Tag Archives: gospel

Come, Follow Me!

The Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand Nineteen. Yes, two millennia ago, Jesus, Emmanuel, God-made-man, walked the earth among us. He was not a hermit; neither was he an intellectual removed from the common man. Jesus lived among us; he engaged us—he challenged us to follow him (Mk 1:17; Mt 4:19; Lk 5:11). As Jesus’ disciples by virtue of Baptism, we are called by Jesus to follow Him just as he called his first disciples in the afore-mentioned Scripture passages.

Jesus also tells us what is involved in discipleship: to love God and to love each other; to be holy as the Father is holy, to treat others as He treats us (Jn 15:8-10, 12, 17); to witness to Him as He witnesses to the Father; to proclaim the kingdom/reign of God (Lk 9:60, Mt 8:22); and to be committed even to the point of the cross (Mt 10:37-38, 16:24-25; Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27; Mk 8:34-35). Being Jesus’ disciple—following him—is preparation for entering eternal life with Jesus (Mk 10:21-23).

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To make following in the footsteps of Jesus more real, I am organizing a 13-day Catholic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May 2019. We will visit, with a priest who lives in Jerusalem and is a very experienced Catholic guide, the main locations where Jesus lived and ministered, and the sites where his Passion occurred. The dates are May 15-27, 2019; for more information contact Eric Wolf (772-932-7969).

Thy Kingdom Come

The Old Testament, especially the prophets, spoke of the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed one, who would save Israel and usher in the Day of the Lord, that is, the time when God would exercise His power to vanquish evil.

The New Testament Greek noun basileia refers to something associated with a king; in English we translate this word as either ‘reign’ or ‘kingdom’. In the New Testament, Jesus saw His ministry as revealing the presence of the reign or kingdom of God. Jesus himself is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The reign of God is no longer in the future; when we have faith we are dwelling right now in the kingdom of God.

Jesus healed in order that people would have faith and believe. Jesus taught and preached so that people would understand the new paradigm and believe. The Gospel According to Matthew focuses significantly on Jesus’ teaching and preaching (Mt 5 – 7 et al).

At one point (Mt 6:9-13) Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray- and so we have the Lord’s Prayer. We recall that Hebrew poetry is based not on rhyme as in English tradition but rather on repetition or various types of related parallel phrases. The Lord’s Prayer is a New Testament example of Hebrew parallelism using five supplications each with a parallel phrase.

Our Father who art in heaven = hallowed be thy name

The opening sentence is an example of synthetic parallelism: the second phrase builds on and expands the meaning of the first phrase.

Thy kingdom come = Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven

How often do we unthinkingly break this sentence after the word ‘done’; perhaps for breathing purposes we tend to make two equal size phrases. However, in terms of Jesus’ meaning as He teaches us to pray to the Father, the sentence is better paused after the word ‘come’: ‘Thy kingdom come’ is our basic supplication. What does this mean? Remember one of the purposes of parallel poetry is to confirm meaning.

This is an example of synonymous parallelism, in which the second phrase has the same meaning as the introductory phrase. Typically one phrase can define one or more terms in the other phrase. So we find that ‘Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven’ defines ‘Thy kingdom come’. Jesus doesn’t just announce the coming of the kingdom, He is telling us what that means. The kingdom of God means that the will of the Father is fulfilled not just in the next life but right here and now! Wow, what a difference a Savior makes!

When we pray the “Our Father’ let us put the pause after ‘come’; if we need to break up the second phrase, let us do so to punctuate Jesus’ message by placing a pause not after ‘done’ but rather after ‘Earth’.

— Eric Wolf

Mark: Read All About It!

In reading the Gospel of Mark I was reminded of how newspapers were sold on the street
corners early in the nineteenth century. I can envision the Gospel of Mark being held up on the
street corner and a fifteen year old boy yelling out. “Jesus of Nazareth claims to be the
Messiah!” read all about it. This would be the headline; “Jesus of Nazareth – Messiah or
Impostor?” There would be the story on the front page on how Jesus brought the little girl that
had died back to life, on the following pages stories of the parables Jesus used to teach the
people. Some would say he was an agent of Satan but others that heard Jesus rebuke this
would say Jesus made perfect sense when He said “how can Satan drive out Satan?”

In the commentary section many would have given testimony of how Jesus had fed them when
there was no food and others who had witnessed a man’s withered hand be restored. Others gave false testimony in order to have him crucified. In the opinion section the Sadducees would say “Jesus is a phony, he claims he can forgive sin; only God can forgive sin. We need to silence him, let us ask Pilate to crucify him.”

In the obituary section it would read: “Jesus of Nazareth, died 33 AD after being scourged and
crucified along with two thieves. He had his mother by his side with many friends and well
wishers. He claimed he was the Messiah but the Jewish high priests would not believe him. He
was given over by one of his apostles, Judas Iscariot who was paid twenty pieces of silver to
hand him over to the authorities. Joseph of Arimathea handled the burial arrangements.”

Late breaking story: “Jesus not found in the tomb, Mary Magdalene said Jesus appeared to her
but Apostles skeptical till Jesus appears to them and commissions them to proclaim the Word.

— Mike Gardner

Reading the Gospels

We are a highly literate society; we often read almost constantly throughout most days. Like any frequently practiced activity, we have developed habitual ways of reading. Now that we read Scripture, we do so using these same thought patterns (reading habits) that we utilize in our everyday reading such as newspapers, road signs, recipes, novels, textbooks, corporate memos, television news alerts, or Internet blogs!

Yet in reading Gospels (indeed any Biblical narrative) some of these habits are detrimental to a well-formed understanding of scriptural intent. For instance, the gospels were written neither as history nor as biography (nor as any of the above-mentioned reading), rather as theology.

What are gospels?

Gospels are a means of transmitting the apostolic teaching of Jesus’ mission. The evangelist Mark is seen as inventing the gospel form of literature. We believe that the Gospels (as all the Bible) were written by human authors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

St. Augustine characterizes a gospel as a passion narrative with an extended introduction. We know that Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection has been seen from the earliest days of Christianity as God’s saving action through his only Son.

The gospels teach us about who Jesus is, and what our relationship with God is and most specifically concerning the second person of the Trinity.

Best Practices – and pitfalls!

When reading gospels, keep in mind the human author’s audience and situation- these are the keys to understanding his message. The term ‘gospel’ is a translation of the Greek word meaning ‘good news’. Always look for how a gospel passage points to the ‘good news’ of salvation.

It is fruitful to compare parallel passages in the various gospels only to better understand this author’s message and/or purpose. How the author modifies a passage points to his overall message/purpose.

Because the authors wrote to different audiences in different situations, it is a pitfall (it is illogical and detrimental to understanding) to ‘mix-and-match’ between Gospels.

If perceiving an apparent ‘inconsistency’ between different Gospels, consider whether the inconsistency is of theological importance or whether it merely stems from a different emphasis that is based on the situational message that the human author intended.

A verse does not stand on its own but is relative to its entire story. What is its meaning in relation to the individual story and to this author’s purpose? 
It is a pitfall to take an individual verse and generalize it into a larger context.

Lastly, remember that we have four Gospels- no one is more definitive than any of the others. While we may have our favorite gospel- one that tugs more at our heart- it is a pitfall to think that it is more true or most appropriate for everyone than is any of the other canonical gospels. All are the Word of God; all are meant to advance our faith. Praise God!

— Eric Wolf