Creating Humankind

Very early Sunday morning, we celebrated the Easter Vigil.  In order to save a few precious moments, we heard the short version of the first reading from Genesis, which begins with the first verse and then moves on to the sixth day: “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  The radically shortened account omits the first five days as well as the seventh day, the Sabbath.  This makes it appear that humanity is the peak of creation—which we are—but it goes no further than that.  It is important to understand our place in creation.  Otherwise we suffer from what might be called theological chutzpahChutzpah is a Yiddish word that may be defined as insolence or audacity. Chutzpah is a negative quality often associated with certain politicians.

The Scripture gives us a certain order of creation.  This order is not scientific; rather, it teaches a theological point.  The traditional explanation is: “Those things you may regard as completely superfluous to the creation of the world, such as fleas, gnats, and flies, even that are included in the creation of the world, and the Holy One, blessed be he, carries out his purpose through everything, even through snakes, scorpions, a gnat, or a frog” (Genesis Rabbah  10:7). God carried out his divine purpose through creation.  We just do not understand it.

Human beings are last in the order of creation.  Why?  The Talmud answers: “In order that, if a man’s mind becomes too proud, he may be reminded that the gnats preceded him in order of creation” (Sanhedrin 38a).   We were created last so that we might be humble.

Yet, if we conclude the Genesis reading as we should, with the seventh day, we learn why we might also be proud.  The Talmud gives us a number of reasons why we were created on the eve of the Sabbath:

That he might straightway go in to the banquet. The matter may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in the guests. For it is written: Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars. She has prepared her meat, she has mingled her wine, she has also furnished her table. (Sanhedrin 38a).

God created the world, the plants, and all the animals before he created humankind, so that we might first have all we need.

Thus we stand between humility in proud, aware that we are last in order but first in dignity.  Next time you might want to read the whole story, all seven days.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Hosanna!

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).  Mark’s version is slightly different: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!”

Luke, as is his wont, omits the word “Hosanna,” which would be unfamiliar to his Gentile audience. In his version, the crowd sings out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:38). Luke includes this additional detail: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He said in reply, ‘I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!’” (Luke 19:39-40). Jesus’ words may allude to Habbakuk 2:11: “For the stone in the wall shall cry out, and the beam in the frame shall answer it!” The prophet condemns those “who build a city by bloodshed, and who establish a town with injustice.”

The word hosanna in Hebrew and Aramaic is not a term of praise.  Rather, it is a plea for deliverance.  The word is taken from Ps. 118:25: “Lord, grant salvation! Lord, grant good fortune!”  The psalm’s usage of hosanna is liturgical. 

In later Jewish texts, the word hosanna is associated with the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). During Sukkot, which occurs in the fall, it is applied to the lulav.  The lulav is a palm frond, at least three myrtle branches, and two willow branches that are bound together. The lulav is held in the left hand, while a citron (etrog), is held in the right. On the first day of the feast, these “four species” are waved in all six directions: south, north, east, up, down and west. On the last day, they are used in processions around the synagogue, during which special prayers known as hoshanot are recited.  These prayers begin and conclude with the word hosanna—“Lord, save us.”  Coming as it does shortly after the Day of Atonement, and shortly before the beginning of the rainy season, the Talmud states that Sukkot is the time when “judgment is passed in respect of rain” (Rosh Hashanah 16a).

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people looked to him as the one who would deliver them from the evil and oppression that they experienced at the hands of the Roman occupiers.  They understand Jesus to be a scion of the Davidic dynasty, the Son of David. Mark may have understood the people’s acclamation to be messianic.  Matthew and Luke are more explicit.  Matthew refers to Jesus as “Son of David”; Luke and John call him “king.”

Our Christian faith teaches us that Jesus is indeed king.  But he is a king unlike other kings; humble, he rides upon a donkey.  He does not seek an empire; rather, his kingdom is not of this world.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Stumbling Blocks and Gun Control

Last week we had the reading from John 9 in which Jesus heals a man born blind and thoroughly repudiates the folk belief that the man’s blindness was a consequence of sin of his sin or the sin of his parents. Scripture does not teach that blindness is God’s punishment for sin; rather, compassion for the blind is a religious duty.  Lev. 19:14 states: “You shall not insult the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God. I am the Lord.”

We know that blindness often has a figurative meaning. Blindness may refer to a lack of understanding or moral depravity. A person may be “blinded” by passion.  One may be blind to his or her own character flaws or those of others.  One may be blind with regard to certain issues or matters. Anyone who is unaware, ignorant can be called “blind.” We can apply these meanings to the law “do not put a stumbling block before the blind.” In this way, the law has a more profound meaning than its literal sense.

The great biblical commentator Rashi (1040-1105) commented on this verse:

You shall not place a stumbling block before a blind person: Before a person who is “blind” regarding a matter, you shall not give advice that is improper for him. [For instance,] do not say to someone, “Sell your field and buy a donkey [with the proceeds],” while [in truth,] you plan to cheat him since you yourself will take it from him [by lending him money and taking the donkey as collateral. He will not be able to take the field because a previous creditor has a lien on it.

The biblical verse is also taken as a prohibition against helping or causing another person to sin. One should not place a prohibited temptation in front of another. One should not misinform another but rather give the best advice available.  Any form of deception, inducement to sin, or promotion of crime is forbidden.

Using Lev. 19:14 as his basis, the medieval philosopher, Maimonides (1138-1204), wrote in his legal code, the Mishneh Torah:

It is forbidden to sell gentiles any weaponry. We may not sharpen weapons for them or sell them a knife, chains put on the necks of prisoners, fetters, iron chains, raw Indian iron, bears, lions, or any other object that could cause danger to people at large. One may, however, sell them shields, for these serve only the purpose of defense.

At that time, Gentiles were those who served in the army and went to war.  But Maimonides also wrote: “Every article that is forbidden to be sold to a gentile is also forbidden to be sold to a Jewish robber, for by doing so one reinforces a transgressor and causes him to sin.” One cannot make the excuse that it is up to the purchaser of such things to determine their use.

The biblical law “do not put a stumbling block in front of the blind” has many applications in modern times as well.  If taken seriously, it impacts accessibility, accounting practices, advertising, the sale of dangerous goods, gun control, and many other things.  The same law prohibits passivity and silence in the face of wrongdoing and evil.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Being Blind

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus passed by a blind man.  His disciples asked: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus replied: “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”  By this statement, Jesus denied a folk belief or superstition that blindness was caused by sin.  Sometimes this text is used to compare Old Testament teaching with New Testament teaching. But what do the Hebrew Scriptures actually say about blindness?

Biblical cases of blindness include Isaac (Gen. 27:1), Jacob (Gen. 48:10), and Eli (1 Sam. 3:2).  Their eyesight failed in old age.  In a few instances, blindness is mentioned as a punishment inflicted by God for Israel’s violation of the covenant (Deut. 28:28-29).  Prov. 30:17 gives this dire warning: “The eye that mocks a father, or scorns the homage due a mother, / Will be plucked out by brook ravens; devoured by a brood of vultures.”  God punishes the “worthless shepherd” of Zech. 11:15-17 with the loss of his right eye.  There are no other biblical passages in which blindness is a punishment for sin.

As is still the case today, blindness is also given metaphoric meanings, alluding to the lack of understanding or moral depravity. For instance, bribes blind the eyes of the righteous: “Never take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and distorts the words of the just” (Ex. 23:8). Deut. 16:19 warns: “You must not distort justice: you shall not show partiality; you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes even of the wise and twists the words even of the just.”  Isaiah uses blindness as a metaphor for oppression: “Judgment is far from us and justice does not reach us. / We look for light, but there is darkness; for brightness, and we walk in gloom!” (Is. 59:9).

The blind were barred from serving as priests because they could not perform the required tasks (Lev. 21:18-21), but probably they were not excluded from the Temple.  Compassion for the blind is a religious duty.  Lev. 19:14 states: “You shall not insult the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God. I am the Lord.” God is a God of compassion, who opens the eyes of the blind.  The restoration of sight to the blind is a sign of God’s kingdom.  We read in Isaiah 42:16: I will lead the blind on a way they do not know; /  by paths they do not know I will guide them. / I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. / These are my promises: / I made them, I will not forsake them.”

The primary message of John 9 is, of course, that Jesus is the light of the world.  His healing of the blind man is a sign of his kingdom. Our God has always been a God of compassion, mercy, and love.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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The Four Rivers of Paradise

Sunday was a watery day. The Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent was John’s account of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42).  To go with it, the first reading was the story of Moses striking the rock to get water for the thirsty people (Ex.17:3-7).  Earlier, at morning prayer, my community heard a reading from Sirach in which Lady Wisdom, who is singing her own praises, compares the Law of Moses to an overflowing river:

All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God, the Law which Moses commanded us as a heritage for the community of Jacob.  It overflows, like the Pishon, with wisdom, and like the Tigris at the time of first fruits.  It runs over, like the Euphrates, with understanding, and like the Jordan at harvest time. It floods like the Nile with instruction, like the Gihon at vintage time. (Sirach 24:23-27)

Three of these four rivers are among the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden. We read in Gen. 2 10-14:

A river rises in Eden to water the garden; beyond there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is the Pishon; it is the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; bdellium and lapis lazuli are also there. The name of the second river is the Gihon; it is the one that winds all through the land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it is the one that flows east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Tigris and the Euphrates we know, but the Pishon and the Gihon have been variously identified. The Pishon has been thought to be the Nile, or even the Ganges. The Gihon has also been identified with the Nile.  They may have been mountain streams.  We will never know, and efforts to locate the Garden of Eden are in vain.

Although the mention of the four rivers is useless as geography, the Sages derived a moral lesson from it.  Three of the rivers represent the three cardinal sins: envy, desire, and the pursuit of glory. In the passage from Genesis, the Pishon leads to the land of gold.   The Gihon flows to Cush, identified as Ethiopia, close to Egypt.  Ancient Egyptian society was, in their minds, associated with lust and sexual promiscuity.  The Tigris, Hidekel in Hebrew, flows to Assyria, the conquering power.  Assyria was aggressive and craved world domination. These three rivers lead away from the Garden of Eden.

Genesis gives no geographical data regarding the fourth river, the Euphrates.  Scripture only names this river without giving any further information.  The fourth river seems to lead nowhere. However, the Sages said that it leads to the Land of Israel.  It represents the road back to God.  In Hebrew, the name “Euphrates” is similar to the word that means “fruitful.” Thus the Talmud says that its name implies that “its waters are fruitful and multiply.” We can be fruitful only by leading a holy life, a life close to God.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Immanuel

Matthew’s account of the annunciation to Joseph, which we will hear this coming Sunday, is not found in any other Gospel.  Mark does not have a story of the annunciation.  Luke tells us of the annunciation to Mary.  John, who emphasizes the pre-existence of the Word, does not have any narrative of the nativity.

Matthew, a Jewish Christian who probably lived in what is now Syria, is trying to teach his mixed community of Jews and Gentiles just who Jesus is.  What does Matthew say about the identity of Jesus?  By focusing on Joseph instead of Mary, Matthew affirms Jesus’ legitimate birth.  By tracing Joseph’s genealogy to David, he teaches us that Jesus is the Son of David.  Born of a woman, Jesus is Son of Man. Matthew declares that Jesus is the Son of God by using prophecy and by giving Jesus the name “Immanuel.” Matthew repeats that “God is with us” at the end of his Gospel, when he commissions his disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).

In Scripture, the name “Immanuel” is found only in Is. 7:14 and Is. 8:8, 10.  The Church applies this prophecy to Jesus.  In the context of history, Isaiah may have been referring to a son of King Ahaz, possibly to Hezekiah.  Alternatively, since the prophet has two sons with symbolic sons, the name “Immanuel” may be that of the prophet’s own son.  In Is. 8:8, 10, the name refers to the entire people, whose land will be conquered by the Assyrians.

Why did Matthew apply the name “Immanuel” to Jesus?  As far as we know, Jesus was never called by this name.  The angel tells Joseph in his dream:  “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).  In Luke’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel tells Mary to name the child Jesus, but does not give the reason.  Gabriel says: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Lk. 1:31).  The name “Jesus” is the same as “Joshua,” which is a common name found in various forms in the Hebrew Scripture.  It means “savior,” as we read in Sirach 46:1: “Valiant warrior was Joshua, son of Nun, aide to Moses in the prophetic office, Formed to be, as his name implies, the great savior of God’s chosen ones, To punish the enemy and to give to Israel their heritage.”  Joshua, son of Nun, was a great warrior who saved his people from their enemies. Only in the New Testament is the Savior the Son of God who “will save his people from their sins.”

The name “Immanuel,” God with us, may then seem to be unnecessary, since Jesus already has a name.  On the contrary, however, it is a reminder that God’s word is to be kept; we are to trust in God’s presence.  While the name itself does not appear elsewhere, the concept is.  In Psalm 46:8, 12 we read twice: “The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.”  In his being with us, we know the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy, the God who reveals repeatedly, as in Ps. 103:8-10: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve.”

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Women Can Read!

Somewhere I recently read in a reputable source that the Bible forbids women to learn how to read and write.  This is not true.  Nowhere do I find that the Bible sets forth any such prohibition. While not necessarily an indication of literacy, the “woman of vigor” in Proverbs 31 is described as one who conducts her own business, enters into contracts, and enjoys the profits that she herself earns: “She picks out a field and acquires it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength; she exerts her arms with vigor. She enjoys the profit from her dealings; her lamp is never extinguished at night” (16-18). Anna, Tobit’s wife, was also employed: “At that time my wife Anna worked for hire at weaving cloth, doing the kind of work women do. When she delivered the material to her employers, they would pay her a wage” (Tobit 2:11-12). 

Archaeological evidence shows that there were, indeed, educated women who played a prominent role in society. The Elephantine Papyri, which cover a period from about 500-400 BCE, reveal that women played a prominent role in that community.  These documents reveal that women had the right to inherit, hold, and exchange property in their own names.  A woman was also able to borrow money at interest. Then, in the 1960s, Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin led an expedition that uncovered a cache of papyrus scrolls, now known as the Bathata Archives, that included the personal documents of a Jewish woman of the early second century CE.  These included a sale of property to a petition to the governor, a court summons, and a marriage contract

Furthermore, Jewish tradition informs us of a female sage, Beruriah, who lived in the second century CE.  The Talmud records that she studied three hundred laws from three hundred teachers in one day, which was a very remarkable achievement (Pesachim 62b).  Witty and outspoken, she dared to correct other rabbis, quoting Scripture to make her case (Eiruvin 53b): “R. Jose the Galilean was once on a journey when he met Beruriah. ‘By what road’, he asked her, ‘do we go to Lydda?’ — ‘Foolish Galilean,’ she replied: ‘did not the Sages say this: Engage not in much talk with women? You should have asked: By which to Lydda?’”  That is, R. Jose could have used fewer words than he did.

In one famous story, Beruriah corrects her husband, R. Meir, and shows herself to be more compassionate of the two (Berakoth 10a).

There were once some highwaymen in the neighborhood of R. Meir who caused him a great deal of trouble. R. Meir accordingly prayed that they should die. His wife Beruriah said to him: How do you make out [that such a prayer should be permitted]? Because it is written Let hatta’im [sins] cease? Is it written hot’im [sinners]?  It is written hatta’im [sins]!  Further, look at the end of the verse: and let the wicked men be no more. Since the sins will cease, there will be no more wicked men! Rather pray for them that they should repent, and there will be no more wicked. He did pray for them, and they repented.

Jewish society in ancient times was patriarchal and agrarian.  But it was not ruled by the Taliban; gifted women had room to exercise their talents.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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A Matter of Veils

I recently read an article in which the author quoted Fr. Frederick Manns, OFM, of the Franciscan Biblicum Studium in Jerusalem.  In his 1998 article “Every Life in the Time of Jesus,” Fr. Manns wrote: “Women had to veil themselves when going outside, so that no one could recognize their face” (http:// www.christusrex.org /www1/ ofm/ mag/ TSmgenB3.html) .  This statement struck me as very strange, since the bible makes no reference to such custom. I suspect that Fr. Manns based his comment on a much later cultural custom in some Muslim countries. 

In support of Manns’ view, Craig L. Blomberg, was also cited.  I decided to check out this source as well.  I found that, in his book, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville: B& H Publishing Group, 2009), Blomberg has a different opinion.  He writes: “Many women probably draped a shawl over their hair in public, but not the full face veil we often think of” (p. 65).  By using the adverb probably, Blomberg carefully avoids making an absolute statement.

What does the bible say about women wearing veils?  Very little.  Genesis has two references.  Rebecca, travelling with Abraham’s servant, Eliezer, did not wear a veil.  She veiled herself only when she saw Isaac, her bridegroom (Gen. 24:65).  Tamar puts on a veil as a disguise when she seeks justice from Judah (Gen. 38:14).  Evidently she did not usually wear a veil.  A third reference is found in 1 Samuel.  Hannah, praying for a son at the sanctuary in Shiloh, was not wearing a veil: the priest Eli was watching her mouth and, seeing her lips move but not hearing her voice, thought she was drunk (1 Sam. 1:12-14).

Scholars generally conclude that, in biblical times, an unmarried woman did not wear a veil.  A bride veiled herself in the presence of her bridegroom until the wedding took place.  The veil is a symbol of the married women.  It signifies that the bride is set aside for her husband, as sacred objects in the temple were set aside.  While it indicates modesty, in biblical tradition a veil is not worn for the purpose of modesty but rather for the purpose of consecration.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Hebron

The first reading for Christ the King is the account of the anointing of David as king.  We read in 2 Sam. 5:3: “When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the Lord, and they anointed him king of Israel.” This is David’s third anointing as king.

It may come as a surprise that David was actually three times.  The first time he was anointed by the prophet Samuel: “Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” (1 Sam. 16:13).  The second time he was anointed by the men of Judah as king of the house of Judah: “Then the men of Judah came there and anointed David king over the house of Judah” (2 Sam. 2:4).  The third time he was anointed by the elders of Israel as king of Israel.  Thus there is a progression in David’s growing authority and royal majesty.

After David’s kingdom has expanded, he conquers Jerusalem and makes it his capital.  This is an astute political move on David’s part Jerusalem is in the center of his territory, whereas Hebron is further south.  He also centralizes religious worship and the priesthood in Jerusalem. Jerusalem becomes the required destination of pilgrimage for all Hebrew males. Thus David is able to unify Judah and Israel both politically and culturally.

We usually associate David with Jerusalem, which the Hebrew Scriptures consider to be a holy city, as God chose it to be the site of the Temple. Christians consider Jerusalem to be a holy city because it was there that Jesus suffered, died, and rose to new life. But Hebron is also a holy city. Hebron, now under Palestinian control, has always been for Jews a place of settlement, of pilgrimage, or of burial. Hebron is associated with the patriarchs and matriarchs, especially because of the purchase by Abraham of the Cave of Machpelah to serve as a burial place for himself and his heirs.  This holy site is venerated by both Muslims and Jews.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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Angels

My Congregation has a beautiful office for the Feast of St. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels, and All Angels.  I was looking forward to it, and couldn’t help being disappointed when I realized that this year Sunday would take precedence.

Angels appear frequently throughout the Scriptures, too many times to enumerate here.  Considering only the Pentateuch, angels appear at significant moments. Angels are the messengers of God, confirming God’s promises, and they rescue and protect those in difficulty or danger. 

An angel appears to Hagar when she flees from Sarai:

The Lord’s angel found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the road to Shur, and he asked, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress, Sarai.” But the Lord’s angel told her: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority. I will make your descendants so numerous,” added the Lord’s angel, “that they will be too many to count.” (Gen. 16:7-10)

When Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed, two angels appeared to Lot to warn him to flee with his family (Gen. 19:1).  Then, when Lot hesitated, “the men [the angels], because of the Lord’s compassion for him, seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them to safety outside the city.”

An angel of the Lord appeared to Abraham when he, in obedience to the Lord’s command, was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and stopped him from performing this deed:

“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.” (Gen. 22:12)

When the Lord confirmed the covenant, Jacob had a dream: “a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it (Gen. 28:12).  An angel appeared to Jacob when he was to return to the Promised Land, along with his wives and children (Gen. 31:11–13).

God promised Moses to send an angel along when they were to enter Canaan (Ex. 33:2).

The angels protect us.  Thus, we sing Ps. 91 every night:

No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. / For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. / With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Ps. 91-10-12)

 Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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