth to me who will reign over Israel’ (Micheas [Micah] 5:1).

THEY HAD BEEN EXPECTING A POLITICAL MESSIAH

The Apostles, like their contemporary fellow-countrymen, knew that God had promised to bring blessings to them and, through them, to the rest of the world. They knew that the channel of these blessings had been narrowed down by God from Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Juda and David to some one individual, a descendant of David, who would extend the Kingdom of God to the whole world. They knew that this promised king, this Anointed One of God, would be born of a virgin at Bethlehem.

Thus when they met Jesus and followed Him they were ready to accept Him as the Messias, the Anointed One of God. His doctrines and His miracles enabled them to see in Him the Promised One for Whom they had been waiting.

But, like their countrymen, they had been expecting a royal Messias who would lead them to worldly glory. Hence, when they saw Him refusing to become a temporal king, when they saw Him arrested, tried and put to death like a common criminal, they were bewildered and confused and they lost heart.

EVERYTHING FALLS INTO PLACE

The Resurrection of Jesus, however, and the instructions which He gave them during the forty days He remained with them on earth opened their eyes to the unperceived riches of their own scriptures. After His Resurrection Jesus showed them that they had attended only to the glorious aspects of the Messias they expected. They had ignored the more difficult prophecies about the sufferings and death of the Messias. Jesus recalled to them the words of Isaias about the ‘Servant of Jahweh,’ Who as the Messias would bring blessings to all men, but who would suffer and die. Far from being a man the people might admire, he would be despised. He would take upon Himself the sins of men: He would be bruised and pierced for the sins of men so that men might be saved. He would be led to death like a lamb to the slaughter.

He recalled to them the words of Zacharias [Zechariah]: ‘Behold thy King will come to thee, the just and the saviour. He is poor and riding upon an ass and upon a colt, the foal of an ass’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 9:9).

HE WOULD RULE NOT AN EARTHLY KINGDOM BUT THE HEARTS OF MEN

Faced with the risen Jesus, perceiving in His very aliveness the triumph of man over sin and death, the Apostles under His instruction finally saw the true meaning of their own scriptures, the true meaning of God’s promises. The Messias, the Christ, would be a king indeed, but a king in the world of the spirit of man. He would rule, not an earthly kingdom but the hearts of men. He would gain His kingdom, not by military or political conquest but by the sacrifice of Himself on the cross for the salvation of mankind. His triumph would be achieved through humiliation and death. His triumph would not be over the kingdoms of the earth, but over the devil, sin and death. The evils brought into the world by the disobedience of Adam – sin, disease and death, the rule of the devil over the souls of men – these evils would be overcome by the obedience of the Anointed One of God. By his sin Adam had preferred his own advantage to God and so had lost the Kingdom of God for himself and for all his children. By His obedience, and obedience unto death, Jesus had preferred God to His own advantage, to His own human life, and so He had won back for all men the kingdom of God.

The Apostles knew that the sacrifice of Jesus was successful, effective, for they saw with their own eyes that God had given life back to Jesus, had made Him immortal in the flesh and glorious. Thus they were able to reconcile the two apparently contradictory descriptions of the Messias given in the scriptures of their people. The Messias would be a glorious, triumphant king; He would also be a servant, despised and humiliated, put to death by His enemies. In Jesus, in the gloriously risen Jesus, the Apostles saw these contradictions merge with one another, vanish. And the picture of the Messias which emerged from this merging of contradictories was even more glorious than had been their former dreams of worldly glory.

MORE GLORIOUS THAN THEIR DREAMS OF WORLDLY GLORY

For Jesus, Whom they recognised clearly as the Messias, the Christ, was not only man, He was God Himself, the Son of God. In Him they saw God Himself. He had come into this world not to establish simply an earthly kingdom filled with earthly peace and blessing. He had come to give men the far greater blessing of eternal life, the blessing of sharing in the life of God Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Through Him and in Him and with Him they would conquer sin and death and the devil. By His grace they would rise with Him to the Father, to rule gloriously in heaven.

THE MYSTERY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE IS SOLVED

In the mysterious love and providence of God they had been chosen to bring this great blessing of eternal life to the rest of men. They had been chosen to assist the Son of God to establish the Kingdom of God among men. It is no wonder, then, that they returned from witnessing the Ascension of Jesus with hearts filled with joy and thankfulness to God. For them the mystery of human existence had been solved. Man had been bound over to death and the devil through sin. In Jesus sin had been overcome, and with sin death and the devil had been conquered. They rejoiced as men truly reborn, and born now not just to a passing existence here on earth but born to eternal life.

RAISED ABOVE EARTH-BOUND CYCLES

Under the tutelage of the risen Jesus they now saw that all human history up to that time was but a preparation for the coming of Jesus and His work of redemption. Jesus was the centre of all history, the centre which gave meaning to the growing circle of human history.

Without Jesus human life on earth was doomed to the ever-recurring cycles of human history, to repetitive beginnings, flowerings and decay of human civilisations and cultures.

But with Jesus human life could be raised above these earth-bound cycles to the eternal Now of God. God Himself had descended into the world of man, became a man to raise men to God. Without Jesus all men had been doomed after this present life to the eternal boredom, frustration and pain which is hell. Through Jesus it became possible for all men to rise to the perfect satisfaction of all human desires which is life with God in heaven.

WHY DOES THE BIBLE NEED THE OLD TESTAMENT AT ALL?

Because all human history up to that time was but a preparation for the coming of Jesus it was only fitting that previous persons and events foreshadow or prefigure Jesus Himself. Thus the Apostles were able to see even Adam, the first man, as a figure of Jesus. As the first man it was the function of Adam to bind men to God by his obedience. Adam, it is true, failed. But Jesus, the Christ, the First Man of the New Covenant, succeeded.

Abel offered to God an acceptable sacrifice. So did Jesus, in fact, the only sacrifice perfectly acceptable to God and effective of human salvation.

Melchisedech, whose name means ‘king of justice,’ the king of Salem (which means ‘peace’), offered to God a sacrifice of bread and wine. Jesus offered to God at the Last Supper bread and wine which He changed into His own Body and Blood. This was the clean oblation of which the prophet Malachias [Malachi] spoke, the sacrifice which would be offered to God all over the world, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. Melchisedech appears in history with no father or mother, no human genealogy. Jesus has no human father; He was born of a virgin. As God He has no mother; for Mary was only the Mother of God in His human nature.

Isaac carried the wood to Mount Moriah, where at the command of God he was to be sacrificed. Jesus, at the command of God, His Father, carried the wood of the cross to Calvary, where He was to be sacrificed for the sins of men.

JESUS IS THE CENTRE OF HISTORY

This same correspondence between men and events of the Old Testament with Jesus might be expressed in another way by saying that Jesus summed up or recapitulated in Himself the history of mankind in its relations with God. Of course in Jesus this recapitulation is realised in a perfect way. In Jesus there is no failure to respond to God’s will and in Jesus there is found the fullness of God’s grace, in fact, the very fullness of the Godhead Himself.

ADAM REPRESENTED THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE

In the eyes of God Adam represented the whole human race. His obedience would have brought inconceivable blessings to all men. In God’s eyes Jesus represented the whole human race. His obedience has brought great blessings to all men. The Chosen People were in God’s eyes as His ‘son,’ a son through whom the whole world would be blessed. Jesus is Himself the very Son of God, the Son through Whom mankind is really and fully blessed. The Chosen People, God’s ‘son,’ were exiled in Egypt before they entered for good the Promised Land. Jesus, the Son of God, was exiled in Egypt before He returned to the Promised Land to carry out His redemptive work. The Chosen People, God’s ‘son,’ were saved from destruction in Egypt by the shedding of the blood of a lamb. Jesus is Himself the lamb whose blood washes the world from sin. In the annual Passover celebration the Chosen People were forbidden to break any bones of the lamb through whose blood they were saved. On the Cross at Calvary God saw to it that the bones of Jesus, the true Lamb of God, were not broken. Thus also the realities of the Old Testament prefigure Jesus, and the life and deeds of Jesus sum up the realities of the Old Testament and give them new dimension, new depths of reality; for the Old Testament is but a shadow of Jesus, Jesus Himself is the substance of God’s plans for the salvation of mankind.

All these things the Apostles came to see clearly after the Resurrection of Jesus, either through the tutelage of Jesus Himself before His Ascension or through the light of the Holy Spirit which they received on the day of Pentecost.

THEY SAW THEIR ROLE IN THE PLAN OF GOD

More than this, they saw finally their own role in the plan of God. They saw that they had been chosen by Jesus to bring the blessing of salvation to all men. They were to be instruments of Jesus in establishing the Kingdom of God among men. From Jesus Himself they had received the commission to make disciples (that is, believers in Jesus) in all nations. These disciples were to be initiated into the Kingdom of God by the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, that washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which would expel sin from their souls and introduce therein the divine life which Jesus had won for them by shedding His blood on the Cross. Once saved from sin by Baptism these disciples were to be guided in their moral lives by the instructions, by the commands of the Apostles. From Jesus the Apostles received this threefold power to teach men the truths of salvation, to give men the graces by which they could achieve salvation and to rule the human conduct of men in order to lead them to eternal life. Among the Apostles themselves, even though all shared in this threefold power, Peter had been chosen by Jesus to be the head of the whole kingdom, of the whole Church. In the Kingdom of God Peter was the absolute head, the supreme ruler.

THE LIGHT ON A MOUNTAIN TOP

The Apostles also knew that while the Kingdom of God would be in this world, it would not be of this world. It would be as observable to men as a light on a mountain top. It would have a structure, an organisation. It would make use of perceptible signs to transmit the life of God to men, the signs of baptism, the laying on of hands for the giving of the Spirit, of the Body and Blood of Jesus, of remission of sins, of the anointing of the sick and the dying, of the laying on of hands for the transmission of the powers entrusted to the Apostles by Jesus, of the elevation of marriage as a sign of the unity of the Church. But, as the last phrase indicates, all these would be external signs of an incomparably greater invisible reality, the union of men with God through union with Jesus, the God-Man. Jesus the Christ is the vine through which the divine life is communicated to those men who would be grafted on Him by baptism. The Kingdom of God on earth would be a union of men with Jesus, a spiritual union whereby Jesus would be the source of divine life for those united to Him, Himself the way by which men reach God, the very Truth the grasping of which would make men free, free of sin and free from the downward drag of sinful human history.

Filled with thoughts such as these the Apostles and the disciples of Jesus, one hundred and twenty in number, waited in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit of God Whom Jesus had promised to send them.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (Headings in capital letters added afterwards.)

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LAST SUPPER

WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT, RATHER THAN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?

“It was Wednesday, the second day before the Feast of the Passover. The enemies of Jesus were anxious to defeat Him. Having failed to discredit Him, they were now determined to put Him to death. Even though Jesus Himself had refused to accept the role of a political Messias who would lead the people in revolt against the Roman authority, the Pharisees and Scribes were apprehensive that He might stir up such a revolt during the eight days of the Paschal Feast. If He did, then the wrath of Pilate, the Roman Procurator, would direct the power of the Roman soldiery against Jerusalem. To forestall this possibility, they felt, it was necessary to put Jesus to death. But they were also afraid of the people. Many of them had manifested a belief in Jesus. If Jesus was arrested publicly, the people might stir up such a tumult as would induce Pilate to act. How could they take Jesus by stealth?

STABBED IN THE BACK BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS

Their problem was solved for them by the treachery of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles. Each day, after teaching in the Temple, Jesus withdrew at night either to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives. Judas undertook to inform the enemies of His whereabouts, so that they might take Him secretly, without causing any public tumultuous demonstration.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ REAL MOTIVE OF HIS BETRAYAL?

The action of Judas is the most infamous betrayal in all human history. The opinions of men on the character and action of Judas have varied with their attitude toward Jesus Himself. To some, who reject Jesus as the Messias of God, Judas appears as a follower of the Pharisees. The strength of the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus finally convinced Judas that Jesus was a seducer of the people, a man who would lead the people away from true Judaism. In betraying Jesus Judas would be doing a service to the people and to God. The nobility and purity of this motive, however, are somewhat discoloured by the willingness of Judas to accept thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A REVOLUTIONARY?

Others would like to think that the betrayal was simply a stratagem adopted by Judas to force Jesus to manifest His power and inaugurate the political revolution which Judas desired. Since the Apostles, like the people generally, still looked for political liberation, the actions of Judas, in such a case, would be stripped of their sickening appearance. This is not, perhaps, impossible. But once again the avaricious spirit of Judas and his acceptance of money to betray His Master detract also from the sincerity of his motive.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT HIS PART IN THE EVENTS

On the other hand the one thing clear in the Gospel story is that Judas, who was avaricious, did accept money to betray Jesus. St Matthew states that it was Judas who first mentioned money, saying to the chief priests, ‘What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver him to you?’ (Matthew 26:15).

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE WILL IN HISTORY

Probably, then, Judas was moved to his action both by disappointment at the refusal of Jesus to become a political Messias and by a love of money.
The fall of Judas is, however, a striking instance of God’s way of dealing with men and the importance of free will in history. God knows that Judas will betray his Master. Yet Jesus chooses Judas as one of the favoured twelve Apostles. This means that, at least at the beginning, Judas was a man of some good will. He could have served his Master faithfully. He could have overcome his own greed for money and power. Jesus, the Son of God, gave him the chance to achieve great spiritual glory. But neither Jesus nor His Father in heaven would force Judas to remain faithful. It was for Judas himself to impress upon history his own likeness as a man of great loyalty or a man of ignominious betrayal.

THE EMPTINESS OF HUMAN REBELLION AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD

The betrayal by Judas is also an instance of the emptiness of human rebellion against the will of God. It was not God’s will that Judas should be unfaithful. ‘Woe to that man by whom he will be betrayed’ (Luke 22:22). But yet, the betrayal will be used by God to accomplish His plan for the salvation of mankind. ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it has been determined’ (Luke 22:22a).

WHY THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY?

On the next day, Thursday, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Feast at Jerusalem. From St John’s Gospel it would appear that the Sadducees were going to celebrate the Paschal Feast on Friday night that year. The intention of Jesus to celebrate it on Thursday night might be explained by the fact that Galileans, present at the feast, would celebrate it on Thursday in order not to defile the Sabbath, which would begin on Friday evening.

THE HISTORY

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room of a house (probably the house of a friend of Jesus) to celebrate Passover. Now the Passover meal was a remembrance of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. It was therefore a joyous feast. The joy of the feast was symbolised by the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of the Paschal lamb. The feast began with the blessing of the first cup of wine. After this bitter herbs were eaten after being dipped in a sauce composed of nuts, fruit and vinegar. The bitter herbs were a remembrance of the bitter oppression which the Chosen People suffered under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread eaten with the meal was a reminder of the haste with which the Jews had had to depart from Egypt; they had not time to bake leavened bread. The sacrifice of a lamb and the eating of it recalled that the blood of lambs, smeared on the door-posts, had caused the angel of death to ‘pass over’ the houses of the Israelites without bringing death to their firstborn, whereas it had passed through the houses of the Egyptians, bringing death to their firstborn. The entire feast celebrated then the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and from death.

PASSOVER CEREMONIES

After the eating of the herbs the Paschal lamb was brought to the table and the head of the family recalled to all the participants in the feast the deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. The second cup of wine was then drunk and the lamb was eaten. Then the third cup was drunk and an act of thanksgiving offered to God. This was followed by the drinking of the fourth cup and the singing of the Hallel, which was composed of Psalms CXIII, 8-18, CXIV-CXVII.

THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY AN ORDINARY PASSOVER MEAL

It was at such a Passover meal that Jesus ate with His Apostles for the last time before His death. Yet it was not simply an ordinary Paschal meal, for Jesus was soon to die for men and this last Passover of Jesus on earth was also the beginning of a new sacrifice which would replace the old Passover.

THE DEATH OF JESUS WILL INSTITUTE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus began the Passover by saying to the Apostles, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you that I will eat of it no more, until it has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus alludes to His own coming suffering and death. The old Paschal sacrifice of a lamb heralded the deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery and death. The passion and death of Jesus will deliver the human race from the slavery of sin and eternal death. The death of Jesus will institute the Kingdom of God.

THE APOSTLES STILL LACKED UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Then Jesus blessed the first cup of wine and said to them, ‘Take this and share it among you; for I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:17-18). Once again Jesus refers to His own approaching death which will establish the Kingdom of God among men.

This reference to the Kingdom of God excited the Apostles and they began to dispute with one another as to which one would be greatest in the kingdom. To us who know the great solemnity of the moment it is somewhat surprising to find the Apostles disputing about so vainglorious a matter at this time. But the Apostles were still worldly-minded and lacking in understanding of the basically spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus at once moved to enlighten them. ‘The kings of the Gentiles,’ He said to them, ‘lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is great among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant. For which is the greater, he who reclines at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am in your midst as he who serves. But you are they who have continued me in my trials’ (Luke 22:25-28).

THE MEANING OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET

Then Jesus rose from the supper table and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Apostles. Simon Peter at first refused to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus said to him. ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’ (John 13:7). Peter replied, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Peter then allowed Jesus to wash his feet.

After Jesus had washed the feet of all the Apostles He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them. I do not speak of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,

‘He who eats bread with me has lifted
up his heel against me.’

I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (John 13:12-20).

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus, Who was the Lord and Master of the Apostles, sought to teach them the lesson of humility. What makes the lesson even more impressive is the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, even though He knew that Judas was about to betray Him.

WHO IS IT?

Then, while they were eating, Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me’ (Mark 14:18).

The Apostles began to wonder which one it might be. Peter asked John who it might be. John asked Jesus. Jesus replied to him, ‘It is he to whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him’ (John 13:26).

Jesus then dipped bread and gave it to Judas. Then He said to Judas, ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ (John 13:27). Judas departed to betray Jesus. None of the others, except perhaps John and Peter, understood what was taking place. Some thought that Judas was going to execute some errand for Jesus.

‘THIS IS MY BODY’

After the departure of Judas the paschal lamb was brought to the table and the second cup of wine was served. Then Jesus took bread in His hands, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the Apostles, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:27-28).

AT THIS POINT JESUS HAD DEPARTED FROM THE USUAL PASSOVER CEREMONIAL

This was the most solemn act of the Last Supper. It was not simply a usual part of a Passover meal. At this point Jesus departed from the usual Passover ceremonial. Jesus had already promised to give His followers His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink. Now He fulfils this promise. At His words bread really becomes His Body and wine really becomes His Blood. Moreover the Body and Blood which Jesus thus offers the Apostles are the Body and Blood which will be separated in death on the Cross at Calvary. This is the Body which shall be given for men and the Blood which shall be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is offering His Body and Blood, His life as a sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. In so doing He is making a new covenant, a new contract between men and God: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant.’ It was customary among the peoples of the Middle East to seal a covenant in blood. Jesus is now sealing a new covenant between God and man by His own Blood shed for the forgiveness of the sins of all men.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

In addition, this is not a rite to be performed just this once. Jesus intends that this sacrificial offering of His Blood shall continue until the final establishment of His kingdom at the end of time. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ He says. And St Paul tells us, ‘For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ St Paul referring, of course, to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time to judge all men and institute the eternal Kingdom of God.

THE NEW COVENANT

By telling the Apostles to repeat His own actions in turning bread into His Body and wine into His Blood and to offer this Body and Blood to God as a sacrifice, Jesus made the Apostles priests, empowered by Him to offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, and empowered to pass on this tremendous gift to those who would succeed them in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus blesses, or consecrates, the bread and the wine separately. Thus He symbolises by this ritual and mystical separation of His Body and Blood the actual separation which will take place on the next day on the Cross. At this moment Jesus is, if we may so speak, beginning the inauguration of the new pact between God and men which will be sealed on Friday by the actual shedding of His Blood, the offering of His human life for the sins of men.

UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

But this Body and Blood, made mysteriously present under the appearances, the sign of bread and wine, made thus present by the words and the power of Jesus, are not only a sacrifice offered to God. They are also a sacrament, a sacred sign instituted by God to give grace to men. For the Body and Blood thus present under the sign of bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Grace. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him’ (John 6:55-57).

‘HE THAT EATETH MY FLESH AND DRINKETH MY BLOOD ABIDETH IN ME AND I IN HIM’

Nor did Jesus, in instituting what we now call the Eucharist, the sacrament and sacrifice of His Body and Blood, cater to any gross cannibalistic understanding of His promise and His action. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His Blood minister not to the grossly material nourishment of men’s flesh, but rather to the spiritual nourishment of their souls. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus His followers attain spiritual union with Him and, through Him, with His Father in heaven.

THE NEW COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MEN

In instituting the Eucharist Jesus had begun a new covenant between God and men. That covenant He was to seal on the next day with His Blood. Judas had already gone to make the arrangeements for His betrayal into the hands of His enemies. Jesus knew that the end of His earthly life was near. But He also knew that His apparent humiliation in death was to end in the triumph of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. So He said to the Apostles, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so to you also I say it now’ (John 13:31-33).

THE FRUIT YOU WILL BE RECOGNISED BY

But before He ascends to heaven Jesus gives His Apostles a new commandment, a new rule of life, a rule which will enable men to recognise them as the disciples of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

Because of His love for all men Jesus is about to shed His blood as a propitiation to God for the sins of men. As He Himself had said, no man can have greater love for a friend than to lay down his life for the friend. This is the love which Jesus now commands His followers to exercise toward all men. This all-embracing Christian love will be the distinguishing mark of the follower, the disciple of Jesus.

After giving this wonderful but difficult commandment of love the mind of Jesus turns in sorrow to the thought that His Apostles will fail Him in His hour of trial. ‘You will all be scandalised this night because of me,’ He said; ‘for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31). Jesus applies to Himself the prophecy of the prophet Zacharias, ‘O sword… Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 13:7).

But immediately He gives them a note of hope: ‘But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew 26:32).

‘ALL SHALL BE SCANDALISED’

The Apostles, still not understanding that Jesus must die for the sins of men, and still trusting in His power, protest that they will not desert their Master. Peter is especially vehement in his protestation: ‘Even though all shall be scandalised because of thee, I will never be scandalised’ (Matthew 26:33). Jesus sadly rebuked him for his presumption, saying, ‘Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice’ (Matthew 26:34).

But Jesus also knows that Peter and the Apostles will repent their failure and will return to Him in faith. And so He says to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32).

JESUS PRAYED FOR PETER

Why Jesus chose as His Apostles men who would fail Him in His hour of trial is a question which only God can answer with certainty. What is clear to us in the Gospel story is that Jesus knew that the eleven Apostles would repent of their failure and be all the stronger for it. To make certain this turn of events He prays for Peter. He has already promised to make Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Now He prays that Peter, in spite of his failure in the crucial hour of Jesus, will retain his faith and so be able to strengthen the faith of the others. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the prayer will be heard. The faith of the Apostles will be steadfast because the faith of Peter will be firm.

Peter, even in the face of the warning of Jesus, was obdurate in protesting his courageous loyalty. ‘Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee’ (Matthew 26:35). The other Apostles joined with him in the same resolution.

DIFFICULTIES AHEAD

Jesus had tried to warn them of their own weakness. They would not listen. He tried once again. He reminded them that when He first sent them out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God they had lacked nothing, they had been well received in the countryside. But now everything would be changed. He Himself would be regarded as a criminal. He referred to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah], ‘And he was reckoned among the wicked.’ His followers would also be so regarded. Catering for the moment to their fiery Galilean spirit He said to them, ‘Let him who has no sword sell his tunic and buy one’ (Luke 22:36).

Jesus was not counselling His Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God by the sword. But He was trying to impress upon them the difficulty they would face in retaining their loyalty to and their faith in Himself.

The Apostles, however, took up the reference to a sword literally and bravely replied, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords’ (Luke 22:38). What were two swords against the Temple guards or against the Roman might? But Jesus, knowing that His kingdom would grow by grace and faith and not by the sword, replied indulgently, ‘It is enough’ (Luke 22:38).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“EVEN A FEEBLE LENT OF BROKEN RESOLUTIONS MAY BY GOD’S GRACE BRING ABOUT A CHANGE IN ME”

“THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS

Jesus’ own period of 40 days in the desert introduces us to the meaning of Lent, for the experience of Jesus can itself only be understood in relation to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert. Exodus recounts the story of how, by a gratuitous act of love on God’s part, in fidelity to a promise he made long ago – a promise which would seen to be all empty by reason of the years and the suffering which have intervened – God allows Israel to escape from the slavery of Egypt to worship him in the wilderness. There the Lord offers them a covenant on Sinai. He feeds them miraculously and even overlooks their worshipping a golden calf to bring them at last to the Promised Land.

NOT SEEKING TO ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM GOD BY MATERIAL SECURITY

Now we have the key to understanding the temptations of Jesus: the temptation to worship the Devil, the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptations to power. These would all be temptations like those of his ancestors, to somehow want to be self-reliant, whereas the wilderness experience is about discovering the only true freedom: a total reliance on God expressed in worship of him, fidelity to his law and an essential love of poverty, of a depending on him for my how am I to live, not seeking once to isolate myself from him by material security.

THE ONLY TRUE FREEDOM: TOTAL RELIANCE ON GOD

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all to teach me reliance on God and solidarity with those who suffer. They are to make space in me for knowledge of my poverty and tame my ego a bit. Even a feeble Lent, a Lent of broken resolutions, might by God’s grace bring about a change in me if I am forced to admit how weak is my will, how shallow my religiosity, and how deep and real my need for God’s mercy. Remember that wonderful Chesterton paradox used to describe a saint: ‘A saint can be recognised by the fact that he knows himself to be a sinner.’

‘LOOK NOT ON OUR SINS, BUT ON THE FAITH OF YOUR CHURCH’

Just as Jesus needed to immerse himself the story of Israel, the story of God’s miraculous saving in history, so Lent is a time of identifying myself more fully with the Church, to experience in this time the miraculous effects the saving God wishes to bring about in my own history, particularly through the miraculous signs and wonders of the sacraments. This is not merely a personal journey, but also a collective one for the whole Church, a time to remember the prayer which precedes Communion which asks God to look ‘not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. It is also a time to remember that however weak or sinful I may feel I am supported by the merits and intercession of the whole Church. Together as part of the Chosen People we will rejoice in the arrival at the Promised Land of Easter.

LOOK TO THE HORIZON AND JUST KEEP GOING

We will welcome the newly baptised at Easter and share in the joy of the salvation they have been promised. Exodus also reminds us that salvation has a history: it does not happen all at once. We are on a journey. The direction of travel is all-important, and the wonderful promise of the destination allows one to lift the eyes to the horizon and slog on, even when the going is touch and we lament what must be left behind.”
– This is an excerpt of “Diary of a City Priest”, by Pastor Iuventus, (available from Amazon) which was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 14 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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THE MIRACLE OF THE CURSED FIG TREE WAS A SIGN OF THE PUNISHMENT OF JERUSALEM FOR ITS REJECTION OF THE MESSIAH

THE LAST PUBLIC PREACHING OF JESUS

“Jesus had come to Jerusalem to offer His life as a ransom for the sins of mankind. Men could receive the gift of salvation He promised, of the eternal life which He came to give them, if they would believe in Him, accept Him as the Messias, as, in fact, the very Son of God.

Some men had come to believe in Jesus. The twelve Apostles and a small band of intimate disciples gave themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus. Perhaps some large number of the people, impressed by the miracles of Jesus, were at least interested enough to await some further sign of the power and intentions of Jesus. But the leaders of the people, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were opposed to Him. So determined was their opposition that they had resolved to put Him to death. Since the people generally were looking for a political Messias, the death of Jesus would cause them to forsake Him completely.

THE JEWISH PEOPLE WERE LOOKING FOR A POLITICAL MESSIAH

Jesus knew this. But His love for His own people induced Him to make one last effort to gain their belief. On the Monday after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus left Bethany and went again to the Holy City. On the way there Jesus performed a miracle whose strangeness makes us realise that He must have intended it to have a symbolic meaning.

A VERY STRANGE MIRACLE

As the little band approached Jerusalem, they passed near a fig tree. It was early in the spring and the tree might well have begun to show new leaves. But, as St Mark notices, it was too early for the tree to have figs. Jesus went to the tree as if He would find figs upon it. Finding none on it, He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from thee henceforward forever’ (Matthew 21:19). Now, when the Apostles passed by the same place the next morning, they saw that the fig tree had died.

With the exception of this one instance, all the miracles of Jesus were productive of good. All His other miracles were signs of love and mercy. There must, then, be a deeper meaning to this miracle than at first sight appears. The general context of what is taking place in this decisive week in the life of Jesus will help us to fathom the intent of this mysterious action of Jesus.

JESUS KNOWS THAT JERUSALEM WILL REJECT HIM

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, the City of God. Its people have been prepared for centuries to expect the Messias, to receive Him, and in Him to bring forth the blessing, the salvation of all the nations of the world. But Jesus knows that Jerusalem will reject Him; its people will refuse to accept Him, and consequently they will bear no fruit for the salvation of the world. Because they will reject Him, the salvation of the world, they will be rejected by God, and they will wither away like the fig tree. The miracle of the fig tree is, therefore, a sign to the Apostles of the punishment of Jerusalem for its rejection of the Messias.

‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS’

After the rejection of the fig tree Jesus continued on His way to Jerusalem. According to the Gospel of St Mark, when Jesus entered the Temple precincts, he expelled the money-changers from the Temple, saying, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ (Mark 11:17). The Gospel of St John seems to indicate that this incident took place on the occasion of an earlier visit of Jesus to the Temple. It is, of course, possible that Jesus may have acted this way on two separate occasions.

JESUS ENCOURAGED THE APOSTLES IN THEIR FAITH

The rest of the day was spent by Jesus in teaching the people and in working miracles for those in need. The priests and the Scribes were anxious to bring about His death, but the interest and the approval of the people were too strong. They had to wait for a more propitious moment to trap Him.

In the evening Jesus returned again to Bethany. The following morning, Tuesday, Jesus went again to Jerusalem. On the way the Apostles noticed the withered fig tree. When they wondered at its withering, Jesus told them that even greater miracles could be performed by themselves if only they would have a strong, unwavering faith in God. He said this to encourage them in their faith for He knew that His approaching death would be a great trial for them.

JESUS CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

The enemies of Jesus were becoming increasingly more anxious about the daily teaching of Jesus in the Temple. On this day they made a serious attempt to discredit Him.

Why He was teaching the people, His enemies came and asked Him by what authority He taught as He did. Instead of answering directly, Jesus, in His turn, asked them this question: ‘Whence was the baptism of John? from heaven, or from men?’ (Matthew 21:25). The question placed them in an embarrassing position. The people were convinced that John the Baptist had been a true prophet, in the mold of Elias and Isaias. If the enemies of Jesus were to answer (as they thought) that the baptism of John was only from men, they would lose the support of the people. On the other hand, if they said they thought it was from God, while they would not antagonise the people, they would entrap themselves. For Jesus could then ask them why they had not accepted the baptism of John, and above all, why they did not accept Jesus Himself, whom the Baptist had hailed as the Messias.

Since they had hardened their hearts against Jesus, they could find no escape from this dilemma, except to say, ‘We do not know.’ Since they had really refused to answer His question, Jesus, in turn, said to them, ‘Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things’ (Matthew 21:27).

JESUS MAKES THE POINT MORE CLEARLY

While they were thus on the defensive Jesus pressed His advantage more directly. ‘A man,’ He said, ‘had two sons; and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard” (Matthew 21:28). The son replied that he would not go. But later he repented and went and worked in his father’s vineyard. The father gave the same command to his other son. This one said that he would work in the vineyard. But he did not keep his word.

Jesus then asked the priests and the elders of the people which of the two sons had done the father’s will. They were forced to reply, ‘The first.’ Jesus pointed out that while sinners – publicans and harlots – had disobeyed God by their sins, they had believed in John the Baptist and had repented of their sins and returned obediently to God their Father. The priests and elders, on the other hand, while professing obedience to God, had rejected John the Baptist and so had not done penance.

THEY HAD NOT DONE PENANCE

Jesus was not concerned with the acceptance or rejection of John the Baptist by the priests and elders of the people. John had already done his work to prepare the people for the coming of the kingdom which Jesus was to establish. He had already pointed to Jesus as the Messias. It was now the time for the elders of the people to accept Jesus as the Messias or to reject Him, and thus by their example help to save or ruin their own people.

WILL THEY BE SAVED OR RUINED?

The necessity of this decision and its consequences were made clear in the parable of the wicked vine-dressers.

THE PARABLE OF THE WICKED VINE-DRESSERS

The owner of a vineyard, Jesus said, left it in the care of vine-dressers. When the harvest was due, he sent his servants to collect his share of it. But the vine-dressers refused to acknowledge his claim. Instead they treated his servants shamefully, beating some and even killing others. Finally the owner sent his own son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son’ (Matthew 21:37). But they seized the son and killed him also. What, Jesus asked, will the owner of the vineyard do to those vine-dressers? They answered Him, ‘He will utterly destroy those evil men, and will let out the vineyard to other vine-dressers, who will render to him the fruits in their seasons’ (Matthew 21:41).

‘THE OWNER OF THE VINEYARD’ IS GOD

The owner of the vineyard is God. The vine-dressers are the Jews, God’s Chosen People. The servants of the owner are the prophets whom God sent to direct His people. But, over the centuries, the people have rejected the prophets, God’s servants. Now at last God has sent His own Son. But the people will kill the Son of God as they have killed the prophets.

THE CORNERSTONE

It would seem from St Matthew’s Gospel that the elders of the people did not identify themselves as the wicked vine-dressers of the parable, nor Jesus as the son of the owner. Jesus therefore, to point the lesson, introduced another metaphor by quoting from the Scriptures: ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, has become the corner stone; by the Lord this has been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’?’ (Matthew 21:42).

BECAUSE THEY REJECT JESUS THEY WILL LOSE THE KINGDOM

Jesus Himself is the stone, which the people will reject, but God will make Him the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. Because they reject Jesus they will lose the kingdom. Jesus makes this clear by using both the figure of the vineyard and its fruits and the figure of the cornerstone. ‘Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a people yielding its fruits. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but upon whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder’ (Matthew 21:43-44).

JESUS DIDN’T COME AS A POLITICAL MESSIAH; HIS KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD

Unable to refute the claim of Jesus to be in a unique way the Son of God, and yet unwilling to accept Him as God’s Son, His enemies then tried to bring about His downfall by making Him appear to be in conflict with the ruling Roman authorities. They sent agents to trap Him. Posing as sincere Jews, anxious to follow the law of God exactly, they asked Jesus, ‘Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?’ (Matthew 22:17).

The question was chosen with great guile. To have answered simply either ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ would have been disastrous to the cause of Jesus. The answer, ‘No,’ would have been in accord with the sympathies of the people (though not with the sympathies of the Pharisees and Herodians who had sent these spies to ensnare Jesus – which is why Jesus called them ‘hypocrites’). But if Jesus had said ‘No,’ He would have appeared to the Romans as a revolutionary inciting the people to rebellion. Moreover, and this was even more opposed to the intention of Jesus Himself, He would have appeared to His own people as a political Messias, anxious to precipitate a revolt and establish a political Jewish kingdom.

A VERY CUNNING QUESTION

On the other hand, if Jesus had given in answer a simple ‘Yes,’ then He would have forfeited the sympathies of His countrymen by seeming to favour the Roman domination over the Jews. To a people whose Messianic hopes were almost entirely political, this would have meant that Jesus was disclaiming any right to the title of Messias.

Jesus did not answer in words at once. ‘Show me the coin of the tribute,’ He asked. When they had brought to Him a silver penny, He asked them, ‘Whose are this image and this inscription?’ (Matthew 22:20). ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Jesus then said, ‘Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). The people marvelled at His answer.

THE PEOPLE MARVELLED AT HIS ANSWER

In replying to the question Jesus said ‘Yes,’ but in such a way that both the rights of God and the consciences of the people were protected. In effect Jesus said that it is lawful to obey an existing government (even when the government is unpopular) when that government is levying taxes to ensure the public order and peace. It is even possible that Jesus, by asking for the coin of the tribute, a silver penny, a coin minted only by the Romans and not by the Jews, reminded His countrymen that by using this coin they recognised in fact the loss of their own independence and the legitimacy of the Roman government in fact. Thus, in paying the tax they would be only obeying a lawful authority. But by adding, ‘render to God the things that are God’s,’ Jesus safeguarded the rights of God and the consciences of men.

Moreover, the reply of Jesus maintained intact His own claims. By refusing to counsel rebellion against Rome, Jesus showed once again that He had no desire to become a political Messias and no intention of allowing His own people to cast Him in that role. By insisting on the rights of God He showed that His kingdom was of the spiritual order. Thus, in a few simple gestures and a few simple words Jesus both escaped the snare laid for Him by His enemies and reaffirmed His own Messianic claim.

PHARISEES, SADDUCEES AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD

On this same day some of the Sadducees came to question Jesus on the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, but the Sadducees did not. No doubt the point had often been debated between the two parties. They recalled to Jesus the old Levirate Law of Moses. According to this law, if a married man died before he had begotten a son, then it was the duty of his brother to marry the widow and beget by her a son who would be considered the son of her first husband. In this way the family of the first brother would be continued in history. Now suppose, they said to Jesus, a woman, in accordance with this law, married seven brothers in turn, begetting a son by none of them. When they all rise from death, whose wife shall she be?

THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF THE RESURRECTION

Jesus told them that they were wrong in denying the resurrection of the dead. They were wrong because they had not sufficient faith in the power of God; they were wrong because they were ignorant of their own Scriptures, and they were wrong because their view of the resurrection was too worldly, they did not understand the spiritual and supernatural character of the resurrection.

‘You err because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For at the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven. But, as to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living’ (Matthew 22:29-32).

‘THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT IS LOVE’

This setback to the Sadducees led one of the Pharisees to ask Jesus again which was the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus replied, as He had already done previously, that the commandment of love was the greatest commandment in the Law. But then He seized the opportunity to question the Pharisees on the identity of the Messias.

‘Whose son is he?’ He asked them. They said to Him, ‘David’s.’ He then asked them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thy enemies the footstool of thy feet’? If David, therefore, calls him ‘Lord,’ how is he his son?’ (Matthew 22:42-45).

MEN SHOULD NOT SEEK TITLES FOR TITLES’ SAKE, BUT ONLY STRICTLY IN CONNECTION WITH GOD, THE ULTIMATE FATHER, AND CHRIST, THE ULTIMATE MASTER

Jesus was trying to make them realise that the Christ, the Messias, even though He be a son of David, was yet something more, a Being whom David would call Lord, a Lord Who would sit at the right hand of God. He was using the Sacred Scriptures of the Jews to confirm His own claim to be both Messias and Son of God. But the Pharisees refused to admit this and so they were unable to answer Him.

The silence of the Pharisees induced Jesus to warn the people against the Scribes and the Pharisees. When the Scribes and Pharisees teach you the Law of Moses, He told them, do what they tell you. But do not follow the example of their actions, for they do not observe what they preach to others. Their own good works they do only to be esteemed in the eyes of men, for they love to receive from men the titles of Master and Father. There is only one Father, God in heaven, and only one Master, the Christ. Men should not seek these titles for their own sakes, but should acknowledge that the perfection which leads to these titles is the gift of God Who alone is truly Master and Father.

A STRONG WARNING AGAINST THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

After this warning to the people Jesus castigated the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They were willing to make great sacrifices to convert one man to their religious beliefs, but they destroyed their own efforts by making their converts as bad as themselves. They evaded the harsh law they preached and confused the people by their theological subtleties. They professed great admiration for the prophets of the past and boasted that they would not have killed them as their forefathers had done. But Jesus Himself would send His Apostles to them and they would resist them even unto blood, as their forefathers had resisted the prophets.

JESUS TRIED TO PREVENT THEM FROM FALLING UNDER THE CONDEMNATION OF DIVINE JUSTICE

Now this strong warning to the people against the Scribes and the Pharisees and this terrible denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees were not due to any personal pique on the part of Jesus. The hour of decision for the Chosen People was at hand. They had to accept Jesus or reject Him as their Messias, as the very Son of God.

THE HOUR OF DECISION FOR THE CHOSEN PEOPLE WAS AT HAND

What their history might have been had they accepted Him we do not know. How glorious it might have been, how peacefully triumphant might have been the growth of the Kingdom of God from Jerusalem, from the Chosen People to the other nations of the world, we cannot tell. Misled by their elders, by the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, they were to reject Jesus the Christ. Jesus, knowing that the elders of the people will mislead them, in denouncing the Pharisees made one last effort to draw the people to Himself and prevent them from falling under the condemnation of divine justice.

THEY HAD TO ACCEPT JESUS AS THE SAVIOUR TO BE SAVED, TO DO WHAT HE TOLD THEM, BUT THEY REJECTED HIM AS THE MESSIAH

In sorrow Jesus addresses Jerusalem itself, the symbol of Judaism, the ancient capital of Israel, the centre of the worship of the one true God,

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou who killest the prophets, and stonest those who are sent to thee! How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but thou wouldst not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate. For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth until you shall say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).

WITH THESE WORDS JESUS ENDS HIS PUBLIC PREACHING

Knowing that Jerusalem will reject Him, Jesus reminds her that she has always rejected the prophets. Now she is about to reject Him, even though His desire has always been to save her and her children. Because she will reject Him, she will be left desolate. Divine judgement is already passed upon her. But the heart of Jesus is not filled with despair for Jerusalem. Now, at this fateful moment, she will reject Him. But, at some undetermined time in the future, she will accept Him and cry out, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

With these sorrowful words (only slightly lightened by a small word of hope) Jesus ends His public preaching. From this time on, His teaching is reserved for His faithful followers.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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15th MARCH, BIBLE READING (DEUTERONOMY 26:16-19)

YOU WILL BE A PEOPLE CONSECRATED TO THE LORD.

Moses said to the people: “The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

You have today made this declaration about the Lord; that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and listen to his voice. And the Lord has today made this declaration about you: that you will be his very own people as he promised you, but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour he will set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to the Lord, as he promised.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: AS A PREPARATION FOR THE GOSPEL TO SPREAD TO ALL, GOD FACILITATES A UNIVERSALLY SPOKEN LANGUAGE FOR JEWS AND THE REST OF THE KNOWN WORLD

THE BOOKS OF THE MACCABEES IN THE BIBLE ILLUMINATE THE CONTINUOUS AND STEADY UNFOLDING OF GOD’S SALVATION PLAN FOR ALL MANKIND. WITHOUT READING THOSE BIBLICAL BOOKS, QUITE AN AMOUNT OF THE REST OF THE BIBLE MAKES AS MUCH SENSE AS TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE “WHODUNNIT” WHEN SEVERAL CHAPTERS TOWARDS THE END OF AN AGATHA CHRISTIE BOOK HAVE BEEN RIPPED OUT.

KING HEROD

“From the time of Malachias (perhaps shortly before the reforms of Esdras) no prophet had appeared in Israel. The Chosen People were left by God to keep faith in Him without the inspiring activity of the prophets. In the period between Malachias and Herod there is evidence that the faith of many was weakened. Many fell victim to the Hellenising tendencies of the Seleucid dynasty [for details about this, as described in the Holy Scriptures, please see the previous episode of “The Salvation History As Revealed in the Bible” posted 2 days ago]. On the other hand, the Macchabaean revolt shows that many retained a firm hold on their ancient faith. The final defeat of the Macchabaean ambitions by Herod the Great did not mean that the religion of Jahweh had perished or that God had deserted His people.

On the contrary, to those who like ourselves can look back over history, there are not lacking signs that the divine plan for the salvation of mankind was maturing during this long period of divine silence. God had promised that His blessings would be brought to the world through the descendants of Abraham. Through His prophets He had foretold that all the nations would be brought to worship Jahweh. While this great gathering of the nations to Jahweh had been slightly foreshadowed by the inclusion of isolated individuals in the company of the people of God, until this period there did not appear any significant developments pointing to the accomplishment of God’s design for universal salvation. But during this period signs of the maturation of the divine plans appear.

IMPORTANT SIGNS OF THE MATURATION OF THE DIVINE PLANS APPEAR

These signs are chiefly three: the Diaspora of the Chosen People, Hellenism and the establishment of the Roman Empire. It is these three factors in universal history which we must now consider, with a view to perceiving their role in the accomplishment of God’s will to save man.

THE DIASPORA

The word ‘Diaspora’ was a term used by Jews to signify the Jews who lived outside the Promised Land given them by Jahweh. In 857 B.C. some Jews had gone to live in Damascus after Achab had defeated the king of Syria. The ten northern tribes had been deported to Assyria by Sargon. The kingdom of Juda had been deported to Babylon by Nabuchodonosor. The ten northern tribes were apparently assimilated by their conquerors, for they disappear from history. But many of the kingdom of Juda returned to Palestine under Zorobabel, and later under Esdras and Nehemias.

The evidence shows, though, that many of the Jews remained in Babylonia. There is also historical proof that a Jewish colony was established at Elephantine in Egypt. Later, after Alexander the Great had founded the city of Alexandria in Egypt, many Jews went there and established a Jewish colony. By the time of Herod the Great the Jewish colony at Alexandria seems to have numbered a million souls. From Alexandria it is legitimate to suppose that they emigrated to other ports throughout the Mediterranean world. At any rate, by the time the Roman Empire was established the Jews were to be found dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world.

This dispersion of the Jews so widely through the parts of the civilised world then known to them meant that at least some knowledge of the existence and character of Jahweh, the only true God, had gone beyond the borders of Palestine, had penetrated the lands of people who still worshipped false gods and practised idolatry. It represented at least a beginning of God’s efforts to bring all men back to Himself.

This view is reinforced by three facts: first, the preservation of Jahwism among the dispersed Jews; second, the translation of the Sacred Books of the Jews into Greek, the common language of the nations within the scope of Roman domination, and third, proselytism.

AN AMAZING FACT

It is an amazing but true fact that the Jews, even though dispersed throughout a pagan world, preserved their faith in Jahweh. With the exception of the ten northern tribes who become lost to history as an independent entity or group once they are deported to Assyria, the other Jews throughout the Diaspora retain their identity both as Jews and as worshippers of Jahweh. Through all antiquity this is a singular fact.

Other peoples may have emigrated from their own lands but they ceased to retain their own identity and, for want of a better word, their insularity, their own allegiance to their religion and their God. There remained always between the different Jewish communities spread throughout the world and the centre of Jahwistic worship at Jerusalem a close bond. Communication between the dispersed Jews and the mother-centre at Jerusalem continued throughout this period. With the exceptions of the Jewish communities at Elephantine and Leontopolis in Egypt, the Jewish communities in the Diaspora preserved their faith in the one true God by meeting in their synagogues once a week to read their Sacred Books and meditate on their message.

At Elephantine and Leontopolis, perhaps contrary to the best traditions of their faith, the Jews actually built temples in which they offered sacrifices to Jahweh. In this way the Jews preserved their faith in the one true God. In this way they gave an example to the non-believing nations of the world of faithfulness to the one true spiritual God.

THE SEPTUAGINT

Because they were living in lands foreign to their original homeland, they lost contact with their mother tongue. But so great was their devotion to their religion and to its long tradition that they produced a translation into Greek, the one language understood throughout the Mediterranean world, of their own Sacred Books. This translation was known as the Septuagint.

Entirely apart from its value to the Jews in enabling them to remain true to their ancient religious traditions, it also served the greater purpose of revealing to the world at large the treasures of God’s dealings with the human race. It would not be correct to overestimate the influence of the Septuagint on pagan thought or life before the advent of Christianity. On the other hand, it would be foolish to deny that it did provide to the unbelieving nations of the world an opportunity to discover the written record of God’s relations with the world of man since the beginning of time.

THE JEWS MANIFESTED ALWAYS AN AIR OF MORAL SUPERIORITY

Lastly, a an indicationof the influence of the Diaspora of the Jews in preparing the world at large for the extension of God’s salvation to all men, there is evidence of proselytism. It is true that the attitude of the Jews throughout the Roman Empire drew down upon them the hatred and the ridicule of many. Wherever they went they lived together, in isolation from their fellowmen.

They despised the gods and religions of the people in whose midst they dwelt. Despite the social superiority of their pagan neighbours the Jews manifested always an air of moral superiority. This naturally begot in their neighbours a feeling of suspicion and hatred. They were regarded as atheists because most had no temples and offered no sacrifices. To an idolatrous world the crowning proof f this was the fact that Pompey, the Roman general, found no statue to a god in the Temple at Jerusalem when he entered the Holy of Holies there.

THE BLESSINGS OF JAHWEH WERE TO BE EXTENDED TO ALL NATIONS

Yet, despite this somewhat general feeling that the Jews were to be despised and shunned, converts to Judaism were made. During this period the very fact of the dispersion of the Jews among the nations of the world brought about a widening of the viewpoint of the Jews themselves. Though they still continued to regard themselves as the Chosen People of God, they began to allow others to participate in the privileges of God’s Chosen People.

Although in Palestine itself the Jews, at the time of the repatriation and ever after, rejected the offers of the Samaritans to join with them in the worship of Jahweh, outside Palestine the Jews did not reject the desire of the pagan peoples to turn to the true religion. Undoubtedly this somewhat contradictory attitude was due to the fact that the Samaritans wished to worship Jahweh while still worshipping other false gods. But it was also due to some extent to the realisation on the part of the Jews of the Diaspora of the fact that even their prophets had foretold that the blessings of Jahweh were to be extended to all nations.

ANOTHER SIGN OF THE PREPARATION OF THE WORLD FOR THE PROMISED SALVATION

A second sign of the preparation of the world for the salvation promised by Jahweh was the extension of Hellenism during this period. Hellenism might be described approximately as the diffusion of Greek culture, Greek customs and ideas through the world from India to the Atlantic coast. It began with the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was the ambition of Alexander to bring the whole world the benefits of Greek culture. The vast extent of his conquests helped to make this dream a reality. Through his own conquests Greek culture pervaded in the world of Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Because the Romans accepted the essential features of Greek culture, Hellenism penetrated also the world of western Europe and northern Africa.

From the point of view of preparing the world for the accomplishment of God’s plan for human salvation Hellenism did two things. First, it broke down the barriers of national feeling and prepared men’s minds for the idea that all men might be one community. Only a universal idea was necessary to bring this idea to realisation. The universal love of God for all men could be such a universal idea. Second, Hellenism gave to the world from India to the Atlantic a universal language, Greek. Surely a universal language would be of inestimable advantage in propagating a universal religion.

WHY GOD BROUGHT FIRST ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND LATER THE ROMAN EMPIRE

The third factor in preparing the world for the advent of God’s plan to save men was the establishment of the Roman Empire. The conquests of Alexander were great, but those of the Roman Empire were even more magnificent. The Romans subdued all of southern Europe, northern Africa, Greece itself, Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine. For several centuries they brought to these areas a reign of peace. This Pax Romana, the Roman peace, would make it possible for a universal religion to spread easily.

The Romans established good roads, both land and sea roads throughout their empire. It is true that they did this to enable themselves to control their holdings more efficiently. But these wonderful roads, free from brigandage and piracy, enabled men to travel easily from one part of the empire to the other. It thus enabled ideas or religious movements to spread easily throughout the empire. In this way it made it easy for God’s love of all men to become known rapidly and effectively.

THE ‘MYSTERY RELIGIONS’ ACCUSTOMED PEOPLE IN A VERY VAGUE WAY WITH THE NOTION OF A NEED FOR REDEMPTION

As part of Hellenism and the general atmosphere of the Roman Empire, it is also worthy of mention that the religious ideas of the Mediterranean world were also undergoing a change at this time. While the worship of the traditional gods of Rome and Greece continued, there is also observable at this time a trend to a more spiritual form of worship. In the third century before Christ the worship of Serapis, a ‘saviour’ god, had spread from Alexandria in Egypt through the Roman Empire. The mystery religions, as they are known, even though in a vague way, began to popularise the same notion of a need for redemption. More precisely, they accustomed the people to the notion of a union with divinity. This notion was not so concrete as the notion of the Divine Presence which was part of Judaism. But it was at least the beginning, a preparation for the extension of the Divine Presence to the whole world.

THE ADVENT OF THE SALVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE IS IMMINENT

Thus, while it might have seemed as if God had deserted His Chosen People, had given up His plans to save the world during this period, a closer view of the historical situation reveals a different picture. During this period God worked, especially through the Macchabees, to preserve the faith of His Chosen People. On the other hand, through the Diaspora, the spread of Hellenism and the establishment of the Roman Empire, He seems to have been preparing the world at large for the advent of His salvation of the human race.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE TIMESPAN BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF GOD BEING PART OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S EMPIRE UNTIL WHEN KING HEROD WAS IMPOSED ON THEM BY THE ROMANS

THE PRECEDING POST – WHICH EXPLAINS THE MEANING OF THE RETURN FROM BABYLONIAN EXILE – “THE STORY OF THE REPATRIATION IN THE BIBLE; ANOTHER STORY OF GOD’S GREAT LOVE (FROM 538 B.C. ONWARDS)” WAS POSTED ON THIS BLOG ON OCTOBER 10, 2013.

“After the reforms of Esdras [Ezra] and Nehemias [Nehemiah] the loyalty of the people of Jahweh seemed to have been established. The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. The true worship of Jahweh had been reinstituted in the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem. The people could feel that once again they were the people of God and that God was with them. It is only natural to suppose that this feeling was associated with the hope that the glorious promises of God would be fulfilled, especially the promise that through them God would establish a glorious kingdom on earth and lead the nations of the world to worship at the Temple.

RELATIVE FREEDOM UNDER PERSIAN RULE

But still the nation, the people of God, remained subject to the domination of the Persian rulers. After the efforts of Esdras and Nehemias and until the period of the Macchabees, the history of God’s Chosen People is for the most part shrouded in historical silence. Except for an unsuccessful rebellion under Artaxerxes III Ochus (358-337 B.C.), there is no evidence to show that the people did not remain politically submissive to the Persian rule. The fact that the Persian rulers allowed the free worship of Jahweh may account for this relatively peaceful period.

THE APPEARANCE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT

In the fourth century before Christ a new factor appeared on the political horizon. Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, began his reign in the summer of 336 B.C. After consolidating his rule in Greece, Alexander set out in 334 to conquer the empire of Persia. In a series of victories Alexander defeated Darius III, the great king of Persia, and assumed control of the Persian kingdom in 330 B.C. After the death of Alexander in 323 his empire was divided among the more powerful of his generals. Egypt and Palestine fell to the rule of the Ptolemies. Thus the Chosen People came under the domination of the rulers of Egypt.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE’S JAHWEH WORSHIP UNDER THE PTOLEMIES

The Ptolemies respected the religious views and practices of the Jews and the Jews seem to have been content with their rule. But in the meanwhile a new threat appeared. In the year 200 (or 198) Antiochus III the Great (223-187 B.C..) Defeated Ptolemy IVPhilopator and took over control of Syria and Palestine. Antiochus belonged to the family of the Seleucids, who had gained possession of the Mesopotamian portion of the empire of Alexander. After the reign of Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 B.C.), Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-163 B.C.), another son of Antiochus the Great, succeeded to the throne.

THE GREEK GODS AND CULTURE ARE FORCED ON GOD’S PEOPLE

Antiochus IV was an ardent Hellenist, that is, he was anxious to spread Greek culture throughout his kingdom. The most stubborn resisters to the process of Hellenisation were the Jews, with their worship of Jahweh. Antiochus was determined to succeed in the Hellenisation of the Jews.

A MORE GREEK-FRIENDLY HIGH PRIEST IS PUT IN PLACE BY ANTIOCHUS IV

About 173 Antiochus IV deposed Onias III, high priest at Jerusalem, and made Jason, a brother of Onias, high priest in his place. Jason had already manifested to Antiochus a willingness to cooperate in the Hellenisation of Jerusalem. His efforts were aided by the Tobiads, an influential family at Jerusalem. The people, however, were not friendly to these plans and Jason did not have the courage to wipe out the worship of Jahweh in the Temple at Jerusalem.

ANTIOCHUS ENTERS THE TEMPLE AND ERECTS THERE A STATUE OF ZEUS

In the year 168 Antiochus entered Jerusalem himself and took from the Temple the golden lampstand, the altar and other furnishings. In 167, at his orders, the ‘Abomination of desolation’ was erected in the Temple. The ‘Abomination’ was probably a statue of Jupiter Olympus. The sacrifices to Jahweh were stopped and a Greek altar was erected and pagan sacrifices were offered there. Altars were also set up throughout the countryside and sacrifices were offered there also. Participation in pagan sacrifices and festivals was made obligatory on all.

THE HASIDEANS, FORERUNNERS OF THE PHARISEES, FORMED TO UPHOLD BELIEFS

Unfortunately many Jews gave up their faith and participated in this pagan worship. Others, however, of a sterner mould left the cities and retired to the country or the desert where it was possible to retain their ancient religious beliefs. These devout followers of Jahweh were known as the Hasideans, that is, the ‘Pious’. They were the forerunners of the later Pharisees.

THE JEWISH FUGITIVE

Among those who remained faithful to the true religion was a certain Mathathias, a priest. He lived at Modin, a village nineteen miles northwest of Jerusalem. When asked to sacrifice to idols he killed the royal official who made the demand and fled to the desert with his five sons.

THE SUBSEQUENT JEWISH UPRISING

This courageous act proved to be the beginning of a successful rebellion against the Seleucid dynasty. Faithful followers of Jahweh rallied to the cause of Mathathias and his sons. On the death of Mathathias the military leadership of the movement passed to Judas, his third son. Judas, called Macchabaeus, in 164 reached an agreement with Lysias and Antiochus V Eupator by virtue of which the Temple was restored to the faithful Jahwists.

THE INSTITUTION OF THE JEWISH FESTIVAL HANUKKAH

Exactly three years after its profanation by Antiochus IV the Temple was rededicated to Jahweh. Judas ordered that a yearly festival should be celebrated to commemorate the victory of Jahwism. This festival is known as the Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights.

THE HIGH PRIEST HENCEFORTH IS GIVEN CIVIL AS WELL AS PRIESTLY AUTHORITY

This victory of Judas Macchabaeus was neither complete nor permanent. At Jerusalem itself there remained a strong faction favourable to Hellenism. The Greek monarchs at Antioch still desired absolute rule over the Jews. The struggle therefore continued. In 160 Judas himself was killed. His youngest brother Jonathan assumed military leadership of the Jahwist party.

The intrigues and wars between the various claimants to the throne at Antioch aided the Macchabees to achieve their aims. Jonathan was made high priest in 152 by Alexander Balas, one of the claimants to the Seleucid throne. In 142 Simon Macchabaeus became military leader and high priest. In 140 the people themselves regularised the high priesthood of Simon and the civil and priestly authority were united in one person.

CIVIL WAR AMONG THE JEWS

Under John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, the territory subject to the Macchabaean family was enlarged until it approximated the kingdom of David. But the Jahwistic spirit which had animated the efforts of the original Macchabaean brothers weakened when a stable dynasty was established. Matters came to a head during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.).

Alexander was the first of the descendants of the Macchabees to call himself ‘king’. He spent most of his reign in a series of military campaigns designed to extend his kingdom. He found himself in strong opposition to the Pharisees, the descendants of the Hasideans. The Pharisees objected to the exercise of the high priesthood by a man whose hands were continually stained with the blood of war. This opposition led to civil war.

PEACE WITH THE PHARISEES

In the course of the war both Alexander and the party of the Pharisees appealed to foreign intervention. This represented a complete about-face from the ideals for which the original Macchabees had fought. Before his death Alexander saw the necessity of coming to terms with the Pharisees, who represented the wishes of the majority of the people. At his request Alexandra, his wife, who succeeded to the throne, made peace with the Pharisees.

THE ROMAN SENATE AND THE TRIUMVIRS ESTABLISH HEROD AS KING IN 37 B.C.

During her lifetime she made her son Hyrcanus high priest. But after her death her other son, Aristobolus, seized both the kingship and the high priesthood from Hyrcanus. The cause of Hyrcanus was supported by Antipater, an Idumaean general of Alexander Jannaeus.

The remaining history of the Macchabaen dynasty unfolded under the evil star of Antipater and his son Herod.

THE EVIL STAR OF ANTIPATER AND HEROD

Both of the latter were astute politicians and they gained the support of the new power in the East, the power of the expanding Roman state. The struggle for power in the Promised Land ended in 37 B.C. when the Roman Senate and the Triumvirs established Herod the Great as king.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE NOW LIVE UNDER ROMAN RULE

Thus the splendid achievements of the first Macchabees ended in the imposition of an Idumaean king over the Chosen People by Rome, a foreign power. And thus, it would seem, the dream of the people was not yet to be fulfilled. The kingdom of God on earth was not yet established at Jerusalem. When would the hopes of the nation come to pass?” (To be continued)
– By Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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