Monthly Archives: November 2011

November Prayer

Prayers

In Catholic Biblical School we meet often in group session, sharing our thoughts and insights with the same eight people through the year, growing in love and respect for each other. The groups take turns starting each Saturday class with a morning prayer. Last year, Marcie Rankins and Ginger Broussard were in the group leading the prayer of November, All Souls month. Also in the group: Winona Ward, who died that September.

The prayer they used honored all our departed loved ones. Marcie told Ginger how much she loved the prayer and would use it herself this year if November was her group’s month. Instead it was Ginger’s… and we lost Marcie on November 8 to complications from a brain aneurysm.

Here is the prayer Ginger offered on Saturday, November 12, the day of Marcie’s funeral.

November wraps its dampened shroud
‘round nature’s shoulders hunched:
Our souls know well the chill
Of summer’s passing and winter’s drawing near …
 
Bare limbs scratch against gray skies,
and snatch a mourner’s veil
From hearts laid bare in shivering loss,
Alone, exposed in grief …
 
November, Lord: no other month
could better claim the name All Souls
Or set the scene for praying, weeping,
Remembering those before us gone
And marked with signs of faith …
 
So this November morning, Lord,
I offer my beloved: created from your hand,
Claimed by grace and carried
In the everlasting arms of your embrace …
 
I especially offer you my prayer today
For family members and friends who have died
(pause)
 
I offer you from my heart’s depths
The ones I struggle to let go …
 
I offer you a prayer of tears
For those whose absence fills my silent hours …
 
I offer from my hands to yours
The ones whose hands held mine
until you took them home …
 
I offer from a selfish heart
The ones I bruised and hurt:
I pray you heal the wounds I caused,
And for your mercy beg …
 
I offer up a prayer
For those with none to pray for them:
Brothers, sisters never met;
Sisters, brothers mine,
For all are one in you …
 
I offer you my grief, O Lord,
Refresh me in your tender care;
Make deep my faith I’ll see again
All those I’ve lost when,
Gathered in your kingdom’s joy,
Your mercy makes us one again …
 
Beneath November’s canopy
Walk others, Lord, who know as well as I
The depths of this month’s memories
And all the souls for whom we pray:
Keep us gentle with each other, Lord,
And mindful of what binds us in your love …
 
Accept my mourning offering, Lord,
On this November day
And through the night until it dies
And wakes again, a new day born,
The day that you have made …
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8th century BC prophets

OK, I admit it. I’m having trouble distinguishing one prophet from another. So I’ll lift some helpful information out of one of our handouts. Here are similarities and differences among the four major 8th century prophets.

Amos, Hosea, Isaiah of Jerusalem, and Micah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel. They agreed on several important issues:

  • Assyria would invade Israel/Judah soon with disastrous results.
  • This was Yahweh’s choice and action, due to the sins of the kings, priests and leaders of the people.
  • Central sins were idolatry against God and injustice against the people (the poor).
  • Through these events would come restoration and renewal of the covenant.

They differed in their call, their methods, their backgrounds. Amos and Hosea’s primary audience was Israel, the northern kingdom; Isaiah and Micah’s primary audience was Judah, the southern kingdom.

  1. Amos, a shepherd, focused on injustice of the people and the Day of Yahweh, which allows only a small hope for the future.
  2. Hosea, a Levitical farmer, focused on the idolatry and rebellion of the people by reflecting on the hopeful possibilities of reconciling with his adulterous wife and dysfunctional children.
  3. Isaiah, from the elite of Jerusalem, focused on the monarchy and temple as a sign of God’s continuing desire to be Emmanuel despite the failures of the people.
  4. Micah, town elder, focused on the importance of the land that God gave his people as a pledge of future fidelity.

Missing Marcie

Today and tomorrow we bid farewell to our friend and classmate Marcie Rankins; the services are at St. Jude’s in Bossier, which she served so well as Director of Religious Education. Our sadness at her sudden death is lightened by the certainty that she’s welcomed heartily to  the communion of saints. May her family take comfort in God’s loving embrace.

We shall miss Marcie’s wisdom and insights, especially in group discussion. Don’t you know she’s getting some profound questions answered! Send some of your newfound wisdom our way, Marcie, and pray for us …

Our instructors Jim McGill and Gene Giuliano join us in paying tribute.

“We honor Marcie by recalling her steady determination, her wry intelligence and her distinctively gentle way of being a friend, a co-worker and a truly good person. May she rest in peace.”~ Jim McGill

“My prayer is that strength can be found in each other and of course in the One from whom all love and strength comes. I join with you in mourning, in grieving, and in joyful hope and confidence in the happiness that is Marcie’s.”~ Gene Giuliano

Here is a link to her obituary in The Shreveport Times:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/shreveporttimes/obituary.aspx?n=marcie-rankins&pid=154561363

More familiar words of the prophet

Isaiah's Lips Anointed with Fire

Isaiah's lips anointed with fire

Other passages of Isaiah ring familiar to me as a longtime lector. I know the next time I read any of them, they will spring to new life. (boldface mine)

 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”  8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me! (6:1-8)

1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”  5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness  and streams in the desert.  (35:1-6)

Readings from the Book of Isaiah

As I point out elsewhere, Catholics are far more familiar with the Scriptures than we realize.

The Prophet IsaiahSo much of the seasonal liturgies as well as the three-year cycle of readings is drawn directly from the Old Testament and the New Testament. In fact, more than forty passages from Isaiah are quoted or alluded to in more than fifty passages of the New Testament (LeClerc, Introduction to the Prophets, 186).

We are soon to begin a new liturgical year, and Advent-Christmas readings include beloved passages of Isaiah:

The nations come to Zion (2:2-4)

2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.  3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

 A virgin shall conceive (7:10-14)

10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”  12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”  13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

 Unto us a child is born (9:1-6)

 1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—  2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The peaceable kingdom (11:1-10)

 1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. 6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Forty years a prophet

Isaiah

Of all the major prophets, perhaps Isaiah of Jerusalem (First Isaiah) best exemplifies how prophets are rooted in real time with real issues. His prophetic career lasted 40 years through several kings of Judah (Jotham, the weak Ahaz, and the reformer Hezekiah); through several entangling alliances (Syria and Israel against Assyria; Judah as a tributary vassal of Assyria; Judah and Egypt against Assyria); several invasions, sieges, and battles.

The key historical events:
• Syro-Ephraimic War (734-732 BC)
• Fall of Israel (northern kingdom) to Assyria (722/721 BC)
• Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (701 BC)

First Isaiah strikes me as an urban sophisticate. He was an educated man from an upper class family, an advisor to the king. Scholars speculate he may have been a physician, a member of the court, or a priest or temple official. Isaiah was married to a prophetess and had two children. His call to prophecy came while at prayer in the temple. While earlier prophets had no special regard for Jerusalem, Isaiah believed Yahweh chose David’s city as the place to dwell among his people.

He was familiar with international politics but renounced all political intrigue and advised neutrality. Trust in Yahweh’s help and protection was the correct policy. At one point he walked naked in Jerusalem to stir opposition to a rebellion against Assyria.

Isaiah viewed the eastern superpower of Assyria as an agent of God’s judgment. The people of Judah had incurred God’s wrath for their sins of pride, social injustice and idolatry. Judah would be destroyed and purged, but the punishment would be redemptive. From the remnant that survived, a new Jerusalem would emerge, a repentant and cleansed people led by a just and wise ruler. The covenant was a source of hope, and the Davidic dynasty would endure.

Other major themes:
• Empty worship
• Holiness of God
• Infidelity and social injustice
• Trust in the Lord

Jewish legend has it that Isaiah was executed by order of King Manasseh, sawn in two while in a cedar tree.

The three Isaiahs

Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scroll (Isa 5...

Scroll of Isaiah

So let’s get this straight. There are three, not one, prophet collections named Isaiah, and all are recorded in the single Old Testament book of the same name.

First Isaiah, or Isaiah of Jerusalem, was a contemporary of Amos, Hosea and Micah. His career spanned four decades, during which he founded a school of prophecy. “The record is to be folded and the sealed instruction kept among my disciples.” (Isaiah 8:16). His words were valued as living texts, updated and re-interpreted in the wake of later events, chiefly the Babylonian Exile. Scholars today believe less than half of the actual words attributed to First Isaiah were his; the rest were added by anonymous scribes.

Second Isaiah essentially was written after the exile to Babylon and predicts the restoration of Jerusalem. Third Isaiah dates from the period after exile ends. They inherited the spirit of Isaiah of Jerusalem and continued his work.

Here’s the outline derived from critical scholarship:
Chapters 1-39: First Isaiah/Isaiah of Jerusalem, 8th century BC.
Chapters 40-55: Second Isaiah/Isaiah of Babylon, 6th century BC.
Chapters 56-66: Third Isaiah/Isaiah of the restored Jerusalem, 6th century BC.

The critical approach to the Bible, says John J. Collins (“Isaiah,” The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 411), enriches our understanding of Scriptures. It shows how the word of God is rooted in and speaks to concrete historical situations. “The Bible is not a book of dogmatic propositions to be learned and believed, but a moving illustration of the faith of a people in ever-changing circumstances.”