Episode: Episode 13: You've Heard It Said....


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Episode 13: You've Heard It Said....

This week we reflect on the readings for this week in year A, which is the sixth Sunday in Epiphany: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 and Matthew 5:21-37.

Show Notes:

According to Gowan (1998), the prophets to ancient Israel did not preach a legalistic message of moral reformation but an evangelistic message of faith in the God who raises the dead. From the first days of the human race in Eden, the curse threatened against sin is "dying you shall die," and the same curse hangs over Israel after Yahweh cut covenant with it at Sinai. The message of the prophets is not, "Israel has sinned: therefore, Israel needs to get its act together or it will die." The message is, "Israel has sinned; therefor Israel must die, and its only hope is to entrust itself to a God who will give it new life on the far side of death." Or even, "Israel has sinned; Israel is already dead. Cling to the God who raises the dead." This is precisely the prophetic message of 1-2 Kings, which systematically dismantles Israel's confidence in everything but the omnipotent mercy and patience of God.
-Peter Leithart

Some Protestants don’t view Roman Catholics as Christians, and won’t acknowledge the Roman Catholic Church as a true church. A Reformational Catholic regards Catholics as brothers, and regrets the need to modify that brotherhood as “separated.” To a Reformational Catholic, it’s blindingly obvious that there’s a billion-member Church of Jesus Christ centered in Rome. Because it regards the Roman Catholic Church as barely Christian, Protestantism leaves Roman Catholicism to its own devices. “They” had a pedophilia scandal, and “they” have a controversial pope. A Reformational Catholic recognizes that turmoil in the Roman Catholic Church is turmoil in his own family.
-Peter Leithart

Let us try to draw out the essential points of this conversation in order to know Jesus and to understand our Jewish brothers better. The central point, it seems to me, is wonderfully revealed in one of the most moving scenes that Neusner presents in his book. In his interior dialogue Neusner has just spent the whole day following Jesus, and now he retires for prayer and Torah study with the Jews of a certain town, in order to discuss with the rabbi of that place—once again he is thinking in terms of contemporaneity across the millennia—all that he has heard. The rabbi cites from the Babylonian Talmud: “Rabbi Simelai expounded: ‘Six hundred and thirteen commandments were given to Moses, three hundred and sixty-five negative ones, corresponding to the number of the days of the solar year, and two hundred forty-eight positive commandments, corresponding to the parts of man’s body. “‘David came and reduced them to eleven…. “‘Isaiah came and reduced them to six…. “‘Isaiah again came and reduced them to two…. “‘Habakkuk further came and based them on one, as it is said: “But the righteous shall live by his faith”’ (Hab 2:4).” Neusner then continues his book with the following dialogue: “‘So,’ the master says, ‘is this what the sage, Jesus, had to say?’ “I: ‘Not exactly, but close.’ “He: ‘What did he leave out?’ “I: ‘Nothing.’ “He: ‘Then what did he add?’ “I: ‘Himself’” (pp. 107–8). This is the central point where the believing Jew Neusner experiences alarm at Jesus’ message, and this is the central reason why he does not wish to follow Jesus, but remains with the “eternal Israel”: the centrality of Jesus’ “I” in his message, which gives everything a new direction. At this point Neusner cites as evidence of this “addition” Jesus’ words to the rich young man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell all you have and come, follow me” (cf. Mt 19:21; Neusner, p. 109 [emphasis added]). Perfection, the state of being holy as God is holy (cf. Lev 19:2, 11:44), as demanded by the Torah, now consists in following Jesus. It is only with great respect and reverence that Neusner addresses this mysterious identification of Jesus and God that is found in the discourses of the Sermon on the Mount. Nonetheless, his analysis shows that this is the point where Jesus’ message diverges fundamentally from the faith of the “eternal Israel.” Neusner demonstrates this after investigating Jesus’ attitude toward three fundamental commandments: the fourth commandment (the commandment to love one’s parents), the third commandment (to keep holy the Sabbath), and, finally, the commandment to be holy as God is holy (which we touched upon just a moment ago). Neusner comes to the disturbing conclusion that Jesus is evidently trying to persuade him to cease following these three fundamental commandments of God and to adhere to Jesus instead.
-Benedict XVI



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