Continued from Newsletter
The average practicing Jewish person looked to them as the advisor for the law which included adhering to the pureness and holiness code that the Torah set forth. It is from the Pharisees and a small group of other professional interpreters of the Torah that were know as "Teachers of the law", that after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; Rabbinic Judaism came into being as it is today.
Now, let me get to the gist of it here. Earlier I mentioned that God knew his laws would not be able to be followed. He intentionally made it that way so people, especially the authority in charge of explaining the law would realize that one cannot justify themselves to God on their own. They need a Savior. Breaking one law meant that you fell out of favor with God. Holding that as the standard, there has not been a single child of God who was held in his favor or Grace in the entire history of human kind. Not one. Simply keeping them let alone not breaking any was and is simply impossible.
Imagine if the Jewish authority either realized this or admitted it. That is where pride got the better of so many.
The Sadducees and Pharisees did not get along well, but they did co-exist for the sake of power in the division of economic class as an attempt to control the beliefs and behavior of the four different Jewish sects during the first century A.D. Contrary to what is thought by many theological historians today, these two groups did accept and study the oral tradition and prophetic texts that make up the Hebrew Bible past the first five books. However, accepting them as true and seeing them as divinely inspired were two different things.
Both groups considered the books of Moses making up the Law to be the only divinely inspired scripture. However, both the five inspired and originally 12 “non-inspired” books made up the complete canon accepted by the Sadducees, Pharisees, Temple Priests and Judaism as a whole. Except for the Samaritans, who were not liked by Jews but considered themselves Jewish to a certain extent. The 12 were later divided up and multiple writers separated to clarify who was stating what.
Any Sadducee, Pharisee, Temple Priest or even Scribe worth their salt would have been familiar with these so-called non-inspired writings that tell three very important things. The first is the state of the Jewish people prior to Christ. Second is that the Messiah was coming and it was the intentionality of God to save His people; so they should accept the Messiah. Third, that no matter what, they were going to mess it all up and it would become the last and only opportunity for both Jew and Gentile to find salvation.
One such text by a “minor” prophet who was a contemporary to the major and “greatest” of the Prophets, Isaiah, is Micah. In a substantial ways, Micah was just as influential as Isaiah in religious reform in the 8th century B.C. If someone wanted to know where the messiah would come from, it was common knowledge through the authority that He would be born in Bethlehem.
But you, Bethlehem-Ephranthah
Too small to be among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me
One who is to be ruler of Israel;
Whose origin is from of old,
From ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up,
until the time
when she who is too give birth has borne,
And the rest of His brethren
shall return to the children of Israel.
People have always had a tendency to dwell on the past and what is not working, just so they don’t have to accept that change is necessary. The authority was no different. What wasn’t actually working for the sake of Judaism was working for the Pharisees, Sadducees and everyone else making a living off of the Word of God. By making the impossible to keep Laws found in the Torah their focus in communications with the Jewish people, they ill prepared everyone in the House for Christ’s arrival and message. Why did they do this? That’s easy. A Messiah represented an end to the need and income for the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Temple Priests and anyone else who represented old wine.
At the time of the birth of Christ, the Roman’s puppet King Herod in Jerusalem was full of fear over this new born King of the Jews. Word got back to him that the peasants were talking about the birth of the Messiah because priest- astronomers across Judea and far beyond had noticed something going on in the skies that aligned with the foretelling of His near arrival. When Herod sought council from the Jewish authority as to where and when the child would be born he did not have to wait long to receive the unanimous answer of Bethlehem and soon.
The three kings who may have not been kings, but three priest-astronomers five hundred miles east of Bethlehem knew that the time had come for the promise of the Hebrew Bible to be fulfilled. Their meeting with Herod after the first one with the authority in Jerusalem was one of anticipating something wonderful and by the grace of God they realized his true intentions to destroy the Child and ignored his request for information after they found Him.
It is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. – Gospel of Matthew 19:24
For Herod and many others, the fact that God would humble himself through love to go from a throne of endless glory to a cradle in the dirt to provide the opportunity of eternal salvation is something that could not be accepted. But for those who had more faith than pride, it was perfect. The highest ranking members of the Judean authority knowingly put the accumulation of wealth, status and power above their service to God’s will and His people. When we do that, we risk our earthly riches and possessions becoming a really lame consolation prize for not going to Heaven.
Fast forward thirty five years to Jesus’ ministry on earth to bring to the world the new covenant and promise from the Father to be found in His teachings, death and resurrection. By this point no one had a clue or even seemed to remember that the Messiah had been born. It was a case of letting our notions and wants of what should be as opposed to what they are that created memory loss and a different attitude only perpetuated by the continued “same old” work of the Sadducees and Pharisees. It was also the fact that there was no technology for communication what so ever and if people are not reminded of things, no matter how important; they forget.
The Jewish authority would say that no way can this simple carpenter be the Messiah. The Messiah will be a mighty military leader who will ride into Jerusalem on a white stallion and save our people from the Romans and all other threats in the name of the Father most high.
When things had gotten so bad for the religious leaders that they had to either eliminate Jesus or lose their self-directed importance, it took some real scheming to get the initial result they wanted. They had no real power to deal with Him as they wanted, so they needed to convince the Romans that Jesus was a threat to Ceasar. We know how that situation ended up going for them three days later.
Just to clarify one thing before I skip a whole bunch of years to where you and I are today. Many of the Sadducees, Pharisees, Priests and Scribes were able to put enough of their pride aside to accept Christ at the One whom they had been waiting for. It didn’t matter that they would need to change their ways. What mattered to them was accepting what they truly wanted and recognized Him as meaning everything to them. They simply had less foolish pride which resulted in more wisdom than the others who denied Him.
Now, let’s talk about the world today and the state of God’s children. We as the human family are prayerfully in the tail end of a pandemic that basically slowed the whole world down this past year. I remember thinking last spring that it was a great opportunity for everyone in the “developed” world at least, all 4 billion of us to think about what really matters. I say developed world, because that would be the primary force of change, much as it is for better or worse today.
Is it possible that these sisters and brothers of ours who are of all religions, faiths, creeds, political views and whatever else that creates hostility; can accept having less needless material things in order to help those in need and find an appreciation for what they don’t agree with? I do not know.
However, it is possible for any Catholic that wants to be a better Catholic to do so. It is part of our faith and as far as the Catholic faith goes, the ultimate goal is to go to Heaven so it really is a person by person challenge anyways.
In the here and now world our souls currently reside in; there is an overwhelming attraction to the things that faith speaks against. Society tells us to make more money so you can buy more things and live a life style that is more comfortable than others. Beating the Joneses if you will. Always get what you think you deserve before others can get a piece of the pie. Honesty too, that’s a thing of the past. Just listen to almost any commercial to here that claim proven over and over again. This message from the world around us is terrible. It is terrible because it goes against everything Christ tells us we should be.
The answer to the world’s problems and the guide to being the best you can be with no foolish pride was given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. (Mathew 5-7) What He states fits into the belief system of every major religion. Funny enough, it is also simply the way everyone thinks people should act because it is how we want others to act towards us. However, what we think and how we really are tend to be two different things. Most people today do not adhere to the basics of a better world through their acts and life because everything in popular culture says it is not worth it.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21
So as individuals and as Catholics, we can either address our foolish pride or not. What is your treasure? Is it money and possessions you hoard for no greater good, or is it eternal life and happiness in Heaven?
You can give absolutely everything of material up and live like Mother Teresa did and commit your life to helping those most in need all day, every day; or you can hold yourself honest to the fact that you have far more prejudices, ignorance and hate in your heart and mind than you think. Here is how I discovered and remind myself just how full of foolish pride I am.
I decided to spend a day during work and after reflecting upon my thoughts and words every ten minutes or so. I was appalled at the fact almost every though I had was based in foolish pride. Just simply plain ignorance, selfishness and unfounded dislikes of people, situations and other ideals I had no understanding of. If something didn’t fit my agenda, then it didn’t matter or was worthless. I am still guilty of this every day, but it is not quite as despicable.
This approach that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, as being somewhat self-deprecating; is effective in creating fundamental change in your heart and mind. Once you do it a first time, you will be naturally reminded to do it again. When you do, you will begin to see clearer. With a long-term commitment to this exercise; you will truly begin to live the words of Jesus on that mountain and the things the world tells you will matter less as less as you go along.
If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment. Your verdict on others will be the verdict passed on you. The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you. – Matthew 7:1-2