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November 27, 1987     The Message
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November 27, 1987 Commentary. The Message- for Catholics of Southwestern indiana I I II Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD DILGER ......... ..... Final retUrn of Jesus: ...... can the Scriptures be mistaken? Gospel Commentary for Sunday, Nov. 29, 1987 Mark 13:33-37 -- First Sunday of Advent For the past three Sundays the Gospel has been concerned with the end times. We might wish that the people who chose the readings for our lectionary would have been more imaginative and given us greater variety. But not so. Once more we have to deal with the same theme. This time it is taken from Mark 13, sometimes called "The Little Apocalypse" because of its similarity in language and style to parts of our Book of Revelation. Mark places this chapter immediately before the Passion of Jesus. This is significant because many thought that the death and resurrec- tion were an immediate prelude to the end of the world and the Return of Jesus. That Return they called the "Parousia." Mark 13:24-27 vividly describes the Parousia. Jesus was to return soon, even before the end of the generation living at the time when Mark 13 was written. Thus we have no resurrection ap- pearances in Mark as we do in the other three gospels. The angel at the tomb tells the women to report to the disciples that they would see Jesus in Galilee. It is possible that Mark considered that meeting in Galilee to be the Parousia when Jesus would appear no longer as the suffering Son of Man of the gospel account and the Suffering Ser- vant of Second Isaiah but rather the triumphant Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14 who receives "dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him." Besides leading into the Passion of Jesus what is the further context of today's reading? The chapter begins with a prediction of the destruction of the Temple. Whether Mark actually predicted it or wrote during and after the destruction is disputed. The destruction was for him one of the signs of the end. There would also be natural catastrophes {an easy prediction since they happen all the time), widespread persecution of Christians even by their own families, plus hardships {a theological Great Depression?) which could be en- dured only because God shortened the duration of those times for the sake of the Chosen. Mark goes on to say that even after all these indications, the time of the Parousia is so unknown that no one knows -- "not even the angels .... nor the Son, but only the Father." All the Christian can do is "Take heedl Watch!" With such literature and preaching before them, early Christians anxiously looked to the sky for a Coming which did not come nor has it come almost two thousand years later. Is it any wonder that some stopped working and became despon- dent {II Thess. 2:10-13) while others scoffed because it was obvious that the Parousia had not occurred {II Peter 3:3-9)? Paul himself, at least in his earliest writings, believed that is would happen in his lifetime, the Great Rapture when the dead would rise at the sound of the trumpet and they and the Christians still living would rise up together into the air to meet the Christ. Were they deceived? More basically, are the Scriptures in error? Each one of the New Testament authors who had to deal with the problem of the delay of the Parousia came up with a different answer. They were theologians and this is what theologians do -- to try and solve the problems that arise when faith and experience seem to clash. They believed that the end would come but their experience told them it wasn't happening. Luke alone depicts an ascension of Jesus and a coming of the Holy Spirit -- Pentecost. Then he adds a whole second volume {Acts of Apostles) to his gospel describing the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian mission. Matthew does not have an ascension but Jesus pro- mises to remain with the disciples until the end while they are sent out to convert the Gentiles. The author of II Peter explains the delay of the Parousia as God's patience allowing time to repent. And so on. The question: Can the Scriptures be in error? The answer: NO, but the people who wrote them can. It is true that God is the author of the Scrip- tures but it is also true that they have human authors whose humanity with all its defects, in- cluding limited knowledge, is left intact. If Jesus 5 said that "not even the Son knows" why expect more from the New Testament authors? They wrote as other authors and editors write, with limited knowledge and with the language and concepts of their time and circumstances. What they expressed in these apocalyptic writings, such as Mark 13, was the popular belief of the time concerning the end and was not a dictation from God. Popular belief does not always correspond with reality. To be kept in mind are the words of Vatican II as the principle by which to judge statements of Scripture which may appear erroneous: "We must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully and WITHOUT ERROR, teach THAT TRUTH which God, FOR THE SAKE OF OUR SALVATION, wished to see put into the sacred Scriptures." That truth Which is "for the sake of our salvation" cannot be in error, but the language, ideas, and concepts which the human authors used can be. Thus we must look not only at the words but rather go behind those words to find the truths God wished to be put there for the sake of our salvation. For the Christian of all times the truth revealed here is that there will be a final resurrection and a judgment but when or how these are to take place is totally unknown. The theologians who wrote our sacred books, though inspired, did not know the when or how anymore than we do. Since the biblical authors did not agree on this subject, neither do we have to agree. We keep in mind the words of Paul to the Romans {8:28} that we eagerly await the redemption of our bodies but we are saved by our trust in God and that kind of trust is not a trust in what is seen {or even thought to be seen), but in the unseen. Thus no description of the end times is adequate, not even the ones we read in the New Testament. Nevertheless, we join in the ancient Christian cry of longing for the presence of Jesus still preserved for us in the Aramaic language used at the time of Jesus: "MARANA! THA .... Our Lord. Come." (I Cor. 16:22) Other readings for Nov. 29: Isaiah 63:16.19, 64:2-7; I Corinth. 1:3-9. I "*7 Vatican Letter Italian religious pu 00J'ications and eyes 'from above' By JOHN THAVIS NC News Service ROME {NC) -- In Italy, editors of religious publications sometimes have the feeling that they are being closely watched "dall'alto" -- a common clerical phrase that translates as "from above," but which really means "the Vatican" and its top officials. On darker days, editors -- many of them priests -- im- agine their articles and books being scrutinized at Vatican of- fices for potential political repercussions, then being pass- ed discreetly from Monsignor to His Eminence, who may follow up with a subtle phone call to II [I the superiors of the religious Today, scanning the table of ference. He said he was fired order or local bishop, contents is an eyebrow-raising because of pressure brought by Such dealings between experience for Vatican officials Cardinal Jozef Tomko, head of "dall'alto" and a magazine's who deal in diplomacy: articles the Congregation for the editorial office are rare, editors focus on Italian arms deals in Evangelization of Peoples, and say, and the lid is almost the Third World, food aid ex- officials of the Vatican always kept on them. But ploitationinEritrea, corruption Secretariat of State. recently, a few Italian editors in Uganda, religious repression A Comboni official, Father spoke openly of their run-ins in Burundi ... all sensitive Neno Contran, confirmed the with the Vatican. issues. Vatican complaints, saying Leading the way was LastApril, after the magazine some African governments had Nigrizia, a 105-year-old attacked Italy's foreignaid pro- been upset with the articles. magazine on Africa published gram as exploitative, and But he said Father Zanotelli's by the Comboni Missionary branded then-Italian Defense departure had been foreseen Fathers of Verona, Italy. Thirty Minister Giovanni Spadolini as anyway. years ago, readers could count a "traveling salesman of ar- Cardinal Tomko and other on Nigrizia for non- maments," complaints arrived Vatican officials have declined controversial profiles of mis- "dell'alto." comment onthe matter. sionary priests, or features on Shortly afterward, Father homemade nativity scenes in Alessandro Zanotelli, the WHAT HAPPENED next? Sudan. magazine's editor, was replac- Nigrizia passed an uneventful ed by Comboni superiors -- but summer. According to another he did not go quietly, editor of the magazine, Father SENIORS You unll receive a BIG welcome.at Oak Tree Village * 1 Bedroom $150 month/SELECTED APTS. $99 MO. NEED A RIDE? CALL US AND WE WILL ARRANGE IT WE CARE ABOUT OUR SENIORS sl0 N. Rot,erwood 477-5574 Instead, the 4g-year-old mis- Carmine Curci, Nigrizia was sionary called a press con- asked to stay away from con- ii KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS. I I 811 MAIN STREET JASPER, IN 47546 FRIDAY NIGHT SOUP AND SALAD BAR $3.75 COMPLETE MENU AVAILABLE ALL YOU CAN EAT FISH SPECIAL ALSO SAT. NIGHT SPECIALS 5-10 P.M. EST 3.50 5-10 P.M. EST FOR RESERVATIONS AND INFORMATION, CALL (8 ! 2) 482.4292 DOROTHY KREILEIN MANAGER troversy and to stop writing about missionary "hot spots" -- Chad, Burundi, Ethiopia and others. The magazine com- plied, he said. But in October, when Vatican officials opened their copies of Nigrizia, their eebrows went up again. There were hard- hitting articles criticiz:'ng policies in Burundi and Ethiopia, a condemnation of the war in Mozambique, an expose on the Italian arms industry and a piece on repression in South Africa. "We started again, because these situations deserve to be denounced," Father Curci said in an interview. But he added that Nigrizia's disagreement with the Vatican runs deeper than concern over particular diplomatic issues. "Our ideas are very different from the {evangelization) con- gregation's," he said. Such ideas include support for "African theology" and a coun- cil for African churches, he said. Father Curci said Italian arms sales to Africa are of serious concern for Comboni priests. See VATICAN page 13