Outline of Post on the Scripture Session held on 12/22/13
- Previous Week’s [12/15/13] Review – Did Not Post
- Background to today’s Readings
- Gen. 34: 30 – 31
- Gen. 35: 01 – 29
Previous Week’s [12/15/13/ Review – Did Not Post
The holidays are over for the most part. Both my computer and my car died but they mattered little because family and friends gathered to celebrate God with us, Immanuel, the Incarnation. Nothing can ever be the same.
I’ll try to catch up from a nearly three week lag. On Sunday the 15th we ended up discussing some very big concepts, history and truth. Of course, whole books, years of study would not be sufficient to get our heads around these types of concepts.
I wanted nonetheless to focus on a few things that matter.
- Starting with beliefs I would remind us all that as Catholics what has to be believed is remarkably small. I would suggest starting with the Apostles Creed.
- There is a real difference between believing and understanding. We believe a lot of very important things but certainly don’t understand them well. This is a fact not only in matters of religion but in most of our life.
- A truism from the medieval period [13th c.] is that truth is in our minds. This quote from Fr. Bernard Lonergan SJ adds an important point to the truth that is in our minds. “… truth is contextual. The meaning of statements depends upon the context. But it makes a vast difference whether that context is conceived as a unique and fixed set of necessary and immutable truths or as an ongoing process that develops historically, that contains in living unity knowledge and belief, certainties and probabilities.” Early Works on Theological Method 1, CWL. P. 470 – 471.
For too long we have placed the beliefs in our mind within a set of “unique and fixed set of necessary and immutable truths.” We then deduce equally fixed and immutable truths. And in the process overlook the fact of development.
The truths we believe are true in a context and the contexts change. Change is inevitable and as such change is ambiguous. Some change is good, some bad. And we don’t all agree on which are the good changes and which are the bad. Certainly the crucifixion of Jesus was viewed as a good for the powers that wanted him out of the way. Certainly it was a devastating bad for his followers. What could this mean, our leader crucified. God our Father responded by converting this concrete bad into an ultimate good, the Resurrection. That is the very truth of our existence, if you believe. Where is that belief, it’s in your mind. It is also true in an ever changing context.
Background to today’s Reading: Gen. 34: 30 – 31.
These last two verses conclude the passage headed as “The Rape of Dinah.” Here Jacob is confronted by what his sons have done. He was not involved yet sees himself as possibly suffering the consequences of their behavior. The sons’ justify their behavior but their words lacks any apparent basis in fact in the story.
Reading: Gen. 34: 30 – 31 http://usccb.org/bible/genesis/34.
It might be helpful to turn to the list of the Pope’s questions, if you would choose to read this passage on your own. Asking one or more of those questions is work, but it is also rewarding. For your review here are his questions:
- What does this text say to me?
- What is it about my life that you want to change by this text?
- What troubles me about this text?
- Why am I not interested in this? Or perhaps:
- What do I find pleasant in this text?
- What is it about this word that moves me?
- What attracts me?
- Why does it attract me?”
We were able to easily identify the characters, Jacob, Simeon, and Levi. Dinah is mentioned as Simeon’s and Levi’s sister. All the other brothers are not mentioned at all. Most critically God is no mentioned in the whole of this passage.
Tim’s assessment of Jacob was that he was true to form; concerned about himself, not forthright. Ken reacted by observing that we tend to pigeon whole people; project a certain personality on them. He pointed out that Jacob didn’t want nor seek revenge. It was his sons who did so. He thought too that as a leader he would be held accountable for what his sons did. Annette thought as well that as their leader Jacob would be held accountable for what the sons had done. Faryl felt that both Tim and Ken had something true to offer in the conversation. Jacob has a character that she agrees with Tim’s description of but also feels that Ken’s points are true too. His character is multi-dimensional.
I wondered what was the significance of the son’s response. It took a while for the group to recognize the words the two brothers used to described what had happened to Dinah. She had been treated as a “prostitute.” Roseann though that the word “prostitute” really didn’t applied in this case. Without noticing the change in words though neither the question nor the possible answers could come forward. Focusing on the actual words is what Pope Francis meant by his word, the literal.
Roseann suggested too that the use of this term by her brothers might be an expression of their disapproval of the very idea of intermarriage between the two peoples.
I thought that there was a further question that would be worth reflecting on. What do we think God is revealing in this passage? Ken felt that it was a clear example of how violence breeds more violence. Roseann believed as well that it is our human nature to retaliate. Faryl was quick to point that despite the awful behavior, God’s promise is still at work, coming into effect.
I raised a final question, what difference did Jesus make, if after three thousand years we are continuing to do pretty the same thing. Kai made a number of very meaningful observations. He agreed that this story has been repeated in different settings over human history. It seems to be our human nature which is further aggravated by the absence of God. But the most telling thing is how they used their religious symbols as a tool to commit these atrocities. He concluded his remarks by reflecting that Jesus has made us more aware of what is going on.
I tended to agree with Kai but felt that besides the inner awareness that Jesus has brought to us there was as well an “objective” change in the human world. Jesus’ refusal to repay violence with more violence has changed something fundamental in the human world. His approach to evil has reemerged over time in the lives of others and each time we are stirred by that person’s life. The death of Nelson Mandela brought that to light just recently.
Ken thought that we feel some need to defend our honor, our religion. He then mentioned, almost in passing, that there have been a number of posts on the internet and in the newspapers in opposition to Pope Francis. The posts express the feeling that the Pope should be a more forceful leader, defend the honor of the church, make the moral judgments that our church believes is true. Rosemarie thought that these persons didn’t really understand the Pope.
I have the opinion that the authors of these statements understand the Pope very well, they simply don’t agree with him.
We moved on to the next passage. More on that later.
You are invited to respond to these or other questions that might arise within you as you read this passage. Your comments, observations, questions are welcomed. See “comment” link below