Tag Archives: David Brooks

Why Read the Old Testament?

Some people complain about the selections from the Old Testament we’re reading at weekday Mass these past few weeks. Too long, they say, they don’t tell us anything. They’d rather hear what Jesus is saying and doing.

Why do we read from the Old Testament? Reading from the Old Testament is a lot like reading from the New York Times or the Daily News, or following David Muir on ABC each evening. You’re not going to hear much about Jesus there either. The media gives us the news of the day as it happens and, especially these days, it’s not encouraging.

Not much encouraging news in our Old Testament reading today from the Book of Numbers either. (Numbers 13-14) Giants are out there blocking the way to the promised land. Israel’s scouts face giants as they reconnoiter the world ahead. There’s no way ahead.

Our media tells us the same: giants are blocking our way– North Korea, the Middle East, storms from climate change, political giants who seem to get in the way of a world of justice and peace. And we don’t have answers what to do.

But the Old Testament tells us more than the media. It’s salvation history. More than the story of the Jews, the Old Testament is the story of the human race and all creation on a journey, from the beginning of time to its end. Human sinfulness, tragedies and delays are there, but the story begins and ends in hope. God is there.

That makes the Old Testament stories so different from the stories the media serves up everyday. God is there from the beginning. That’s the way our selection today from the Book of Numbers begins: “The LORD said to Moses [in the desert of Paran,]‘Send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan,
which I am giving the children of Israel.’” And God is there as his people experience the consequences of their foolishness and lack of faith.

The columnist David Brooks in the Times yesterday said he has to think less about Donald Trump or he’s going to go crazy. He needs to think more about the deeper shifts taking place in society, he says.

I wonder if thinking about the deeper shifts is enough to stop you from going crazy these days. We need hope from another source. That’s where the Old Testament and the rest of the scriptures comes in. Some prefer calling it the “First Testament.” It testifies that the first thing to keep in mind about time is that God is there, from beginning to the end. God is our Savior.

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Healing Grace

In Mark’s gospel, after his baptism and gathering disciples, Jesus immediately begins a ministry of healing.  After curing the man in the synagogue convulsed by an unclean spirit,  Jesus goes on to cure Simon’s mother-in-law,  and then the whole town comes to the door of Peter’s house with their sick.

The healing he brings is not just for bodily life on earth; his healing is a sign of the kingdom that is to come, ‘where Christ will raise our mortal bodies and make them like his own in glory.”

Above, all, we look for that healing, that ultimate healing that takes away our fears before death and helps us make our way to the life promised us.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest and political activist, died a few days ago. David Brooks in his column in the New York Times yesterday wrote about the priest’s bravery in face of death.“ Some years ago, Neuhaus had a near death experience that gave him a certain grace before that reality we all must face…
When he wrote about his experience later, his great theme was the way death has a backward influence back onto life: ‘We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already under way.’

“It also made him almost indifferent about when his life would end,” Brooks writes. “People would tell him to fight for life and he would enjoy their attention, but the matter wasn’t really in his hands, and everything was ready anyway.

In his final column for First Things, a magazine he edited, he wrote.
“Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much I hope to do in the interim.”

We are having an Anointing of the Sick today here in our chapel.  May the Lord bring his healing to our house.

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