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Archive for March 31st, 2011

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 81

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2011

Note: This meditative commentary on Psalm 81 was delivered as part of the Pope’s weekly catechesis which, at the end of his life, was dedicated to expounding the Psalms and Canticles used in the Church’s Morning and Evening Prayer. You can read Psalm 81 here.


GENERAL AUDIENCE

JOHN PAUL II

Wednesday 24 April 2002

Psalm 80 [81] of Lauds
A love that frees the oppressed from their burdens

1. “Blow the trumpet at the full moon, on our feast day” (Ps 80 [81],4). These words of Psalm 80 [81], that we just proclaimed, refer to a liturgical celebration according to the lunar calendar of ancient Israel. It is difficult to identify the precise festival to which the Psalm refers; what is certain is that the biblical liturgical calendar, although it is based on the cycle of the seasons and thus of nature, it is clearly presented as firmly anchored to the history of salvation and, in particular, to the capital event of the exodus from Egyptian slavery, that is linked to the full moon of the first month (cf. Ex 12,2.6; Lv 23,5). There, God is revealed as Liberator and Saviour.

As verse 7 of the Psalm poetically states, God himself relieved the Hebrew slave in Egypt of the basket on his back, full of the bricks needed to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses (cf. Ex 1,11.14). God had stood beside the oppressed people and with his power removed the bitter sign of slavery, the basket of bricks baked in the sun, a symbol of the forced labour to which the children of Israel were constrained.

2. Let us see how this canticle of the liturgy of Israel develops. It opens with an invitation to celebrate, to sing, to make music. It is the official convocation of the liturgical assembly according to the ancient precept of worship, already established in Egypt with the celebration of the Passover (cf. Ps 80 [81],2-6a). After this call, the voice of the Lord himself is raised through the oracle of the priest in the temple of Zion, and his divine words fill the rest of the Psalm (cf. vv. 6b-17).

The theme developed is simple and rotates round two ideal poles. On the one hand there is the divine gift of freedom offered to Israel, oppressed and wretched: “In distress you called, and I delivered you” (v. 8). The Psalm also mentions the Lord’s support of Israel on the journey through the desert, that is, the gift of the waters at Meribah, in a context of hardship and trial.

3. On the other hand, along with the divine gift, the Psalmist introduces another significant element. The Biblical religion is not a solitary monologue of God, an action of God destined not to be performed. Instead, it is a dialogue, a word followed by a response, a gesture of love that calls for acceptance. For this reason ample room is given to the invitations that God addresses to Israel.

The Lord first invites it to observe faithfully the First Commandment, the pillar of the whole Decalogue, that is, faith in the one Lord and Saviour and the rejection of idols (cf. Ex 20,3-5). The words of the priest speaking in God’s name are punctuated by the verb “to listen”, dear to the Book of Deuteronomy, which expresses obedient adherence to the Law of Sinai and is a sign of Israel’s response to the gift of freedom. In fact, we hear repeated in our Psalm: “Hear, O my people … O Israel, if you would but listen to me! … But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would have none of me…. O that my people would listen to me…!” (Ps 80[81],9.12.14).

Only through faithful listening and obedience can the people receive fully the gifts of the Lord. Unfortunately, God must attest with bitterness to Israel’s many infidelities. The journey through the desert, to which the Psalm alludes, is strewn with these acts of rebellion and idolatry which reach their climax in the representation of the golden calf (cf. Ex 32,1-14).

4. The last part of the Psalm (cf. Ps 80[81],14-17) has a melancholic tone. In fact, God expresses a longing that has not yet been satisfied: “O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways!” (v. 14).

However, this melancholy is inspired by love and is united with his deep desire to fill the chosen people with good things. If Israel were to walk in the ways of the Lord, he would soon subdue their enemies (cf. v. 15), feed them “with the finest of the wheat” and satisfy them “with honey from the rock” (v. 17). It would be a joyful feast of fresh bread accompanied by honey that seems to run from the rocks of the Promised Land, representing prosperity and total well-being, a recurrent theme in the Bible (cf. Dt 6,3; 11,9; 26,9.15; 27,3; 31,20). In offering this wonderful perspective, the Lord obviously seeks to obtain his people’s conversion, a response of sincere and effective love to his own love that is more generous than ever.

In the Christian interpretation, the divine offering is revealed in its fullness. Indeed, Origen gives us this interpretation: the Lord “made them enter into the promised land; there he does not feed them with manna as he did in the desert, but with the wheat that has fallen to the ground (cf. Jn 12,24-25) that is risen…. Christ is the wheat; again, he is the rock whose water quenched the thirst of the people of Israel in the desert. In the spiritual sense, he satisfied them with honey and not with water, so that all who believe and receive this food, may taste honey in their mouths” (Omelia sul Salmo 80, n. 17 [Homily on Psalm 80, n. 17]: Origen-Jerome, 74 Omelie sul Libro dei Salmi, [74 Homilies on the Book of the Psalms] Milan 1993, pp. 204-205).

5. As is always the case in the history of salvation, the last word in the contrast between God and his sinful people is never judgement and chastisement, but love and pardon. God does not want to judge and condemn, but to save and deliver humanity from evil. He continues to repeat to us the words we read in the Book of the Prophet Ezechiel: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God; so return and live” (Ez 18,23.31-32).

The liturgy becomes the privileged place in which to hear the divine call to conversion and return to the embrace of God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34,6).

 

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, John Paul II Catechesis, liturgy, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, PAPAL COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, Quotes, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »

March 31: Aquinas’ Cantena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 11:14-23)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2011

Ver 14. And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spoke; and the people wondered.15. But some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.16. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.

GLOSS. The Lord had promised that the Holy Spirit should be given to those that asked for it; the blessed effects whereof He indeed clearly shows in the following miracle. Hence it follows, And Jesus was casting out a devil, and it was dumb.

THEOPHYL. Now he is called as commonly meaning one who does not speak. It is also used for one who does not hear, but more properly who neither hears nor speaks. But he who has not heard from his birth necessarily cannot speak. For we speak those things which we are taught to speak by hearing. If however one has lost his hearing from a disease that has come upon him, there is nothing to hinder him from speaking. But He who was brought before the Lord was both dumb in speech, and deaf in hearing.

TIT. BOST. Now He calls the devil deaf or dumb, as being the cause of this calamity, that the Divine word should not be heard. For the devil, by taking away the quickness of human feeling, blunts the hearing of our soul. Christ therefore comes that He might cast out the devil, and that we might hear the word of truth. For He healed one that He might create a universal foretaste of man’s salvation. Hence it follows, And when he: he had cast out the devil, tile dumb spoke.

BEDE; But that demoniac is related by Matthew to have been not only dumb, but blind. Three miracles then were performed at the same time on one man. The blind see, the dumb speaks, and he that was possessed by a devil is set free. The like is daily accomplished in the conversion of believers, so that the devil being first cast out, they see the light, and then those mouths which were before silent are loosened to speak the praises of God.

CYRIL; Now when the miracle was performed, the multitude extolled Him with loud praises, and the glory which was due to God. As it follows, And the people wondered.

BEDE; But since the multitudes who were thought ignorant always marveled at our Lord’s actions, the Scribes and Pharisees took pains to deny them, or to pervert them by an artful interpretation, as though they were not the work of a Divine power, but of an unclean spirit. Hence it follows, But some of them said, He casts out devils through Beelzebub the prince of the devils. Beelzebub was the God Accaron. For Beel is indeed Baal himself. But Zebub means a fly. Now he is called Beelzebub as the man of flies, from whose most foul practices the chief of the devils was so named.

CYRIL; But others by similar darts of envy sought from Him a sign from heaven. As it follows, And others tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. As if they said, “Although you have cast out a devil from the man, this is no proof however of Divine power. For we have not yet seen any thing like to the miracles of former times. Moses led the people through the midst of the sea, and Joshua his successor stayed the sun in Gibeon. But you have shown us none of these things.” For to seek signs from heaven showed that the speaker was at that time influenced by some feeling of this kind towards Christ.

Ver 17. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falls.18. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.19. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out, therefore shall they be your judges.20. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

CHRYS. The suspicion of the Pharisees being utterly without reason, they dared not divulge it for fear of the multitude, but pondered it in their minds. Hence it is said, But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself will be brought to desolation.

BEDE; He answered not their words but their thoughts, that so at least they might be compelled to believe in His power, who saw into the secrets of the heart.

CHRYS. He did not answer them from the Scriptures, since they gave no heed to them, explaining them away falsely; but he answers them from things of every day occurrence. For a house and a city if it be divided is quickly scattered to nothing; and likewise a kingdom, than which nothing is stronger. For the harmony of the inhabitants maintains houses and kingdoms. If then, says He, I cast out devils by means of a devil, there is dissension among them, and their power perishes.

Hence He adds, But if Satan be divided against himself, how shall he stand? For Satan resists not himself, nor hurts his soldiers, but rather strengthens his kingdom. It is then by Divine power alone that I crush Satan under my feet.

AMBROSE; Herein also He shows His own kingdom to be undivided and everlasting. Those then who possess no hope in Christ, but think that He casts out devils through the chief of the devils, their kingdom, He says, is not everlasting. This also has reference to the Jewish people. For how can the kingdom of the Jews be everlasting, when by the people of the law Jesus is denied, who is promised by the law? Thus in part does the faith of the Jewish people impugn itself; the glory of the wicked is divided, by division is destroyed. And therefore the kingdom of the Church shall remain for ever, because its faith is undivided in one body.

BEDE; The kingdom also of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not divided, because it is sealed with an eternal stability. Let then the Arians cease to say that the Son is inferior to the Father, but the Holy Spirit inferior to the Son, since whose kingdom is one, their power is one also.

CHRYS. This then is the first answer; the second which relates to His disciples He gives as follows, And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? He says not, “My disciples,” but your sons, wishing to soothe their wrath.

CYRIL; For the disciples of Christ were Jews, and sprung from Jews according to the flesh, and they had obtained from Christ power over unclean spirits, and delivered those who were oppressed by them in Christ’s name. Seeing then that your sons subdue Satan in My name, is it not very madness to say that I have My power from Beelzebub? you are then condemned by the faith of your children. Hence He adds, Therefore shall they be your judges.

CHRYS. For since they who come forth from you are obedient to Me, it is plain that they will condemn those who do the contrary.

BEDE; Or else, By the sons of the Jews He means the exorcists of that nation, who cast out devils by the invocation of God. As if He says, If the casting out of devils by your sons is ascribed to God, not to devils, why in My case has not the same work the same cause? Therefore shall they be your judges, not in authority to exercise judgment, but in act, since they assign to God the casting out of devils, you to Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.

CYRIL; Since then what you say bears upon it the mark of calumny, it is plain that by the Spirit of God I cast out devils. Hence He adds, But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

AUG. That Luke speaks of the finger of God, where Matthew has said, the Spirit, does not take away from their agreement in sense, but it rather teaches us a lesson, that we may know what meaning to give to the finger of God, whenever we read it in the Scriptures.

AUG. Now the Holy Spirit is called the finger of God, because of the distribution of gifts which are given through Him, to every one his own gift, whether he be of men or angels. For in none of our members is division more apparent than in our fingers.

CYRIL; Or the Holy Spirit is called the finger of God for this reason. The Son was said to be the hand and arm of the Father, for the Father works all things by Him. As then the finger is not separate from the hard, but by nature a part of it; so the Holy Spirit is consubstantially united to the Son, and through Him the Son does all things.

AMBROSE; Nor would you think in the compacting together of our limbs any division of power to be made, for there can be no division in an undivided thing. And therefore the appellation of finger must be referred to the form of unity, not to the distinction of power.

ATHAN. But at this time our Lord does not hesitate because of His humanity to speak of Himself as inferior to the Holy Spirit, saying, that He cast out devils by Him, as though the human nature was not sufficient for the casting out of devils without the power of the Holy Spirit.

CYRIL; And therefore it is justly said, The kingdom of God is come upon you, that is, “If I as a man cast out devils by the Spirit of God, human nature is enriched through Me, and the kingdom of God is come.”

CHRYS. But it is said, upon you, that He might draw them to Him; as if He said, If prosperity comes to you, why do you despise your good things?

AMBROSE; At the same time He shows that it is a regal power which the Holy Spirit possesses, in whom is the kingdom of God, and that we in whom the Spirit dwells are a royal house.

TIT. BOST. Or He says, The kingdom of God is come upon you, signifying, “is come against you, not for you.” For dreadful is the second coming of Christ to faithless Christians.

VerĀ  21. When a strong man armed keeps his palace, his goods are in peace:22. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him and overcome him, he takes from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divides his spoils.23. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathers not with me scatters.

CYRIL; As it was necessary for many reasons to refute the cavils of His opponents, our Lord now makes use of a very plain example, by which He proves to those who will consider it that He overcomes the power of the world, by a power inherent in Himself, saying, When a strong man armed keeps his palace.

CHRYS. He calls the devil a strong man, not because he is naturally so, but referring to his ancient dominion, of which our weakness was the cause.

CYRIL; For he used before the coming of the Savior to seize with great violence upon the flocks of another, that is, God, and carry them as it were to his own fold.

THEOPHYL. The Devil’s arms are all kinds of sins, trusting in which he prevailed against men.

BEDE; But the world he calls his palace, which lies in wickedness, wherein up to our Savior’s coming he enjoys supreme power, because he rested in the hearts of unbelievers without any opposition. But with a stronger and mightier power Christ has conquered, and by delivering all men has cast him out. Hence it is added, But if a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome, &c,

CYRIL; For as soon as the Word of the Most High God, the Giver of all strength, and the Lord of Hosts, was made man, He attacked him, and took away his arms.

BEDE; His arms then are the craft and the wiles of spiritual wickedness, but his spoils are the men themselves, who have been deceived by him.

CYRIL; For the Jews who had been a long time entrapped by him into ignorance of God and sin, have been called out by the holy Apostles to the knowledge of the truth, and presented to God the Father, through faith in the Son.

BASIL; Christ also divides the spoil, showing the faithful watch etch which angels keep over the salvation of men.

BEDE; As conqueror too Christ divides the spoils, which is a sign of triumph, for leading captivity captive He gave gifts to men, ordaining some Apostles, some Evangelists, some Prophets, and some Pastors and Teachers.

CHRYS. Next we have the fourth answer, where it is added, He who is not with me is against me; as if He says, I wish to present men to God, but Satan the contrary. How then would he who does not work with Me, but scatters what is Mine, become so united with Me, as with Me to cast out devils? It follows, And he who gathers not with me, scatters.

CYRIL; As if He said, I came to gather together the sons of God whom he has scattered. And Satan himself as he is not with Me, tries to scatter those which I have gathered and saved. How then does he whom I use all My efforts to resist, supply Me with power?

CHRYS. But if he who does not work with Me is My adversary, how much more he who opposes Me? It seems however to me that he here under a figure refers to the Jews, ranging them with the devil. For they also acted against, and scattered those whom He gathered together.

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