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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Need to Understand Salvation History

This morning's homily gave us a lot of food for thought.  The celebrant tied the reading from Isaiah and the Gospel account rather masterfully, I thought.  All too often, we tend to gloss over the Old Testament readings and simply plunge into the Gospel.  However, if we do not look to see what the OT states and points to, then we lose it's fulfillment in the New Testament.

He explained to us that a couple of generations after King David's reign, Israel split into two kingdoms:  10 of the tribes established the northern Kingdom of Israel while the remaining two, Judah and Benjamin, remained in the Davidic kingdom.  The northern tribes, of which Zebulen and Napthali were a part, were conquered by the Assyrians.  Years later, the Babylonians came and destroyed both Jerusalem and the Temple.

Isaiah predicted the Israel would be reunited when the Messiah came.  When Jesus goes up to Galilee after the arrest of St. John the Baptist, he is fulfilling the prophecy.  He is seeking out the separated tribes of Israel first.  He is the great light that the people who walked in darkness would now be able to behold.  He took the first steps to reunify Ancient Israel.  He would culminate his salviffic mission in Judea, where He would offer Himself as the True Lamb, the True Sacrifice and serve as the True High Priest. 

He also did something else.  Jesus began to reconstitute the 12 tribes, only now, they would reformulate the New Israel.  He began this work by calling four fishermen, two pairs of brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John.  The homilist explained that we sometimes tend to misread the Gospel, assuming that the Apostolic band was poor.  Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen.  Simon Peter and Andrew owned their own boats.  Simon Peter had a nice house.  They had money.  James and John had a bigger business.  They worked with their father and had hired hands.  They left everything they had for Jesus.  In the case of James and John, they left their own father for Jesus.  This was huge.  In Ancient Israel, the father was the most important figure in the family.  He was the end all and be all.  If one left his father, it was because of something, or someone, extremely important.  In the case of James and John, they left their father to be with God, Himself, Jesus.

Towards the end of the homily, the celebrant noted that just as Ancient Israel was fractured due to the split of the Davidic Kingdom, so, too, is the New Israel fractured because of the split between the Church, the Orthodox Churches and the Protestant ecclesial communities.  Just as Jesus restored unity to Ancient Israel by his fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, so, too, must the Church pray that her Divine Bridegroom restore unity to His Church, founded on the rock of St. Peter.

In Sacramentum Caritatis, and again, in Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI expounded on the importance of quality in the homily and the need for the faithful to understand Sacred Scripture, as it relates to Salvation history.  This morning, I experienced that rare, but necessary, confluence of both.

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