Prophets’ Memorials

In the last of His imprecations of the Pharisees, the Lord condemns them for building memorials of the ancient prophets.

‘See how learned and pious we are! We frequent these memorials of the divine men of old! They were totally holy, and so are we! Since we have these stone memorials, we can show everyone that we have more religion than the common people.’

Tomb of Zechariah, son of Jehoida, in the Kidron Valley
Tomb of Zechariah, son of Jehoida, in the Kidron Valley
Christ insists that the monuments stand as empty shells. They had been built on earth to honor martyrs who never basked in any earthly glory. The prophets never reveled in their holiness by frequenting little monuments. The prophets languished in cisterns, or faced exile, or death–solely because they preferred the truth to currying favor with the rich and powerful.

I think we can say that the Lord’s point is:

The only real ‘memorial’ to the holy prophets is a conscience as pure and upright as theirs, a heart as honest as theirs, a religion as humble and obedient as theirs.

The ancestors killed the prophets; they did not honor them. The prophets spoke uncomfortable things, which made the rapacious hearts of the half-pagan kings violently angry. Better to snuff out the voice that accuses my unclean conscience. Because I have grown too attached to selfishness to admit the truth and change my life.

In the subsequent passage of the gospel, Jesus weeps for hard-hearted Jerusalem. ‘I would have gathered you to Myself, like a hen gathering her chicks under her wings. But you prefer your petty egotism.’

Christ cursed hypocrisy and shallowness with even more pitiless rancor than the ancient prophets did. But the Lord wept with a gentle and aching heart for the love that could have been, the love that He would have shared with His people, if only they had been willing to let go of their grasping self-righteousness.

Humble honesty about myself will cost me my ego. But, in its place, I will be able to find the joy of communion with God. To defend my delusions of superiority, I would have to kill the prophet, and make up for it by putting a pretty sculpture over his grave. Better just to listen to him, and humble myself before God.

True and False Prophets

Beware false prophets…By their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-16)

A week from Sunday we will have to talk more extensively about this metaphor which the Lord uses over and over again, namely: agricultural production. The truth, union with God, trustworthiness—all are judged according to standard of “fruitfulness”–the bearing of good results, results befitting the divine kingdom.

So we will have to come back to that, the ‘fruitfulness’ analogy. A week from Sunday. For now, let’s focus on this: False prophets do come, who look like sweet little sheep, but actually they raven like wolves.

Passion Caviezel teachingThe history of ancient Israel ran with false prophets. At important turning points, the battle grew especially pitched–the battle between true and false prophets of the Lord.

In both the northern and southern kingdoms, false prophets preached comfort and accommodation, even when the people compromised with paganism and effectively abandoned the religion of Israel.

Elijah and Jeremiah both suffered at the hands of false prophets and their palace intrigues. The false prophets ravened like wolves after prestige, after royal favor, and—above all—they ravened after a false and easy peace in which to bask.

The true prophets, on the other hand, declared: We are not in the right. We have betrayed the Lord. If we don’t repent and turn back to Him, the sword of foreigners will beset us, and we will lose everything.

Maybe things look good now. But that does not mean they are good. We have to love God with all we have. If we do, then, no matter what happens to us, we will still have the most important thing, namely our covenant with Him. But if we coast along on the surface and ignore the corruption that has invaded our souls, we will lose even the surface prosperity that we now have.

By their fruits you will know them. The false prophets preached happy-happy-no-problems. Then the Assyrians came. Then the Babylonians came.

On the other hand, the true prophets preached repentance and reconciliation with God. When the people listened, real peace came. Jonah warned the Ninevites. They listened, and the Lord stayed His wrath. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel gave the exiled Israelites a vision of faithful service to God, a picture of a roadway back to the Promised Land of His love. The people believed and followed.

So the Lord Jesus referred to all this history and more when He drew His distinction between true and false prophets. He was drawing the Sermon on the Mount to a close.

The doctrine of Christ requires a lot of us. But the alternative is to listen to shallow advice from self-serving glamor-seekers. Their advice might make us comfortable for the moment. But it leads to ruin in the long run.

Listening to Christ means short-term sacrifice and long-term glory.

Loving Oneself in Nineveh

Twenty years since Paul Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints got a Grammy nomination. One-hundred fifty since Grant and the Union occupied Nashville, Tennessee. Multiple millennia since Jonah preached in Nineveh…

The people of Nineveh repented. (Luke 11:32)

The people of Nineveh repented. What sins had they committed?

Continue reading “Loving Oneself in Nineveh”

Completing the Prophets’ Picture

The saints who wrote the four holy gospels had an enormous task, namely to present to us the Person of Jesus Christ, the God-man.

The evangelists’ primary literary means for doing this was to recount the ways in which Christ fulfilled all the prophecies that had foretold His coming.

The prophecies express the beautiful vision of salvation. And yet, the picture does not come fully clear in the Old Testament books. Only when they were fulfilled in Christ did the meaning of the prophecies fully emerge.

The evangelists grasped this, and wrote their books in order to complete the Bible, to make the Old Testament make sense by writing the New.

The vision of the prophets included the healing of the blind and deaf, and many other miraculous works which transcend the fallen state of created nature.

Above all, the prophets foresaw the New Covenant as a whole: the state of reconciliation and friendship between sinners and the Creator, Who had previously been justly offended by sin.

This is why the four evangelists narrate the miracles worked by Christ as a series of preludes, leading up to the miracle of His death and resurrection. Faith in the New Covenant made in Christ’s blood is the ultimate miracle. It is the miracle of the restoration of the original friendship between God and man. This friendship, which we have by faith in Christ, is itself the foundation of all the many other gifts of the Creator, like sight and hearing, knowledge and wisdom.

Marmion explains…

Not sure you understand Advent? Blessed Columba will help you:

All the Old Testament is a prolonged Advent, the prayers of which are summed up in this prayer of Isaias:

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just…Let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior!

The idea of this future Redeemer fills all the Ancient Law; all the symbols, all the rites and sacrifices prefigure Him; all desires converge toward Him. The religion of Israel was the expectation of the Messias.

But the greatness of the mystery of the Incarnation and the majesty of the Redeemer demanded that the revelation of Him to the human race should only be made by degrees…

It was by a dispensation, at once full of wisdom and mercy, that God disclosed this ineffable mystery only little by little, by the mouth of the prophets.

When the human race would be sufficiently prepared, the Word, so many times announced, so often promised, would Himself appear here below to instruct us.

(from Christ in His Mysteries)