Why was the Greatest Man of Woman Born Jesus’ precursor instead of His successor?

Baptism of Jesus

Except for Jesus, John the Baptist was the best man ever born.  He was better than Moses, King David, and Elijah. While he was still in the womb, he leapt with joy at the presence of God.  That leaping has often been compared with David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant when it returned to Jerusalem.

He fearlessly called rulers and sinners to repentance like Elijah. The Jews awaited his return because he was to prepare the way for the Messiah.  Gabriel prophesied that John would come in the power and  spirit of Elijah.

Despite all of the greatness, he was a truly humble man like Moses.  He was not jealous of Jesus at all.  He proclaimed that he was not worthy of carrying Jesus’ sandals. He viewed his job as that of the best man to prepare for the bridegroom and then fade into the background.  He rejoiced at his own diminishment.

If you want to understand the purpose of the Old Testament and the Law look to John the Baptist.  It was there to convict the people of sin and bring them to repentance, to prepare the people for the bridegroom’s coming, and to point out Christ when He came. What it couldn’t be was the bridegroom.  It couldn’t bring us into unity with God, only God could do that.

I could prepare a wonderful dinner for the Pope, but I can’t make him enter my house.  Only the Pope could do that.  The Old Testament was the best man preparing us for Jesus.  Once the bride and groom are married there is not further need of the best man.

Jesus did not choose John to succeed him.  The New Testament is based on mercy.  Jesus choose Peter who once gave Jesus advice so bad, Jesus rebuked him as a Satan.  Peter lost faith when he was walking on the waves and denied Jesus three times.

From a human standpoint we would feel more comfortable following a John than a Peter, but we are New Testament people!  We are not clothed in our good deeds, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  It is not what we do for God, but what He is able to do through us.  To God be the glory!  If you are a weak, flawed individual, are we the church for you.  For when we are weak that is when God is strong.

Jesus loved John the Baptist.  Jesus said to call no man good, for only God in heaven is good, but He praised John in this manner.

Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Man’s greatest righteousness is nothing compared to the righteousness of God that clothes even the least of believers.  The Old Testament called us to righteousness. The New Testament empowers us to be so.

#John the Baptist #Peter #righteousness of God #righteousness of man #Law #Mercy #trcot #tcot #purpose of the Law

 

Light, Darkness and the Long Twilight

Argimusco twilight with Venus Taurus Cassiopea and Pleiades

As a child I would stay out late playing hide-and-seek or catching lightening bugs.  My friends and I knew it was getting dark but our eyes kept adjusting to the darkness so we thought we could still see.  Then we went inside when the mosquitos would get the best of us. Only then could we see how really dark it had been.

Spiritual matters are like that too.  At one end of the spectrum we have God who is all light, within Him is every good and every blessing.  At the other end there is only darkness–total lack of light and dearth of blessings.  The dwelling place of Satan who comes to kill and destroy.

We, individually and as nations are on a line in-between.  We fall far short of the splendor of God’s glory yet we are not in hell. Just as we do not get obese overnight, but through a series of small decisions.  We do not fall precipitously from great heights of glory but rather wander away through a series of poor choices.  Most of which seem small and inconsequential at the time.

We are always moving on this line. We can never stay in the same place. Every decision pushes us either towards God and the light or towards darkness.  You change as a person when you decide to sleep in and miss Mass or spread that piece of gossip.  You don’t feel changed because your spiritual eyes have adjusted to the growing darkness.

As a nation we did not get to where we are overnight.  It was a series of decisions on divorce, the pill, drugs, credit cards, and abortion. We rejected the wisdom of our ancestors for every new wind of doctrine. We valued cheaper goods over our neighbor’s job.  We judged by appearance and words rather than by character and the outcome of their deeds. We traded in fasting and physical sacrifices for dieting and strenuous exercise.  We have fit bodies and flabby souls.

Our choices individually and collectively have changed the world for our children.  It was hard for people being born into a world where slavery was the norm to see its inherent evil.  Our children are being born into a culture of sin. It is so difficult to walk rightly even for those who know right from wrong.  How can they see if there is no light? When nations become sin-soaked, nations are judged.

In Deuteronomy 28 there is a listing of blessings and curses. We used to be very, very blessed. We had stable marriages, abundant food, and plenty of good paying jobs even for people without degrees.  There were problems in our country. We were still short of the glory of God but we were respected by the world. We were receiving the blessings of obedience.

Now family has been obliterated to the point its been redefined as any group of people who love each other. Not only is our nation laden with debt but individuals are crushed beneath its burden.  There are specialized high-paying jobs which require endless hours of work, or poorly paid part-time jobs of hard labor and little respect. Even our food has become corrupted.  Eating it has made many people sick. We are no longer respected in the world.  That is just the beginning of the curses.

Ask the Lord, to show you the darkness in your own heart.  Where have you compromised with the world?  Come back inside the house of God where there is light. A nation can only move as its individuals move.  The light of your life can help your neighbor see when they have no light of their own.

#trcot #tcot #Darkness

Was the Trinity Clearly Prefigured at the Very Heart of Jewish Worship?

Trinity glass window, depicting Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This window was created before 1900, no property release is required.

One of the foremost Catholic doctrines is that of the Trinity. So firmly did the early Church believe in it that all new Christians had to assent to the Apostle’s or later the Nicene Creed in order to be baptized. A large section of our Catechism is devoted to a fuller explanation of all the beliefs surrounding the different members of the Trinity summarized in the Creed.

It is Jesus’ claim to divinity, without it He is just a prophet and a false one at that. If this radical, eternal precept is valid it should have been recognizably prefigured in the Old Testament, at least by hindsight. It was!

When Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai in the presence of God he brought back more than the Ten Commandments. He brought back very specific instructions on how the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle were to be constructed, as well as specific details of liturgical worship.  At the very center was the Ark of the Covenant over which the glory of God rested.  The Ark was shielded from human eyes by a thick curtain.  Once a year on the Day of Atonement could the High Priest enter, and then only after offering sacrifices for his sins and those of the nation.  The Ark of the Covenant prefigured the Father, the unseen God.

Watercolour sketch of series

Just outside the curtain were two other pieces of equipment which were in regular contact with only the priests.  The first was the table for the showbread with a loaf for each tribe.  There six loaves on one side of the table and six on the other side.  There were also cups for the wine libations that were to be poured out.  The loaves of showbread after spending some time in the presence of the Lord were to be eaten by the priests. This clearly prefigures Jesus, especially at the Last Supper with the Apostles gathered around the table.  There they shared the Bread and the Wine that were changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

During the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine. You are the branches.” This brings us to the other piece of equipment the lampstand.  It was made to look like a tree with many branches and flower blossoms that held the oil for the light.  I want you to picture Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and tongues of fire appeared over the disciples’ heads.  Is it not a visual reminder of the Lampstand? So the Holy Spirit is also there, prefigured by the Lampstand in the Holiest place of Jewish worship.

Menorah

St. Peter called those who believe in Christ a royal priesthood. We on earth have access to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, the Father remains hidden from our view until we enter into the heavenly realms. There we will truly understand how the Trinity can be one, but for now consider this.

“One” can have different meanings.  One can mean solo, single, and solitary. The Creator saw Adam was alone, and said that was not good. When God uses the word “one” He can mean so closely united as to be inseparable.  The first time He used that word was in Genesis when He said that man and woman should cleave to each other and become one flesh. This is significant because of what God said when He made man and woman.

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Humanity’s ability to become one with each other was central to our image and likeness of God.  He even used the plural pronouns “us” and “our” to refer to Himself when God created them.

The Jewish people have worshipped unknowingly the Trinity since the beginning of the Jewish liturgical worship.  Humanity just didn’t have the experience of the Trinity to see it.

Reference scriptures: Ex. 25, Lev. 24:5-9, John 15:5, 1 Peter 2:9, Gen. 1:26-28

Special credit to Brant Pitre and his book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

#trcot #tcot #Eucharist #Trinity

The Desert Revisited – The First Temptation – the Eucharist Revealed.

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - OCTOBER 14, 2014: The neo-gothic fresco of fhe scene as Israelites at gathering of manna by Leopold Bruckner (1905 - 1906) in Saint Nicholas church.
TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA – OCTOBER 14, 2014: The neo-gothic fresco of fhe scene as Israelites at gathering of manna by Leopold Bruckner (1905 – 1906) in Saint Nicholas church.

Most people view the first temptation as tackling desires of the flesh, but there is a whole other level going on in that conversation. It revolves around manna and how the children of God are fed in the desert.

Listen the words of the first temptation.  “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  “Like Father, like Son” What did the Father do in the desert and how did He do it?  He fed the Israelites with manna that formed like a dew on the rocks of the desert.  Let me rephrase Satan’s statement.  “If you the Son of God, do what your Father did and feed yourself with miraculous bread from these rocks.”

Listen to Jesus’ response. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”  Is Jesus not the Word of God?  Did He not call Himself the Bread of Life?  The miracle that Christ will do is greater than manna in the desert. He will become the true bread by which men live.

Jesus spells this out much more specifically in John 6 when He compares Himself to the manna in the desert.  Those who ate manna in the desert died. Yet, He radically claimed that His flesh and His blood are the new manna and that you need to eat of Him to have eternal life.  Not surprisingly many people left Him at this point.

Jesus did not really explain Himself further until the Last Supper when the bread and the wine were miraculously transformed into His body and blood while retaining their outward form.  He lifted up the bread and said, “This is my Body. Take and eat.” and He lifted up the chalice filled with wine and said “This is my blood. Take and drink.”

At the Transfiguration, Moses, Elijah and Jesus spoke of the new exodus that He would accomplish in Jerusalem.  The Eucharist is the new food for the journey to the Promised Land of Heaven.  Jesus promised we would not die like those who ate the manna.  We would have eternal life.

The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author - Ivan Protsiv.
The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author – Ivan Protsiv.

How do we really know that the transformation is real?  How do we really know that it is not still bread, or worse something evil, a deception of the devil?  To answer this Jesus had another saying involving rocks and bread.

What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

The stones of the desert actually look like loaves of bread. Snakes were considered unclean and the Israelites were forbidden to eat them.  If we ask the Father for this living bread, that Jesus said we need for eternal life, will the Father give us an empty look-alike?  Will He give us something evil or forbidden? Jesus told us to ask the Father for it.

Right in the Our Father it says, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  That particular word for bread was created for only this instance.  It means “super-substantial” bread.  Even if you don’t agree with that translation, it is clearly not ordinary bread or they would not have had to invent a new word for it.

Temptation of Jesus Christ

Listen again to Jesus’ words to Satan. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Or to phrase it another way, “That old bread is passing away. The people of God will be fed by me, the Word of God, the Living Bread which came down from heaven.

This first temptation was about so much more than Jesus being hungry!

The Dry Land –the Testing in the Desert

First darkness, then light from God shining, wind blowing over the waters, dry land appearing as the water separates, am I talking about Creation or the Parting of the Red Sea?  Both actually.

The waters parting and the dry land appearing was one of the key events of the third day.  God used that same imagery in the parting of the Red Sea to say, “Here is a new creation–a people specially chosen by God.” Every Hebrew was called to leave Egypt and pass through the waters of the Red Sea. After entering the desert, God led, fed, watered, instructed, and tested them for 40 years.

Egypt, rocky wilderness of Sinai mountains, morning view from the heights
Egypt, rocky wilderness of Sinai mountains, morning view from the heights

In  the earlier blog The Waters Above Meet the Waters Below Christ’s baptism was tied to the second day of creation. After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days.  This event was foreshadowed by the third day of creation.

If the waters above represented heaven, and the waters below the abyss, then the dry land represents the temporary home of mankind. Here we encounter God, and are taught and fed by Him. It is also where our character and faith is revealed through various trials.  During this temporary existence, our permanent home of either heaven or hell is determined.

Temptation of Jesus Christ

Jesus successfully passed His test, the Hebrews for the most part did not. Although all were called out of Egypt, only two were found worthy of entering the Promised Land. This is a perfect illustration of the Scripture, “Many are called but few are chosen.”  Some of those who left Egypt were found so unworthy, that the earth literally opened up beneath them and swallowed them whole.  A visual reminder that some of us called to follow Christ can through rebellion find ourselves in hell.  But for the rest of the Hebrews, including Moses, Aaron and Miriam neither outcome was their end.  They were instead assigned a time of suffering before meeting a natural end.

Moses’ punishment was light.  He could see the Promised Land but not enter into it.  I think this was because you cannot enter heaven through the Law alone and Moses represented the Law.  The Israelites needed Joshua (whose name is the same as Jesus in Hebrew) to enter the Promised Land.  That Moses made it into heavenly glory is apparent from the Transfiguration accounts.  So there is hope for people whose faith journey was somewhat lacking.

Did Jesus ever say anything even remotely like this?  Yes.  Jesus described the three ends that His servants can meet in a parable about the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants. One set who is found doing their master’s will gets greatly rewarded.  Another set who beat the other servants and spent their time carousing gets thrown out with the unbelievers. A final set received either severe or light beatings based on their culpability.

These three possible ends correspond to the Church’s teaching on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.  God forgives our sins, making it possible for us to enter heaven.  We cannot through our own actions ever merit heaven, even with a life of perfect obedience.  Only through faith in Jesus may we enter, but our actions still carry consequences.  St. Paul says our deeds will be tested by fire. What was done in God will survive, what was not will be destroyed although our lives will be saved.

Our time on earth is short, difficult, and includes times of trial.  We have all been called but where we end up is determined by our own response to the grace of God.

Referenced scriptures: Gen. 1:1-10, Ex. 4, Matt. 4, Matt. 22:14, Luke 12:41-48, 1 Cor. 3:10-15

#Creation #Purgatory #Temptation in the Desert #trcot #Catholic

The Water Above Meet the Water Below–The Baptism of Christ

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On the second day of Creation, God created the waters above and the waters below.  The waters above were the heavens and there was a barrier placed between it and the earth.  The waters below were the abyss.  There the unrighteous of Noah’s day and Pharaoh’s soldiers were consigned.  The prophets saw the forces of darkness as monsters arising from the deep. Those waters represented mortal and spiritual peril as well as judgment and death.

The second day of creation was the only day God did not call good.  God does not desire man to be separated from Him.  This day just visually represented the world before Jesus. It also laid the framework for a deeper understanding of Jesus’ Baptism.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

Baptism of Jesus

At His baptism, Jesus entered the waters below as He would later enter into suffering and death itself.   He rose from the waters, as He rose from the dead.  The heavens opened!  The barrier to man was gone, as Jesus later proved when He ascended into heaven.  A dove descended prefiguring Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon those in the upper room.  Finally, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,”  foreshadowing Christ’s enthronement at the right hand of His Father in heaven.

Baptism opens the doors of heaven to us as well.  St. Paul says that we enter into His death at Baptism so we might rise with Him.  We are filled with the Holy Spirit here on earth, so that we might receive our crown of righteousness in heaven. Then God will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.  Amen.

Scriptures referenced: Gen. 1: 6-8, Gen. 7:11, Ex. 14:26, Dan 7:3, Romans 6:3, Matt. 25:23

#Creation #Baptism #trcot #trot

Let There Be Light — The Coming of Christ

Let there be light

Each day of creation prefigures a specific event in the life of Christ.  Those seven days take us from the moment of His conception to His death on Calvary and hit all the major milestones in-between. The scriptures were preparing the world for Jesus Christ from the very first chapter.

The first thing to note about the creation of light is that is was present before the sun, the moon and the stars.  This light was not solar.  This first created light is present in all things.  Burn a match and you see the heat and light stored within.  Split an atom and you see the unbelievable power, light, heat and radiation contained within something so small we cannot see it.  God enrobed all of that energy in physical matter. It became the living tree that later became the match.  All of creation gives testimony to the awe-inspiring God who was able to take all of that power, light and radiation and safely contain it in a single atom.

That light and energy is not God, but in the same way, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took His Divinity and placed it within a single ovum within the womb of Mary.  God entered into His creation.  He became flesh and dwelt among us.  John spoke eloquently about this mystery.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… John 1:1-5,14

But all is not light! In the second part of the first day God separated the light from the darkness, calling the light “day” and the darkness “night”. Once Jesus came into the world, people had a choice to believe Him or not to believe Him, to follow Him or not to follow Him.  Jesus said that He did not come to condemn the world but to save it. He then proceeded to speak of this separation between light and darkness.

Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he had not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. John 3:18-21

Many of us would like to stay in a twilight believing in the man Jesus but not the God within. That half-light will either lead us into the darkness of night or into the light of day.  Pray, always asking God to show you the truth. Tell Him that you do not want to be deceived.  Twilight and birdsong are such fleeting periods of time.  Coming into the full light of day exposes you for who you are–a beloved sinner, not condemned but redeemed.

#trcot #Creation