Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices and from Old Testament Confraternity Edition and New Testament Confraternity Edition of the Saint Joseph New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
THE BIBLE: THE BOOKS OF HAGGAI THROUGH MACHABEES
AGGAI or HAGGAI
Post-exilic prophecy begins with Aggai or Haggai, who received the word of the Lord in the second year of Darius (520 B.C.). The Jews who returned from the Exile in Babylonia had encountered formidable obstacles in their efforts to re-establish Jewish life in Juda. The Samaritans had succeeded in blocking the rebuilding of the Temple; but after Darius acceded to the throne (522), permission was given to resume the work. At this critical moment, when defeatism and a certain lethargy had overtaken his repatriated countrymen, Aggai came forward with his exhortations to them to complete the great task. The first oracle, an appeal to the Jews, is contained in Chapter 1. To this appeal Aggai added a short oracle of encouragement (2: 1-9) for the sake of those who gloomily contrasted the former magnificence of Solomon's Temple with the Second Temple: the Lord would be present in this new abode, and its glory, enhanced by the offerings of the Gentiles, would surpass the ancient splendor.
The prophecy may be divided into five oracles:
- The call to rebuild the Temple. The economic distress so apparent in Juda is due to the Jews' neglect of the Lord while they provide for their own needs (1: 1-15).
- The future glory of the new Temple, surpassing that of the old (2: 1-9).
- Unworthiness of a people, who may be the Samaritans, to offer sacrifice at the newly restored altar. This oracle is cast in the literary form of a torah, an instruction given the people by a priest (2: 10-14).
- A promise of immediate blessings, which follows upon the undertaking (chapter 1) to rebuild the Temple (2: 15-19).
- A pledge to Zorobabel, descendant of David, respository of the Messianic hopes (2: 20-23).
ZACHARIA or ZECHARIAH
Zacharia's initial prophecy is dated to 520 B.C., the same year as that in which Aggai received the prophetic call. The first eight chapters of the Book of Zacharia contain oracles which certainly belong to him while the last six (sometimes called "Deutero-Zacharia") represent the work of one or more unknown authors. In the prophecies proper to Zacharia, eight symbolic visions are recorded, all meant to promote the work of rebuilding the Temple and to encourage the returned exiles, especially their leaders Joshua and Zorobabel. In the final chapter of this first division Zacharia portrays the Messianic future under the figure of a prosperous land to which the nations come in pilgrimage, eager to follow the God of Israel.
The second part of Zacharia is divided into two sections, each with its own introductory title. The first (9-11) consists of oracles whose historical background, date and authorship are extremely difficult to determine. With 9: 9 begins the Messianic vision of the coming of the Prince of Peace. The verses describing the triumphant appearance of the humble king are taken up by the four Evangelists to describe the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Chapter 12 is introduced by an oracle proclaiming the victory of God's people over the heathen. The prophecy closes by describing, in apocalyptic imagery, the final assault of the enemy on Jerusalem, after which the Messianic age begins.
MALACHIA or MALACHI
This work was composed by an anonymous writer shortly before Nehemiah's arrival in Jerusalem (445 B.C.). Because of the sharp reproaches he was leveling against the priests and rulers of the people, the author probably wished to conceal his identity. To do this he made a proper name out of the Hebrew expression for "My Messenger" (Malachi), which occurs in 1: 1 and 3: 1. The historical value of the prophecy is considerable in that it gives us a picture of life in the Jewish community returned from Babylon, between the period of Aggai and the reform measures of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is likely that the author's trenchant criticism of abuses and religious indifference in the community prepared the way fosr these necessary reforms.
The chosen people had made a sorry return for Divine Love. The priests, who should have been leaders, had dishonored God by their blemished sacrifices. In his first chapter, the writer foresees the time when all nations will offer a pure oblation (1: 11) - a prophecy whose fulfillment the Church sees in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The author then turns from priests to people, denouncing their marriages with pagans and their callous repudiation of Israelite wives. Imbued with the rationalist and critical spirit of the times, many had wearied God with the questions, "Where is the God of justice?" To this question the prophet replies that the Day of the Lord is coming. But first the forerunner must come, who will prepare the soil for repentance and true worship. The Gospel writers point to John the Baptist as the forerunner ushering in the Messianic age, the true Day of the Lord. When the ground is prepared God will appear, measuring out rewards and punishments and purifying the nation in the furnace of judgment. He will create a new order in which the ultimate triumph of good is inevitable.
1 and 2 MACHABEES
The Books of Machabees are so called because they contain the history of the people of God under the command of Judas Machabeus and his brethren. The title Macabeus, from the Hebrew word meaning "Hammer," was given to Judas because of his daring and bravery in battle against the oppressors of the Jews. The two Books of Machabees treat of the persecution of the Jews beginning with the reign of Antiochus IV of Syria (175 B.C.) to the death of the High Priest Simon in 125 B.C. The First Book of Machabees embraces the period between 175 and 135 B.C. The original Hebrew text of the First Book of Machabees has been lost. The book has come down to us in the Greek Septuagint Version, the Bible of the primitive Christian Church. Although both the Jews and Protestants do not regard these books as Sacred Scripture, they have always been so regarded by the Church who has authoritatively and infallibly declared that they belong to the canon of inspired and sacred writings.
The Second Book of Machabees is not a continuation of the history contained in the first Book. It relates many of the same facts more at large, and adds other remarkable particulars, omitted in the first Book, concerning the state of the Jews both before and during the persecution of Antiochus. The author, who is not the same as that of the first Book, has given (as we learn from Chapter 2: 20, etc.) a short abstract of what Jason of Cyrene had written in in the five volumes concerning Judas and his brethren. He wrote in Greek, and begins with two letters sent by the Jews of Jerusalem to their brethren in Egypt.
With the Second Book of Machabees ends the Old Covenant for little did the people realize they were just over a century away from the promised Messiah though they had been waiting 4,000 years for His coming. Little did most realize the manner of His coming as we celebrate the 2000th anniversary of His Birth this weekend, a Child born in a lonely manger Who would change the world forever!
Monday, January 3, 2000: The Bible: The New Testament - Matthew and Mark