Friday, October 30, 2009

I've been sick for two solid weeks from this H1N1 FluMist vaccine. On Monday my ears unplugged and I could hear again for the first time in a week. That was very helpful. But my brain still feels groggy. I've been frustrated in my reading because I haven't gotten as many insights as usual. I blame my groggy brain but I'm not giving up. Yet.

Last week, the kids had half days on Tuesday and Thursday. So I skipped the afternoon at Queenship of Mary which was too bad because I had things to say about the pericope, Genesis 12-24. I have a few commentaries for Genesis because I studied it two years ago at the Presbyterian church but I've had to settle on one for the sake of convenience. So I picked Sarna which uses the JPS translation. I received the next volume yesterday. And I appreciate that the JPS isn't beholden to a new testament. So Genesis 15:6 reads, "And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit."

Sarna's note on the verse has this:
Hebrew tsedakah, usually "righteousness," sometimes bears the sense of "merit." The idea is that Abram's act of faith made him worthy of God's reward, which is secured through a covenant. This interpretation is supported by Nehemiah 9:7-8 ... The alternative possibility that Abram regarded "it," - that is, the promise of posterity - as an expression of God's righteousness and grace seems less likely.
The study questions for Genesis 22, which contrasted Abraham's testing with the testing of Adam and Eve in the Garden, prompted a new question in my mind: had Abraham failed God's test, failed to offer Isaac, what would have happened different? Nothing. Whereas, if Adam and Eve had passed God's test, everything would be different. In any event, I missed this session, didn't pose my ideas and questions and realized only later that I could have made up the session in the evening. Maybe I'll do that next week when the kids have a half day for Election Day.

Now, since I usually do the following week's Matthew homework in the hour between morning and afternoon sessions, I got behind because I didn't have that free hour due to the early school pick-up. And I intended to do the work anyway even though I was planning to miss the session because of Tim's field trip to a farm. But I got too tired. And then rain delayed the field trip, so I ended up attending the study session without my Matthew homework, chapter 4, completed. Believe me, I'm as shocked as you. So I mostly kept my mouth shut especially because those typical insights have been so far and few between. But the woman next to me said, I think, that the temptation in the wilderness is nothing in comparison to the suffering on the cross. Maybe she's seen Scorsese's film, but as everyone jumped on her, I couldn't help but take her side and reaffirm her point. "Why do we need this story when we have Calvary?"

Now, I think Jesus is showing his kingship in quoting Deuteronomy at the devil because the king, you know, was supposed to write out the Law when he took the throne. But, of course, Jesus knew the Law for the obvious reason (but I think the close identification gets messy in the Sermon on the Mount). And I hadn't seen the video yet in which Jeff shows the three failures in Exodus of the People of God in the wilderness and how Jesus passes those tests. Matthew's Jesus is saying, "Your ancestors failed in this way, don't be like them." It made good sense at the time but as I look over my notes on it now, it seems superficial and not particularly compelling.

The intriguing thing about Cavins is his affect on the women in the program. They all seem to have a crush on him. And some of them went up to Somerset to see him in person earlier in the month. (I was in Willow Grove that weekend, believing I'd chosen the better part). My small group leader is reading his conversion story. I listened to it at Catholic Answers (The Journey Home). I've warmed up to Cavins over the weeks. He's terribly likable and winsome. I find myself saying, "I'm no fan of those evangelical pastors who turned Catholic, except for ...." and the list grows longer with each individual experience. I do wonder whether Cavins is still a charismatic.

So after that, the afternoon's pericope was the rest of Genesis, 25-50. A huge chunk. And as much as I wanted to read it all plus Sarna's commentary, I found that I had to focus on those chapters addressed by the study questions. I kept telling myself that I studied this all only two years ago and, in fact, the Princeton Alliance study has also focused on Genesis; we begin a close look at Joseph this month.

But I didn't care for the "leading" tone to the questions. Take this one from page 18:
b. In choosing which son of Isaac to bless, God goes against ancient laws that gave the eldest son leadership in the family. Does God choose Jacob because of his own merit? How do you know?
The presumed answer, of course, is based on Genesis 25:23 in which the LORD tells Rebekah that "the older will serve the younger," as well as Romans 9:10-13, our "divinely inspired commentary on the Old Testament" - I've heard that more times lately than I care to - that God chose Jacob in the womb before he'd done anything meritorious. So I shared with the group that it's a difficult thing distinguishing grace from merit. God knows the future and knew how Jacob would turn out. (In fact, the author of Genesis knew how Jacob would turn out). So the prognostication of Genesis 25:23 is ambiguous on motive. The Catechism is also referenced in the study questions and says this [Paragraph 218]:
a single motive for choosing them from among all peoples as his special possession: his sheer gratuitous love. And thanks to the prophets Israel understood that it was again out of love that God never stopped saving them and pardoning their unfaithfulness and sins. (Cf. Deut 4:37; 7:8; 10:15; Isa 43:1-7; Hos 2)
I'm counting on that same divine benevolence myself.

The final question in the lesson, the "application," read like this: "Do circumstances in your life threaten to pull your eyes off of God and away from His promises?" I just rolled my eyes because Catholics don't talk that way. But then I was finishing up the rosary the following day ... "that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ" ... and I got it. Oh, those promises. Right. I'm definitely onboard with that.

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