Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sunday's Message: 5th Sunday of Easter

Welcome back to another edition of Sunday's Message.  Here, I will reproduce the readings for Mass from The Message: Catholic/Ecumenical Edition.  (I want to thank Greg Pierce at ACTA for giving me permission to do this weekly post.)  While this is not an "official" Catholic edition, one of my hopes for doing this new series is to have a lively discussion on the renderings, compared to the more formal ones we are use to reading and hearing at Mass.  Is there a place for a translation like this?  Could this be a good Bible to give to a Catholic "seeker" or young adult? I have used it while teaching my high school theology classes, along with the NRSV and NABRE, and have had positive results.  

I would like to also propose a question each week to reflect upon, particularly in light of the rendering found here in The Message: Do we believe more than we love?

Acts 9:26-31 
Back in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t trust him one bit. Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.  After that he was accepted as one of them, going in and out of Jerusalem with no questions asked, uninhibited as he preached in the Master’s name. But then he ran afoul of a group called Hellenists—he had been engaged in a running argument with them—who plotted his murder. When his friends learned of the plot, they got him out of town, took him to Caesarea, and then shipped him off to Tarsus. Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.

Psalm 22
Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”
From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.
Our children and their children
will get in on this
As the word is passed along
from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
will hear the good news—
that God does what he says.

1 John 3:18-24
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.  And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

John 15:1-8
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples


Christopher Buckley said...

"Do we believe more than we love?"

Oh, absolutely.

Timothy said...

The reading from 1 John is a great example of how a dynamic translation can change the meaning of a passage.

NABRE 3:19-20:
"[Now] this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything."

RSV-2CE 3:19-20:
"By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts and he know everything."

The Message 3:19-20:
"This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves."

There is a crucial difference concerning human nature in how this passage is translated and interpreted. Specifically this question: When your heart, when our conscience, condemns your actions, is it correct or incorrect for your conscience to do so?

The Reformed/Calvinist interpretation, which influences The Message, is that no, your heart/conscience is silly and wrong to condemn you, because God knows he loves you no matter what your foolish heart feels.

The Catholic interpretation is that when your heart/conscience condemns your actions, you can be sure that God also knows you have acted wrongly, for he knows everything. So reassure (or persuade) your heart that God already knows but is merciful, and then confess and receive God's mercy.

This is an important question. Are our hearts, our consciences, given to us to guides us in the light of truth, or are they just silly feelings that cause us to worry?

rolf said...

Timothy, this is from the Jerusalem Bible and seems to fit in the middle of these two sets of Bible verses, what do you think?

'Only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence, whatever accusations it may raise against us, because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.'

CarlHernz said...

Q: Do we believe more than we love?

If we are doing it right then there should exist no dichotomy.

All the readings have something in common: disbelief that gives way to trusting and the end results. Belief and love are no different, that is if the “belief” is faith and not mere credulity or mental acknowledgment.

While “The Message” offers an interesting vocabulary and even an impressive interpretation for John’s epistle (and I love the word “deadwood” in the Gospel), the vocabulary choices for Psalm 22 are again a sermon based on an interpretation. Not that it isn’t good, it’s just not telling the reader what the psalm says in Hebrew. The Gospel passage is a little more faithful, except the last verse mangles the meaning of “en touto edoxasthe ho Pater mou.”

Outside of that it is difficult to hide the reason why the Church connects all these readings together on the Fifth Sunday of Easter: love is the fruit of belief.

And again I mean “belief” as in “pistis,” the Greek word most often rendered “faith” and that Christians use when they state: “Faith in Christ saves.” The word, however, doesn’t mean “faith” in the sense of merely believing that something exists or is so, like a mental acknowledgment that a particular leader has been voted into office. One might believe or have faith in the election results and therefore acknowledge that a certain person is now mayor or something like that, but they themselves may not be a faithful constituent.

The Greek word so often rendered as “faith” means “faithfulness.” It means being a "constituent" of God, and refers to fidelity to a path, confidence and trust in someone (God), i.e., a response that is more than mental and that itself produces a response.

The early Christians’ failure to trust that St. Paul is now on their side gives way to bravery as they attempt to save his life. John writes that having faith in Christ leads to trusting that God doesn’t condemn us even if our conscience does. And Jesus states that faithful union with him is like being a vine that produces fruit. Faithfulness in Christ includes love.

Belief that is mere acknowledgement of God does not produce love. St. James pointed this out when he wrote (according to my own paraphrase): “You ascribe to the Shema and believe ‘God is one,’ yes? All and good, but the demons also have such faith, and in them it produces dread and fear.”—James 2:19.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
Two great questions today -
We do generally believe more than we love, sadly.

Our hearts and consciences are used by the Lord to cause us to look in to see what is troubling us and then to look up for His grace and forgiveness to enable us to continue our journey .Yes, God does know all about us but that does not absolve us from having to repent and seek His forgiveness.

wxmarc said...

I checked a few other translations to see how they render 1 John 3:19-20. Here they are for comparison:

Fr. Nicholas King:
"And this is how we shall know that we are of the truth, and in his presence we shall reassure our heart, whatever our heart may accuse us of, that God is greater than our heart, and knows everything."

NRSV: "And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

REB: "This is how we shall know that we belong to the realm of truth, and reassure ourselves in his sight where conscience condemns us; for God is greater than our conscience and knows all"

Hoosier Hound said...

I feel like I should make clear that it was not the Timothy who writes this excellent blog who posted the second comment. I am a different Timothy and he should not be blamed for my thoughts and opinions. (P.S. I think I changed the settings so that it will display my username and not my first name now to prevent such confusion.)

Carl or anyone else who might know about the original Greek, can you provide your insights on the word that is most often translated as "reassure" in 1 John 3:19? I think I read somewhere that a better translation might be "persuade", which is what the D-R uses. But of course, the D-R was primarily a translation from the Vulgate and not the Greek. Also it uses "reprehend" instead of "condemn".

Douay-Rheims 1 Jn 3:19-20
"In this we know that we are of the truth: and in his sight shall persuade our hearts. For if our heart reprehend us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things."

CarlHernz said...


The Greek word in question is at its most basic related to the word "pistis" which I made a comment about. The one you ask about means to "urge or persuade" a person to respond faithfully to something. In this instance it means to assure a person through the truth of the Gospel regarding God's forgiveness. Neither "persuade" or "reassure" is less or more precise because they are essentially synonyms in English.

You are correct that the DR's usage of "reprehend" is unique to the Latin. It comes from a Latin term in the Vulgate that means "a condemning voice." The word "reprehend" has fallen out of vernacular English in favor for "condemn," but mostly because the Latin word is that language's unique target word for translating the original Greek term, referring to how one's conscience can act like a voice of negative conviction, i.e., making "condemn" a more precise choice in this instance.

Anonymous said...

Thank you CarlHernz.Most helpful.

citizen DAK said...

Which verses of ps22 led to
"Live it up, from head to toe"?

(it's not obvious to me from a VERY quick glance at rsv2c & nabre)

CarlHernz said...

Yeah, this is why I say that Peterson is sometimes offering a sermon and not a paraphrase. This is not a bad a sermon, it just doesn't offer paraphrase (which is putting in other words what the author is saying).

The text is rendered in the liturgically-approved RGP: "May their hearts live on forever and ever!"--Psalm 22:27c, Revised Grail Psalms.

The word for "heart" in Hebrew means "deep inside" in the sense of the inner person, one's will or more simply put "the heart." The verse in which it appears is one of the infrequent references to and blessings wishing eternal life found in pre-LXX writ.

The psalmist is praying that his fellow worshiper lives to praise God "forever and ever" with the reference to the "heart" or inner person being a poetic reference to the entire person or physical resurrection. It is unclear if Peterson is rendering it in reference to bodily resurrection or if he mistook the verse to read as if the psalmist wanted people to praise God with all their might (but the latter seems likely).