It's Monday Madness with a two-for-one. For those following along at home, Day 16's readings are:
So, let's sum up day 15 and 16...
Chapter 21 gives us the birth of Isaac and the ultimate exile of Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah becomes jealous and demands that Hagar be sent away, and naturally Abraham is distressed, for that would mean the loss of Ishmael as well. But God promises Abraham that Hagar and Ishmael will be cared for, and tells him to listen to his wife, so Abraham sends her away. God rescues Hagar and Ishmael when they run out of water, and they settle in the wilderness of Paran, and Ishmael grows up and takes a wife from Egypt. It is important to note that Ishmael has been circumcised, and so he is part of the covenant with God. We also have a covenant between Abraham and Abimelech regarding a well. There is clearly some symbolism behind the setting apart of the seven ewes, but I'm not entirely sure what that is.
Chapter 22 gives us Abraham's test. This is full of typology which prefigures the crucifixion of Christ. Abraham lays the wood on Issac, prefiguring the carrying of the cross. Abraham says "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering", prefiguring his sending Christ to earth as an offering for our sins. And after Isaac is saved, we the angel says "for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." As such, God does not withhold His only son from us...
Then with Chapter 23, we have the death of Sarah at age 127, and her burial in the cave of Machpelah, which Abraham buys from Ephron despite Ephron's saying that he needs not buy it to bury her there...But Abraham buys it all the same. I am curious to see if this place comes up again...
Psalms 15 and 16
Psalm 15 is some lovely poetry regarding those who are upright and how they are to act. This is another one that I think I would like to put on a plaque and hang by my front door, to remind me that "He who does these things shall never be moved."
Psalm 16 is also lovely. It is nice to have a break from "doom and gloom" psalms, or those which wish so much calamity against enemies or laments our tough place in the world, but simply rest in God as refuge.
Matthew 9:18 - 10:23
Important highlights include the raising from the dead of a little girl, the giving of sight to two blind men, and the expulsion of a demon from a dumb man (which enabled him to speak). He is laughed at once, and accused of being in cahoots with the prince of demons once. He had compassion for these crowds who flocked to him like sheep without a shepherd...it makes sense that they would flock to him...
In this day and age, though, we can't help but think of how people still flock to influential figures...anyone who claims to have answers or can entertain draws a following...people WANT a shepherd...it seems to be in our nature. It is up to us to choose the right ones, though.
Then Jesus begins to instruct his disciples. We get a list of the twelve, and Jesus gives them instructions on evangelization and speaking, telling them to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. He then gives them some rough news...they aren't going to be liked, but will be hated by all "for my name's sake."
We endure some of this today, and I think it will likely get worse in our lifetime, in this country, at least.
We have to be attentive not just to what the words say when reading scripture, but what the human authors' intention, which reflects what God wanted to reveal by their words. Therefore, we must read scripture in context (historical, literary, modal, etc.) as well as in unity with the rest of scripture. It is a living and active word, of course, so we pray to the Holy Spirit to guide us in interpreting, but in cases of dispute, we look to the tradition of the Church.
This is an important point. If we do not look to an authority in cases of dispute, then we wind up with multiple interpretations, with all claiming the Holy Spirit as their source. As Steve Ray points out "Either someone is wrong, or the Holy Spirit is confused..." The latter being impossible, we have to have something to "test all things" against...that something is the Tradition of the church. It stands to reason, especially, that those who were closer in time to the writing of the scriptures would have a better idea of what was meant by certain things. This is one of the reasons why we, as Catholics, look to the early Christians for guidance. For they were taught by those who wrote the scriptures...it was for them that the new testament was originally written and they who preserved it and passed it down. If they misinterpreted it, then we are all in very big trouble. We are far more likely to misinterpret than they were, since they were reading in their original language, living in the historical context, and receiving instruction and clarification in real time.
We understand that scripture can be read in a literal sense as well as a spiritual sense, which consists of a allegorical sense, moral sense, and anagogical sense.
Discussing the Canon of Scripture, we have a lot of disagreements with our separated brethren with regard to the Old Testament. For time's sake, I'm not going into the whole history, but if you want to know more, I recommend this article as a starting point: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0009sbs.asp
We must always read the new testament being mindful of the old, and the old testament being mindful of the new. "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New."