Sunday, July 27, 2014

Father Callan's Commentary on Second Corinthians 1:1-11

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

THE APOSTOLIC GREETING

A Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-2~As in the previous letter so here, St. Paul begins by an assertion of his Apostolic authority and divine commission. Timothy, his faithful companion and fellow-laborer in preaching the Gospel (1 Cor 16:10; Rom 16:21), is associated in the writing of this Epistle because, since the Apostle is going to speak much of himself and defend his life and actions against his adversaries, he could have no better witness than Timothy, and no one who was more highly esteemed by the Corinthians. Here too, all the faithful, not only of Corinth, but of the whole Roman Province of Achaia, are addressed. 

2 Cor 1:1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother: to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints that are in all Achaia: 

Paul, an apostle, etc. See on Rom 1:1. Here is what Fr. Callan wrote in his comments on Rom 1:1~Paul. The Apostle probably assumed this name for the first time in Cyprus when he converted the Proconsul Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12), perhaps, as St. Jerome says (in Philem.), in honor of his victory in making so great a convert. St. Thomas and others, however, think he was called both Paul and Saul from his infancy; the latter being his Jewish, and the former his Latin name. As Tarsus, the Apostle’s birth place, was under the Roman Empire, it seems not improbable that he should have been given a Latin, as well as a Jewish name, from the beginning. It seems unlikely (pace St Jerome) that St Paul would have been so ostentatious as to “honor his victory in making so great a convert” as to adopt the name Paulus from the Proconsul Sergius Paulus Gallio. 

Of Jesus Christ (Vulg., Jesu Christi) is according toA D G K; whereas B M P read, “Of Christ Jesus.” 

Our brother. Literally, “The brother,” i.e., not only a fellow-Christian, but a co-laborer in preaching the Gospel. In five other Epistles (Philip., Col., 1 and 2 Thess. and Philem.) Timothy is similarly associated with St. Paul. 

With all the saints, etc., i.e., this letter is addressed to Corinth, and also to all the other Christian communities of Achaia. Unlike Galatians, however, this was not a circular Epistle. It embraced the outlying Churches of Achaia only so far as they shared the disorders and opinions of the central Church at Corinth. 

Achaia was a distinct Roman Province including the Peloponnesus and north Greece as far as Macedonia. Corinth was its capital. 

2 Cor 1:2. Grace unto you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 

See on Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3. Concerning grace and peace Fr. Callan wrote this on Rom 1:7~Grace . . . peace, etc. This form of well-wishing, which occurs in nearly all the Epistles of St. Paul, is found nowhere before the Apostle, and therefore seems to have been his own creation (Lagrange). Grace, in its proper sense, is a special gift of God by which one is made holy and agreeable in God’s sight, and is rendered a participant of the divine nature, a brother of Christ, and heir to the glory of the Father in heaven. Peace with God insures interior tranquility of mind and soul, and is one of the most precious effects of grace. St. Paul here speaks of these eminent gifts as coming from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, thus placing the latter on a level with the former, but not identifying the two as persons. 

At 1 Cor 1:3 he wrote~Cf. 1 Thess 1:1; 3:11, where the Father and the Son stand together as subjects of a verb in the singular, showing the perfect unity of their nature.

THANKSGIVING FOR RECENT BENEFITS

A Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11~The Apostle has lately passed through dire perils, for deliverance from which he now thanks God, especially since his trials and his safe escape from them have been ordained to the ultimate good and comfort of his dear ones in the faith. It was by their prayers that he was assisted in time of danger, and he trusts to their devout cooperation for deliverance from similar circumstances in the future. 

2 Cor 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.

The Apostle now thanks God the Father for the mercy and comfort which he, Timothy, and perhaps other fellow-laborers (verse 19) have experienced in their trials and toils.
The God and Father ( ο θεος και πατηρ). The one article for the two names shows that they both refer to the one Divine Person. The Father is called the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as the Saviour Himself said: “I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God” (John 20:17). 

The Father of mercies, etc., i.e., the merciful Father who is the source of all consolation (Eph 2:4). 

2 Cor 1:4. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation; that we also may be able to comfort them who are in all distress, by the exhortation wherewith we also are exhorted by God.

God comforts St. Paul, Timothy and their fellow-workers in the ministry, in order that they in turn may comfort the faithful in their afflictions. 

Distress represents the same word in Greek (θλιψει) as tribulation; and likewise comfort and comforteth render the same Greek terms as exhortation and exhorted. The same variation between our version and the Vulgate, on the one hand, and the Greek text, on the other, occurs again in verse 6.

The et . . . et (“also”) of the Vulgate here are not in the Greek. The Vulgate reads: qui consolatur nos in omni tribulatione nostra ut possimus et ipsi consolari eos qui in omni pressura sunt per exhortationem qua exhortamur et ipsi a Deo. 

2 Cor 1:5. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound.

If the sufferings of the Apostles were extraordinary, their consolations were correspondingly great. 

The sufferings of Christ, i.e., the sufferings which Christ bore for the diffusion of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, and which are continued in the members of His mystical body (Col 1:24). There is no thought here of Christ now suffering in glory. 

2 Cor 1:6. Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation: or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.

The Apostle wishes to say now that whatever happens to him and his fellow workers for Christ—whether it be joy or sorrow, comfort or affliction, it is all ordained for the good of the faithful. Their afflictions beget patience, and their comfort inspires hope in the goodness of God.

The text of this verse causes much confusion. In the first place the Vulgate clause, sive autem tribulamur pro vestra exhortatione et salute must be omitted as a repetition of the last part of the first clause (a case of scribal dittography). The corresponding words in our version, or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation must likewise be omitted.

This done, there are two principal readings of the verse: (a) “Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is wrought out in the endurance of the same sufferings which we also suffer; or whether we be comforted it is for your consolation, knowing that,” etc. [as in verse 7] (see manuscripts B D F G K L); (b) “Now whether we be in tribulation, it is for your comfort and salvation; or whether we be comforted, it is for your comfort, which worketh in the endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer” (see manuscripts A C M P).

The latter reading is more like the Vulgate and is preferable. 

2 Cor 1:7. That our hope for you may be steadfast: knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation.

The Apostle expresses his unwavering hope that as the Corinthians bear their afflictions courageously they may also experience much comfort and consolation.

That our hope, etc. ( Vulg., Ut spes nostra, etc.) should be “And our hope,” etc. This clause is transferred by the Vatican MS. and many other authorities to the middle of the preceding verse, but such placing is against the best internal and external evidence. It is true that the participle knowing is without an antecedent, but this is not uncommon in St. Paul.

2 Cor 1:8. For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, of our tribulation, which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure above our strength, so that we were weary even of life.

A particular instance of great suffering endured by St. Paul, and perhaps by Timothy, in Asia is now recalled to the minds of the Corinthians. What was this terrible affliction? Since it seemed to be well known to the Corinthians, it was probably the report of the rebellion in Corinth against the Apostle's authority. It overwhelmed him with grief. Now this could hardly be said of the uproar caused by Demetrius at Ephesus (Acts 19:23), for Timothy was not there at that time (Acts 19:22). Neither could we easily suppose it to have been some mere private distress caused by sickness, shipwreck or the like.  

In Asia, i.e., in the Roman Province of Asia, which consisted of the coastlands of Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea, of which Ephesus was the capital.

That we were pressed, etc., i.e., exceedingly above our strength, so that we were weary, etc., i.e., so that we despaired even of life. The Apostle is saying that his affliction was more than his natural strength could support, but which he was able to bear by the grace of God (1 Cor. 10:13).

2 Cor 1:9. But we had in ourselves the answer of death, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.

So great was the affliction of St. Paul and Timothy that they felt sure they must die, if left to their own strength. This extremity of suffering was given them that they might learn to trust in God who is able to raise the dead to life, and so, a fortiori, can rescue from death (Rom. 4:17).

But (αλλα = alla) is not adversative here; it confirms what was said before and should be translated, "Nay."

The answer of death, i.e., the sentence, the judgment, the expectation of death (St. Chrys.).

2 Cor 1:10. Who hath delivered and doth deliver us out of so great dangers: in whom we trust that he will yet also deliver us.

So great dangers. More literally, "So great a death." The danger was naturally tantamount to death.

That he will yet also, etc. This shows that the same situation might occur again, which is against the supposition that the affliction in question was caused by the uproar of the silversmiths (Acts 19:23).

And doth deliver (Vulg., et emit with F G K L) would better be "and will deliver," et eruet (B א C).

2 Cor 1:11. You helping withal in prayer for us: that for this gift obtained for us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many in our behalf.

The Apostle is confident that in future the help of God will not be wanting to him, because he trusts in the prayers of all the faithful, and of the Corinthians in particular.

That for this gift, etc. The meaning is : That from many persons (faces) thanks may be given on our behalf for the gift obtained for us through the prayers of many. St. Paul desires many prayers
to be offered for him and his companions, so that when the favor is obtained God may be honored by the thanksgiving of many.

Father Callan's Commentary on First Corinthians 4:7-13

Text in red are my additions.

THE LEADERS OF THE DIFFERENT FACTIONS SHOULD IMITATE THE HUMILITY OF THE APOSTLES
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 4:7-13

When recommending humility to all the Corinthians in the preceding verse, the Apostle doubtless had chiefly in mind the leaders of the factions at Corinth. Now he directly attacks them with bitter irony, placing before them the life of real Apostles (Estius, Comely, etc.). St. Thomas, however, and the Fathers generally believe that the present section continues the thought of verse 6, and that the Apostle consequently is here, as there, addressing the faithful rather than their leaders. We see no reason why both in general cannot be meant. 

1 Cor 4:7. For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

How foolish it was for the Corinthians to glory in those human leaders, in whom there was nothing whereof to glory; or to glory in themselves as if they were better than their neighbors! If they have anything that distinguisheth them, whether in the natural, or in the supernatural order, this is not due to them, but to God from whom they have received all they possess. Therefore
they have nothing in themselves whereof to glory.

St. Thomas and most of the Fathers have understood this verse to refer to supernatural, as well as natural gifts; and St. Augustine constantly urged it against the Pelagians and Semipelagians to prove that man cannot accomplish, or even begin, a salutary work without the grace of God (MacR.). Using this verse the Second Council of Orange declared: If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). [Source. I've here quoted the text in full, Fr. Callan quoted just the pertinent part in Latin]. 

1 Cor 4:8. You are now full; you are now become rich; you reign without us; and I would to God you did reign, that we also might reign with you.

In their own estimation the Corinthian faithful and leaders of factions are completely sufficient unto themselves. They are full, i.e., they want nothing; they are rich, i.e., they possess all wealth ; they reign, i.e., already arrived at the state of the blessed they reign with Christ triumphantly even in this life,—all this without us, i.e., without the true Apostles, Paul and his companions, who converted them to Christianity and put them on the way to happiness. 

I would to God, etc. Dropping the irony of his remarks, St. Paul says I wish you actually did reign, so that we Apostles, the founders of your Church, might also share in your felicity, being freed from our distresses, trials, labors, and the like. 

1 Cor 4:9. For I think that God hath set forth us apostles, the last, as it were men appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men. 

I think that. “That” (Vulg., quod) is omitted by all the best MSS. How different from the apparently glorious condition of the Corinthians is the state of the true Apostles! Far from already reigning in Christ’s kingdom, the Apostles are like men reserved for the beasts in the grand finale of the games; they are the most abject and the last of men. 

God hath set forth, etc. God has made public display of us Apostles

Appointed to death, i.e., doomed to die as gladiators or slaves in the public arena; “they were appointed to fight with beasts” (Tertull.). 

A spectacle to the world, etc. Like men exposed to wild beasts in the theatre, the Apostles became a spectacle to good angels and good men who admired their fortitude, mildness and humility in the midst of sufferings and persecutions, and to bad angels and evil men who rejoiced at their trials and sorrows. 

1 Cor 4:10. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ; we arc
weak, but you are strong; you are honourable, but we without honour.


Continuing ironically to take the Corinthians at their own measure the Apostle further contrasts their fancied state with the condition of the Apostles. 

We are fools, etc., i.e., the Apostles who preached Christ crucified in simple language were regarded as fools by the worldly Corinthians who gloried in eloquence and human wisdom.
We are weak, etc., i.e., the Apostles were regarded as weak, because destitute of human resources; they were without honour, i.e., derided and despised, because wanting in worldly science and eloquence: whereas the Corinthians gloried in their human aids and natural attainments. 

1 Cor 4:11. Even unto this hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode;

The abject and destitute condition of the Apostles was not something of the past that no longer endured; it continued even unto this hour when the Apostle was writing, and throughout his life. At all times Christ’s true Apostles were in want of the things that were necessary for human life, such as food, drink and clothing; and moreover, they were unceasingly pursued by
persecutions from one place to another. 

1 Cor 4:12. And we labour, working with our own hands; we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it.

In order not to be dependent on those for whom he labored preaching the Gospel, St. Paul worked at his trade of tent making to earn his daily bread (Acts 18:3; 20:34; 2 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8). For reviling and persecutions on the part of his enemies he returned blessing, sweetness and resignation. 

1 Cor 4:13. We are blasphemed, and we entreat; we are made as the refuse of this world, the offscouring of all even until now. 

The refuse . . . offscouring, etc. The Apostles were treated as outcasts, as scapegoats (περίψωμα) , as unfit to live in human society. Some think the above words refer to the custom at Athens of reserving certain worthless persons to be cast into the sea as a kind of scapegoat sacrifice against plagues, famines, or other public calamities.
Note: the words περικάθαρμα, refuse, filth, and περίψωμα, offscouring, scum, were sometimes used to denote scapegoats. Because St Paul speaks in this verse of being made refuse and offscouring of this world some see a connection with verse 9: “For I think that God hath set forth us apostles, the last, as it were men appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” St Paul is expressing a willingness to be a victim on behalf of others, as in 1 Cor 15:31; 2 Cor 4:10-11; Gal 6:17; Phil 2:17.

Father Callan's Commentary on First Corinthians 4:1-6

The Faithful Should Not Judge Their Teachers.
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 4:1-6

Thinking themselves capable of judging their spiritual teachers the Corinthians had made distinctions between them, preferring one to another and glorying in their choice.  after having shown that their glorying was human and vain, the Apostle points out the true norm by which the preachers of the Gospel are to be judged, but at the same time he warns that only the Omniscient God is able to make use of that norm.  The faithful, therefore, must refrain from judging their teachers, not putting one above another, but leaving all things for the final manifestation at the Last Judgment.

1 Cor 4:1 Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and dispensers of the mysteries of God.

The preachers of the Gospel are not independent workers, each doing what he pleases.  They have been chosen by Christ to do His work, and hence they are dependent upon and accountable to Christ for the discharge of their ministry.  Let everyone, therefore, consider them as ministers, i.e., as servants (ὑπηρέτης=hupēretēs= hoop-ay-ret’-ace) of Christ, doing the will of their Master; and as dispensers, i.e., as stewards (οἰκονόμος=oikonomos=oy-kon-om’-os) of the mysteries of God, i.e., of the doctrines of faith which the Apostles preached, including, of course, the Sacraments, of which the Apostles were the ministers (cf. 2:7 ff.; 3:5 ff.; Rom 11:25; Eph 1:9; Matt 13:11; Conc. Trid., Sess. XXI., De Commun., cap. 2).  The doctrines and Sacraments preached and administered by the Apostles are called “mysteries” because they are beyond human understanding.

1 Cor 4:2  Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful.

Since the Apostles are the servants and stewards of Christ, their Master, they must be judged by the norm which governs all servants and stewards, that is, by their faithfulness in the discharge of their duties.  If the Apostles are faithful in serving Christ and in dispensing the mysteries of God, it makes little difference what otherwise they may possess or lack, whether their natural gifts may be many and great or few and unimportant.

In the Vulgate inter dispensatores should be in dispensatoribus. 

1 Cor 4:3 But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day; but neither do I judge my own self.

But as God is the Master whom the Apostles must serve, He alone can judge them.  Hence St Paul says it is of small importance to him how he is considered by men, whether he is preferred to another or not, because men ae not able to judge of his fidelity to God. 

Man’s day means the judgment of men, as opposed to the judgment of God.  That the Apostle is not rejecting the judgment of men out of pride or other unworthy motive is evident from the fact that he says he does not dare to judge himself, so uncertain is he of his precise standing in His Master’s eyes.

1 Cor 4:4 For I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet I am not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me, is the Lord.

Although the testimony of his conscience bears witness to his faithfulness, or at least does not reproach him with fault or neglect, yet so great is human frailty that he would not dare to pronounce himself entirely faithful in the exercise of his ministry.  He that judgeth me is the Lord, because only the Lord can read the secrets of man’s heart with infallible certainty and correctness.  If, presently, the Apostle proceeds to judge the incestuous man, he does so by divine authority and illumination, which was not enjoyed by those to whom he was writing.

What St Paul says about himself is true of every Christian, because no one aside from a special revelation can be absolutely certain that he is in the grace and friendship of God (f. Conc. Trid., Sess. VI., De Justificatione, cap 16).  Of this we can have only moral certainty.

The present text is a refutation of the Protestant doctrine that faith is fiducia, or absolute confidence that one is in the friendship of God (Cornely).

1 Cor 4:5  Therefore judge not before the time; until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise from God.

From what has just been said the conclusion follows that the Corinthians ought no more to judge their preachers before the time, i.e., until all things are made known to them, which will be when the Lord comes for the General Judgment, to reveal to the light and knowledge of all the secret deeds, thoughts and desires of every man, good and bad. 

Then shall every man have praise, etc.  This shows that the Apostle is speaking directly only of the Corinthian teachers, all of whom are good, and each of whom, consequently, will receive  from Christ on the day of the General Judgment the praise that is due him.  Of course all men on that day will receive from God what they deserve, but all will not be praised.

1 Cor 4:6  But these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollo, for your sakes; that in us you may learn, that one be not puffed up against the other for another, above that which is written.

The Apostle now observes that what he has been saying about Apollo and himself applies equally to all preachers. 

These things, i.e., what he has just been telling them regarding the preachers of the Gospel.   

I have in a figure transferred, etc., i.e., I have by a change of form (μετασχηματίζω=metaschēmatizō=met-askh-ay-mat-id’-zo), i.e., figuratively, applied only to Apollo and myself, for your sakes, i.e., for your benefit, that through us you may learn how to regard all preachers of the Gospel. 

That no one be puffed up, etc.  The meaning is that no one, or class, of the faithful should be considered better than another on account of any particular leader or teacher.  All should learn to practice humility according to “that which is written” in many passages of Holy Scripture.  The allusion is doubtless to such passages as 1 Cor 1:19, 31; 3:19-20; or perhaps to what is said in verses 1-2 of the present chapter; or, as some authors think, to a rabbinical proverb.  Cornely thinks the reference is to the Old Testament as a whole, where throughout man’s proper relation to God and genuine humility are taught.

Father Callan's Commentary on First Corinthians 3:18-23

The Faithful Should Be Careful Not To Prefer One Teacher To Another
1 Corinthians 3:18-23

From the doctrine so far explained against the Corinthian factions St Paul now deduces some practical conclusions.  By preferring one master to another the faithful have laid claim to the right and power of judging their teachers; but the Apostle warns them that this is exercising mere human wisdom, which goes for nothing before God.  It is wrong for them to glory in men, especially since all the good they enjoy, whether from this or that human agent, has been bestowed by God: in God and Christ only should they glory

1 Cor 3:18.  Let no man deceive himself: if any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

It is disputed whether the admonition of this verse is addressed to the teachers of the faithful, or their followers.  If any man among you, etc., i.e., if any of you Christians thinks himself to be wise and shrewd, or is so regarded by others, judging by the standards of this world, let him renounce this false wisdom, which God despises, and learn from the Gospel to be truly wise.  The admonition seems to be against those who thought themselves capable of judging the respective qualities of their different teachers,-Apollos, Paul and Cephas.

1 Cor 3:19.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness. 
1 Cor 3:20.  And again: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 

That mere human wisdom is foolishness in the sight of God the Apostle now proves from two passages of the Old Testament.  The first is from Job 5:13, agreeing almost perfectly with the Hebrew, and substantially with the Septuagint.  From the words, It is written, we can see that St Paul regarded the quotation as having divine authority. 

I will catch, etc.  Better, “He catches,” etc.  (δράσσομαι-drassomai=dras’-som-ahee), i.e., God turns against the worldly-wise their own craftiness, in which they are caught as in a snare.  For example, Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, but their action resulted in his becoming ruler of Egypt (St Thomas Aquinas).

The second quotation is from Psalm 93:11, taken substantially from the LXX.  The Psalmist is speaking of the enemies of Israel, who in their folly thought God did not know their secret designs against the chosen people.

The comprehendam of the Vulgate does not exactly express the Greek or Hebrew of Job 5:13, which literally would be “He who catcheth.”

1 Cor 3:21.  Let no man therefore glory in men.

Since, therefore, the wisdom of the world, separated from God and His grace, is vain and leads its patrons to their own confusion, the Corinthians ought diligently to keep from it, not glorifying in men, i.e., in this or that human leader.

1 Cor 3:22.  For all things are yours, whether it be Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; for all are yours;
1 Cor 3:23.  And you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

All the teachers sent to the Corinthians were sent by God for the spiritual benefit of the faithful.  The Christians did not belong to Paul, or to Apollos, or to Cephas, as subjects to a leader, as servants to a master; but on the contrary, all those teachers were but instruments in the hands of God for the sake of the Corinthians.  On account of their dignity as Christians all things-teachers, the visible world around, life and death, things present and things to come-were theirs, to be made use of for their spiritual benefit and advancement.

But neither in these, their own privileges and dignity, should the Corinthians glory, for they were not for themselves; they were for Christ’s; they were the possession and property of Christ who created them (Jn 1:8), who redeemed them with His own blood (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), and who, therefore, was their only head and only master.  If then they would glory, let them glory in Christ and in God. 

Christ is God’s, i.e., Christ, according to His divine nature, is one in essence with God (Jn 10:30), and, as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, He proceeds eternally from the Father (Jn 11:3).  Christ’s human nature was created by God, and was ever and in all things subject to the will of God (Jn 15:28).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Notes on Jerremiah 18:1-6

BACKGROUND: Here I will primarily be summarizing the content of chapters 2 and 7 for these contain major themes (not the only ones) which recur throughout much of the book.

God's people in Jeremiah's day were under the delusion that God would defend them no matter what. With intense irony the Book of Jeremiah opens with God's threats against the people, indicating that punishment was indeed coming (Jer 1:11-16), and is followed by the promise that He would protect Jeremiah as he delivered this news to them (Jer 1:17-19).

Just as God has it in his power to protect His people in their devotion to him (Jer 2:3), so too He has it in His power to bring punishment upon them for their infidelity and loss of devotion (Jer 2:4-13). It is their sin of forsaking their Lord that has corrupted them and brought trouble upon them (Jer 2:14-17). Human powers cannot save them (Jer 2:18-19). Neither can they cleanse themselves from their wickedness (Jer 2:20-21), and still less can they deny its existence (Jer 2:23-24). They have become helplessly in need of their idols (Jer 2:25-26), yet when these cannot help them in time of trouble, they call to the Lord (Jer 2:27), but He will leave them to their false gods (Jer 2:28). How dare they still plead with Him! (Jer 2:28).

God has not been useless to His people, yet they have moved on; they have forgotten their God (Jer 2:30-32). Steeped in the blood of those they have murdered the pick their way among their lover gods, still pleading their innocence and thinking that God's anger is turned from them; but they are deluded (Jer 2:33-35). The human powers they have relied upon will come to naught, having been rejected by God, and the people will go into exile (Jer 2:36-37).

The people have taken to presuming upon the Lord's presence in the Temple as a safeguard against his punishing them for their sins of oppression and idolatry (Jer 7:1-10). But judgement will come upon the Temple (Jer 7:11-14). The people will be cast away (Jer 7:15). The Temple, the city will bear the wrath of God because of the people's presumptions, idolatries, child sacrifices, disobedience and rejection of prophecy, ( (Jer 7:16-34).

Read Jeremiah 18:1-6.

Jer 18:1 is stock prophetic phrasing employed to introduce prophetic words or actions. What follows in Jer 18:2-3 is a brief command and compliance narrative. The prophet does as he is told and this provides the Lord with an opportunity to instruct the prophet concerning His power, using as his starting point a lesson from a humble, commonplace image: that of a potter working with clay.

Jeremiah observes that when the object the potter is fashioning from a lump of clay turns out badly, he simply begins to refashion the lump into another object as seems right to his professional potter's eye and judgment (Jer 18:4).

The words in Jeremiah 18:5 recall the stock prophetic phrasing of Jer 18:1 which opened the passage and indicates that the point of the command to Jeremiah, along with the observation he made as a result, have come to fruition, i.e., the teaching which follows beginning in Jer 18:5. The Lord can do to Israel as he sees fit, just as the potter can with his lump of clay (Jer 18:6).




Sunday, July 20, 2014

St Thomas Aquinas' Homily Notes on the First Four Fruits of the Holy Spirit as Given in Galatians 5:22

The following homily notes can provide useful points for meditation or further study. I have added some notes and biblical references related to the subject matter treated of in the notes. These additions are in red. Quotations are from the Douay-Rheims Bible, but the scripture links are to the RSVCE for those wanting a more modern translation.

FOUR FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."

It is certain that man ought to possess these fruits chiefly  for three reasons. Firstly, on account of necessity, " Every  tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and  cast into the fire," S. Matt. 3:10. Secondly, on account of  their sweetness, because they refresh the mind with ineffable  delight, "I sat down under His shadow with great delight,  and His fruit was sweet to my taste," Son 2:3. Thirdly,  on account of profit, because they confer many benefits.

I. The first fruit, Love, has three wonderful virtues. 

(1) Because the man who eats this fruit is made unconquerable: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution ... in all these  things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved  us," Rom. 8:35-38. It is because of Christ that we are conquerors, see John 16:33; Col 2:4-15; 2 Cor 2:14-16.

(2) Because every good and evil  profits him who is refreshed by this fruit: "We know that  all things work together for good to them that love God, to  them that are called according to His purpose," Rom. 8:28. "All things;" Gloss: things good and evil.

(3) Because he who eats such fruit shall not die eternally: "Charity never faileth," 1 Cor. 13:8. See Song 8:6-7.

II. The second fruit, Joy, has likewise three great virtues. 

(1) Because the eating of this fruit makes men strong to  conquer every evil spirit: "Spiritual joy is one means of  conquering the enemy," S. Anthony. "Be not sad: for the joy of the Lord is our strength" (Neh 8:10). "Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: The right hand of the LORD does valiantly" (Ps 118:15).  See 1 Kings 2:1; Ps 35:9.

(2) Because it makes  men live forever: "No joy above the joy of the heart," Sir 30:16."Thou hast made known to me the ways of life, thou shalt fill me with joy with thy countenance: at thy right hand are delights even to the end" (Ps 16:11).

(3) Because it leads those who eat it to  the glory of the heavenly kingdom: "For the kingdom of  God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace,  and joy in the Holy Ghost," Rom. 14:17. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field. Which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Mt 13:44). "But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Pet 4:13).

III. The third fruit, Peace, likewise has three great  virtues. 

(1) Because it protects man from all evil: "The  peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep  your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," Philipp. 4:7."Peace I leave with you: my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled: nor let it be afraid" (Jn 14:27). Sometimes what we may think is evil-discipline from our heavenly Father-is in reality meant to bring us to the peaceful fruit of righteousness (see Heb 12:1-11, especially verse 11.

(2) Because it causes men to become sons of God: "Blessed  are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of  God," S. Matt. 5:9. Thus we are called upon to imitate Jesus, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace: For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us...and his name shall be called...the Prince of Peace" (Isa 9:6).

(3) Because in the place where the  fruit is found God willingly dwells and rests, "In Salem
[i.e., peace] also is His tabernacle," Ps 76:2 [76:3 NABRE]. "My people shall sit in the beauty of peace, and in the tabernacles of confidence, and in wealthy rest" (Isa 32:18).

IV. The fourth fruit, Long-suffering, or Patience, has  also three great virtues.

(1) Because the eating of it gives  man wisdom: "He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding," Prov. 14:29. Wisdom fosters patience (long-suffering): "She will bring upon him fear and dread and trial: and she will scourge him with the affliction of her discipline, till she try him by her laws, and trust his soul. Then she will strengthen him, and make a straight way to him, and give him joy, and will disclose her secrets to him, and will heap upon him treasures of knowledge and understanding of justice" (Sir 4:19-21).

(2) Because it preserves the soul  of man: " In patience possess ye your souls," S. Luke 21:19. "For patience is necessary for you: that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Heb 10:36). "For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God.
Rom 8:17  And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him" (Rom 8:16-17)
. "Wherein you shalt greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: that the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:6-7).

(3) Because it makes even bitter things sweet, so great is its sweetness: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye full  into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of  your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her  perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting
nothing," S. James 1:2-4. "Dearly beloved, think not strange the burning heat which is to try you: as if some new thing happened to you.  But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you be reproached for the name of Christ, you shall be blessed: for that which is of the honour, glory and power of God, and that which is his Spirit resteth upon you" (1 Pet 4:12-14). "And not only so: but we glory also in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us" (Rom 5:3-5).



Father Maas' Commentary on Matthew 13:44-52

Mat 13:44  The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hidden in a field. Which a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof goeth, and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. 

The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure. The treasure, α. As the preceding parables illustrate the efficient force of the kingdom, so do the two following describe its moral power or its desirability [Cajetan]; but there is this difference between them. that in one parable the kingdom is sought, while in the other it is found as if by accident [Cajetan, Jansenius, Sylveira, Schegg, Schanz, Fillion Knabenbauer]; in the one we see its beauty, in the other its many advantages [Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas].

The “kingdom” is like a treasure, because it incloses countless and numberless goods, as the treasure implies countless and numberless riches [cf. Ps. 19:11; 119:127; Prov. 8:11; Job 28:15–19; Wisd. 7:9]. It is like a “hidden” treasure because its value is not recognized by a soul not illumined by supernatural grace [cf. Acts 9:6; St Bruno]. The finder “hid it,” and thus in the supernatural order the finder must make a careful use of grace [Maldonado]. “For joy thereof” [Vulgate, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Fillion] rather emphasizes “his” joy according to the analogy of “his” fear [cf. Mt. 14:26; Lk. 24:41; Acts 12:14; recent commentators], than the joy over the treasure. But while the treasure and the joy it causes are expressions of the excellency of the kingdom, the sacrifices it demands are indicated by the fact that the finder “selleth all that he hath.” Though according to Rabbinic law [Surenhus. leg. mischn. iv. p. 113] the treasure belongs to the buyer of the field, Jesus does not pronounce his judgment on the manner in which the finder of the treasure acted, just as he employed the parable of the unjust steward without approving of his proceedings [cf. Lk. 16:8].

“The kingdom of heaven” in this parable and the following is Christ himself as the head of the Church [Hilary, Jerome, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Salmeron], or the canon of Sacred Scriptures [Jerome, Origen, Paschasius, Alb.], or the revealed truths of faith in general [Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius], or the desire after heavenly things [Gregory], or charity, or the state of the evangelical counsels [Salmeron, Sylveira Barradas, Lapide, Schegg, etc.]. 

Mat 13:45  Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls.
Mat 13:46  Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it. 

Again the kingdom of heaven. The pearl. The seeking after the pearl presupposes a general knowledge of its excellency together with an ignorance of the individual object; thus should all men endowed with ordinary intellectual faculties appreciate in general the worth of truth and goodness, though they may doubt, for a time, about what is really true and good. The parable insists on the necessity of being a prudent merchant, of investing all one’s goods in the purchase of the precious pearl [cf. St Bruno, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Gregory hom. xi. in evang.], which is according to the evangelist the “one pearl of great price,” and therefore worthy of notice even among the pearl-kind. The relation of this parable to the foregoing, and the various meanings of “the kingdom” have been considered in the last section.

Mat 13:47 Again the kingdom of heaven is like to a net cast into the sea, and gathering together of all kinds of fishes.  ‎
Mat 13:48 Which, when it was filled, they drew out, and sitting by the shore, they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad they cast forth.  ‎
Mat 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just.  ‎
Mat 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  ‎

Again the kingdom of heaven. The net. This parable refers principally to the state of the Messianic kingdom “at the end of the world” [cf. v. 49], and shows that preaching on the part of the ministers and faith on the part of the hearers are not sufficient for salvation [cf. Chrysostom, Jansenius, Barradas]. The “net” is a drag, or draw-net, which sweeps the bottom of the water and permits nothing to escape it; it represents the teaching and believing Church [Origen, Hilary, Chrysostom], and may be conceived as being woven of the apostolic doctrine, the testimony of miracles, and the predictions of the prophets [Theophylact, Jerome]. The fishermen implied in the parable are the apostles and their successors in the ministry [cf. Mt. 4:19; Mk. 1:17; Lk. 5:10]. “The sea” is the world with its storms, its instability, and its many bitternesses [cf. Jansenius, Chrysologus, serm. 47], and in particular the waters of baptism may be regarded as the waters in which the fish are caught [St Bruno]. The net was “cast into the sea” when our Lord gave his disciples the commission to teach all nations [St Bruno]; it is a “gathering together of all kinds of fishes” because there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, rich and poor. The net will be “filled,” when after the fulness of the Gentiles has entered, all Israel shall be saved [cf. Rom. 11:25-26], when the gospel shall have been preached to all nations Mt. 24:14]. The gospel does not say that all fish, or men, shall be caught, but that the net shall be full. Then follows the process of separation in the Church as well as in the fisherman’s trade: “they chose out the good into vessels, but the bad [i. e. the putrid and maimed] they cast forth”; there is this difference, however, that in the Church the separation is effected by “the angels” [verse 50], not by the fishermen, and again that the wicked are not merely rejected from the kingdom, but “cast into the furnace of fire, [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The torment and despair indicated by this expression have been pointed out above; we may add here that Jesus repeats this threat of eternal punishment with a frightful frequency [cf. Mt. 5:20 ff.; 8:12; 10:28; 12:32; 13:42, 50], so that these words must be feared rather than explained [Gregory].

Mat 13:51 Have ye understood all these things? They say to him: Yes.  ‎52 He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old. 
Mat 13:52 He said unto them: Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old

Have ye understood. Conclusion of the Sermon. As if to show that for the present there is no need of further parables, the evangelist records here our Lord’s question concerning the disciples’ understanding of what has been said, and the disciples’ affirmative answer which is true of their limited knowledge before the coming of the Holy Ghost. Jesus then continues, and draws a practical conclusion regarding the use the apostles must make of their knowledge. “Therefore” is not merely an asseverative particle in the Greek original [cf. Euthymius]; nor does it connect with the parable of the treasure-trove, as if the apostles had to be like the householder because the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure [cf. Augustine, qu. in evang. Mt. 16; Maldonado]; but it connects with the affirmative answer of the apostles [Chrysostom, Jansenius, Sylveira, Barradas, Arnoldi, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer]. “Every scribe” is not every scribe in the Jewish sense, but the scribe “instructed in the kingdom of heaven,” or better “enrolled as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven.” Concerning the Greek word here rendered “instructed,” cf. Mt. 27:57; 28:19; Acts 14:21; in the Greek text the kingdom is construed personally as if it were the teacher of the apostles, so that Euthymius explains it as “the king of heaven.” The “new things and old” represent the revelation of the New and Old Testament [cf. Origen, Hilary, Jerome, Chrysostom, Cyril, Euthymius, Paschasius, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius the Carthusian, Salmeron, Cajetan, Maldonado], or the teaching of the New Testament confirmed by the authority of the Old [Theophylact], or the Old Testament in the light of the revelations of the New [Thomas], or the truths referring to the old and the new man, i. e. to the unregenerate and the regenerate [Alb. Paschasius, Salmeron], or the truths concerning the horrors of punishment and those referring to the happiness of the kingdom [Gregory], or truths already known and truths as yet unknown, but explained by means of the known [Barradas, Sylveira], or truths in plenty and abundance of all kinds [cf. Jansenius, Maldonado, Barradas, Lapide, Calmet, Lam. Arnoldi, Fillion, Knabenbauer; Cant. 7:13]. According to this last view the expression is proverbial [cf. Maldonado]. The order “new things and old” is either owing to the proverbial character of the expression, or to the importance of the subject [Augustine, civ. dei, xx. 4], or to the order to be observed in teaching, or even to that followed in learning [cf. Knabenbauer].

Father MacEvilly's Commentary on Romans 8:28-30

This post opens with an Analysis of Romans chapter 8 followed by the notes on verses 28-30. Text in purple indicates a paraphrasing of the biblical text being commented on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 8

In this chapter, after inferring from the foregoing that the baptized have nothing deserving of damnation, except so far as they consent to the motions of concupiscence (Rom 8: 1), the Apostle tells us that we are rescued from the dominion of concupiscence by the grace of the Gospel (Rom 8:2-4.) He shows the different motions and effects of the flesh and of the spirit (Rom 8:4–9). He exhorts us to live according to the spirit, and points out the spiritual and eternal life of both soul and body, resulting from such a course (Rom 8:9–11). He next exhorts us to follow the dictates of the spirit, and to mortify the deeds of the flesh, in order to escape death and obtain life (Rom 8:12-13)—to act up to our calling as sons of God, and to conform to the spirit of charity and love, which we received, unlike to that of the Jews of old, and by thus acting as sons of God, to secure the Heavenly inheritance, which we shall certainly obtain, on condition, however, of suffering (Rom 8:13–17). Lest this condition should dishearten them, he points out the greatness of God’s inheritance,—so great indeed is it, that he personifies inanimate creatures, and represents them as groaning for this glorious consummation. The very Christians themselves, although in the infancy of the Church, they received the sweet pledge of future glory in the choice gifts of the Holy Ghost, were sighing for it (Rom 8:17–24). The Holy Ghost, besides the assurance he gave them of being sons of God, was also relieving their necessities and prompting them to pray with ineffable ardour of spirit (Rom 8:26-27). The Apostle encourages them to patient suffering by pointing out to them that they were predestined for these sufferings as the means of their sanctification and future glorification (Rom 8:28–30), and, finally, he excites them to confidence in God (Rom 8:31–38).

Rom 8:28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.

 But although out infirmity be so great as not to know what to pray for, or how to pray as we ought; still we should not be disheartened under crosses and sufferings. For, we know that by the disposition of an all-wise Providence, all things work together unto the good of those who love God; of those, I say, who have been, by his gratuitous decree, called by him to the profession and practice of sanctity, and obey his call.

“To such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.” The word “saints” is not in the Greek: “called,” as appears from the Greek, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν, is not a participle, but a noun.

This passage is intended by the Apostle to stimulate the Romans to the patient endurance of the crosses of this life; for we know that all things, whether prosperity or adversity, nay, even their very sins (as is added by some of the Commentators), which serve the purpose of humiliation, work together unto the good of those who love God. And to show that this love regarded the faithful among the Romans, the Apostle explains it, by saying, “such as according to his purpose,” πρόθεσιν, i.e., his gratuitous decree, “are called to be saints."

Commentators are greatly divided as to the object of this “purpose” or decree in question. Some assert that it regards the decree of giving glory; and even these are divided on this subject; one class of them says, that the decree of giving glory is prior to, and quite independent of, the good works of man. Those hold predestination to glory to be, ante prævisa merita (see note below). On the other hand, a second class maintain that the prevision of man’s future merits is prior, in the divine mind, to the decree of giving glory. These are the advocates of Predestination to glory, post prævisa merita (see note below). Others assert, that this decree in question regards not glory directly, but grace and sanctity (Father MacEvilly will treat of this position in the next paragraph, following my note). The advocates of the former opinion ground their interpretation: 1st, On the words “all things work together,” &c. Now, it is only of those called to glory, this could be true. 2ndly, They say, the word “purpose,” in Greek, πρόθεσιν, signifies a decree or infallible efficacy. 3rdly, The words, “called according to his purpose,” (for the words “to be saints,” are not in the Greek), are restrictive of the preceding. 4thly, The word “glorifies,” (verse 30), shows glory to be the term of the decree. Those who think the decree refers to grace and sanctity have a response to these four points. This response is given in the second paragraph below my note.

NOTE: The two Latin phrases, ante prævisa merita, and post prævisa merita, relate to the question "whether God’s eternal resolve of Predestination has been taken with (post) or without (ante) consideration (praevisa) of the merits (merita) of the man" [Ott, L. (1957). Fundamentals of Catholic dogma. St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company.Text within parentheses are my additions].

The advocates of the interpretation, which makes the decree refer to grace and sanctity, ground it: 1st, On the words, “called to be saints,” which is the term of the decree, and the words mean, called to state and profession of sanctity—the meaning in which the same words are taken in the different introductory salutations in the Epistle of St. Paul, 2ndly, The very object of the Apostle introducing the concurrence of all things towards their good, as a motive to induce them to bear patiently the crosses of this life, would prove the same; since all whom he addresses were called to grace and sanctity, but they could not all regard themselves as called to glory. Finally, the general objects of the Apostle in this Epistle, which regards the gratuitous call to grace of the Romans (for it was regarding this alone there was any controversy), makes it probable that here, too, he refers to the same.

In reply to the arguments of the preceding interpretation (that the decree concerns glory), they say: 1st, That “all things,” may be restricted by the subject matter to mean, all sufferings; and that the words, “work together,” do not necessarily imply actual working together, but only that these sufferings are intended, according to the antecedent will of God, for their sanctification. And even though all sufferings may not work together for the good of such as fall away from justice; still the Apostle, in the fervour of his charity, abstracts from the possible chance of their not persevering, and to draw a line of distinction between those called to glory and those rejected from it, would only injure the object he has in view, by throwing some into despondency. 2ndly, They say the word “purpose,” does not involve absolute infallible efficacy (v.g. Acts, 11:23); and morever, even though it did, no inconvenience would result; because, the grace and sanctity, which, in their opinion, it regards, are infallibly conferred. 3rdly. These words are explanatory, not restrictive. 4thly, Glory is only the reward of justice, and are we to wonder if the great charity of the Apostle made him abstract from the possibility of their not persevering, who were called, and represent all those whom God predestined to sanctity, as receiving the crown of glory which is decreed only for those who persevere? The latter opinion seems far the more probable. Hence, we have nothing to do here with the relative probability or improbability of the opinions regarding the decrees of glory, ante prævisa merita, or post prævisa merita. No doubt, the latter opinion appears far more in accordance with the doctrine of the Apostles, asserting that “God wishes all men to be saved,” and “none to perish;” more in accordance with our ideas of the goodnesss of God manifested in the death of Christ for all, and his tears and labours for the conversion of sinners during his mortal life. It is still free for any Theologian to hold either opinion. It is, however, to be observed, that although we can hold, that in predestinating men to glory, God is actuated by the prevision of the good works of those whom he predestines—post prævisa merita—and this is even, as has been just stated, the more probable opinion; still, no one could hold, without falling into the semi-Pelagian heresy, that in predestining men to grace, God is actuated by the prevision of their correspondence with this grace, as the motive of his conferring it. And although we may hold, negative reprobation, or, the non-predestinating, and selecting men out of the mass of perdition, to be, ante prævisa demerita—no doubt a very improbable opinion—still, no one, without falling into the shocking heresy of Calvin, could hold positive reprobation, or the decree of devoting anyone to eternal punishment, to be, ante prævisa demerita. The reason is, that Predestination ante prævisa merita, being a free gratuitous act of goodness of the part of God, he could exercise it as he pleased; but it would be unjust to inflict a punishment without some fault. Hence, God would be cruel and unjust in marking out men for punishment without some fault, i.e., in reprobating them positively, ante prævisa demerita. Of all the errors of Calvin, this is, perhaps, the most shocking and blasphemous. Concerning the subject matter dealt with in the preceding paragraphs see here.
 
Rom 8:29 For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son: that he might be the Firstborn amongst many brethren.

Because these are they whom he foreknew, nay, even predestined to a conformity in patience with the model presented by his Son in patient suffering; in order that he who, in his Divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God, would, as Man, be the first begotten among many adopted brethren.

In this verse, the Apostle explains why all things work together unto the good of those “called according to the purpose,” or gratuitous decree of God. The construction of the verse, adopted by the generality of Commentators, is this, “for whom he foreknew (those) he also predestinated.” Such of them as make the passage refer to predestination to glory, by “foreknew,” understand “those whom he foreknew by a knowledge of love and predilection,” i.e., whom he loved from eternity, those he predestined. The others say the words mean, “those whom he foreknew would be conformable to the image of his Son, he predestined to be such.” A’Lapide, whose interpretation has been adopted in the Paraphrase, says that the Apostle in this verse enters on an explanation of the nature of predestination referred to here, and then resumes the word “predestinated,” in next verse (Rom 8:30) in which the sentence suspended is completed. This construction perfectly accords with the style of the Apostle, who, carried away by some idea that occurs to him, sometimes, defers, for a long time, the completion of a sentence (v.g. Rom 5:12; chap. 3. Epistle to the Ephesians). According to this construction, the words of our English version: “For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated,” should be rendered from the Vulgate, quos præscivit et prædestinavit, “whom he foreknew and predestinated;” and, then, a marked difference is clearly perceptible in the text, between the mode in which the words, “he foreknew,” and “predestinated,” in this verse are connected, and the connexion which exists between any of the verbs in next verse. He says here, “whom he foreknew and predestinated.” In the next verse, “whom he predestinated, them he also called—whom he called, them he also justified,” &c. And this interpretation of A’Lapide requires the introduction of no other word in the sentence. Hence, his interpretation is adopted in the Paraphrase, in preference to any other. He connects Rom 8:29 with Rom 8:28, thus: “all things work together, &c.” (verse 28). Because these are they whom God foreknew, and predestinated to be conformable to the image of his Son, or to the model which his Son presents (v. 29). This conformity is to exist in suffering and justice; no doubt, it will extend to glory also. According to A’Lapide, “also” or “and” has the meaning of “because,” “nay even,” as if to say, “he foreknew, because he predestined them to be conformable to the image of his Son,” in justice and suffering. “That he might be the first-born,” &c. This predestination redounds to the glory of Christ, who, as God, is the only begotten, and as Man, is the natural Son of God, and first-born among the others who are only his adopted sons.

Rom 8:30 And whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Those (I say), whom he predestined to a conformity in suffering with his Son, he called to these sufferings; and whom he called, he has justified by these sufferings; and whom he justified, he has glorified.

“And whom he predestinated.” Resuming the sentence suspended last verse, he says, “those (I say) whom he predestinated” to a conformity with the Son in suffering, he called to the same; “whom he called, he justified” by these sufferings, “and whom he justified, he glorified” by the same. The Apostle uses the past tense, though some of the events are future in regard to many, to show the certainty of the future events marked out in God’s decrees. We are not to suppose each of the terms which express the order in which the decrees of God are executed to be equally extensive, so that all are glorified, who are called. The words only mean, that out of the “called” are the “justified,” and out of the “justified” the “glorified.”

Sunday, July 06, 2014

My Notes on Hosea 2:14-20 (2:16-22 in Some Versions)

Please Note: the verse numbering of the NABRE differs from that of the RSVCE. I here follow the verse numbering of the RSVCE but have included the NABRE numbering in square brackets [...].

Background: Hosea was commanded by God to marry a woman with the knowledge that she would eventually desert him and engage in unfaithful relations with other men, giving birth to children not his. The prophet's marriage mirrors God's marriage [covenant relations] with the people of the land, His chosen people, Israel (Hos 1:2). Just as Hosea's wife, Gomer, gave birth to children not his, so too, Mother Israel has given birth to children not God's (Hos 1:6; Hos 1:8). God promises to reverse the situation between himself, Mother Israel , and her illegitimate children (Hos 1:10-2:1).

For this to happen Mother Israel must put away her harlotries (Hos 2:2 [4]), lest she suffer punishment, and she and her children remain estranged (Hos 2:3-5 [5-7]). God will take action to ensure that she will give up  her ways and return to him (Hos 2:6-7a [8-9a]). A half-hearted response, which she might in fact be prone to (Hos 2:7b-8), will not be tolerated (Hos 2:9-13 [11-15]). In this way God will lure her back to himself, reestablishing their former, happy relations. This is the subject of today's reading.

NOTES: 

Hosea 2:14 [2:16]. Therefore, behold, I will seduce her, and lead her back into the wilderness, speaking tenderly to her heart. (my translation)

The word  therefore  introduces the ultimate reason for God's actions in Hos 2:6-13.

Behold, I will seduce her. If it is a lover Israel wants, it is a lover Israel will get! While most modern translations speak of God “alluring” her into the wilderness, the word used here does in fact have connotations of seduction (see Ex 22:15). God will out-seduce his wife seducers to win her back. The Exodus firmly established God’s relations with his people, therefore it is fitting that he lead her back into the wilderness to rekindle the romance. "Thus saith the Lord: I have remembered thee, pitying thy youth, and the love of thy espousals, when thou followedst me in the desert, in a land that is not sown" (Jer 2:2, Douay-Rheims Translation).

And lead her back into the wilderness. This calls to mind the area east of the Jordan, from which direction the people entered the promised land after the desert wanderings of the Exodus. Here being led into the wilderness may indicate being led into exile.  It may also refer to the fact that Israel will be devastated, itself turned into a wilderness as a punishment intended to turn her to repentance (see Hos 2:9, 12 [11, 14]). The point of the Exodus was to bring the people through a wilderness into a garden land (Jer 2:7) flowing with milk and honey (Ex 3:8, 33:3; Ezek 20:6). Their infidelity would turn that land into a waste (Deut 28:22-24; Amos 1:2; Am 4:9; Hag 1:10-11; Isa 5:8-10; Jer 4:26-27, 9:9-14). My own opinion is that it refers to the second possibility: being led into exile.

Hosea 2:15 [2:17]. From that place her vineyards will be given to her, and I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And she will respond there as in the days of her youth, like the time she came up out of the land of Egypt. (my translation)

That place.the wilderness, which I understand to symbolize exile.

Her vineyards will be given to her.This is sometimes interpreted as a dowry price, but in ancient Israel the dowry went to the bride's father or guardian. They held it in trust for her, so that,  in the event of divorce or widowhood, she would have something to fall back on. The giving back of her vineyards here indicates that the punishment brought upon Mother Israel (lack of wine and wasted vineyards, Hos 2:8-9, 12 [10-11, 14]) will be reversed. She who once thought such things were her harlot's hire from her lovers (the Baals), will come to realize that they had come from God; Him who has the power to take them away and restore them. God will hold out the garden land of Israel, his vineyard (Ps 80:8-16; Matt 21:33-43), as an enticement to his wife in exile, and she will respond as in the days of her youth. She will again become faithful.

Vineyards represent a new beginning as relief from punishment  (see Gen 5:29 with Gen 9:20), God's gift of gladness (Ps 104: 14-15).

I will make the valley of Achor a door of hope- This valley was the place where Achan as put to death for violating the ban in Joshua 7. When the Israelites conquered Jericho by the hand of the Lord they were supposed to put everything captured into the treasury of the Lord (Josh 6:18-19), but Achan held some things back, and, as a result, he was put to death. The place became known as the valley (or plain) of Achor, which means “trouble” (Josh 7:16-26). Most scholars identify this valley as the modern day El Buqeath Valley in the Northern Judean wilderness. It lies between Hyrcania and Qumran on the Northeastern side of the Dead Sea, and it extends south to the Kidron Valley which runs along the base of the Mount of Olives, thus defining the eastern side of Jerusalem. In his book THE TWELVE PROPHETS Marvin Sweeney suggests that Hosea is hinting that God is here suggesting a reunion between the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, whose political and religious center was Jerusalem. Like Achan, the Northern Kingdom is robbing God of what rightfully belongs to him. This Valley of Achor (trouble) they find themselves in can lead to the Door of Hope, reunion with the more politically and religiously stable south.

Hosea 2:16 [2:18] It will come to pass on that day, says the Lord, you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal”.  
Hosea 2:17 [2:19] And I will cause to turn aside the name of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be brought to mind no more.  
Hosea 2:18 [2:20] For them I will make a covenant on that day with the wild beasts, the birds in the heavens, and the crawling things on the ground; I will remove the bow and the sword and the ones who do battle from the land; I will make you lie down in security
Hosea 2:19 [2:21] And I will betroth you to myself for the ages; I will betroth you to myself in righteousness, and in justice, in love and in mercy.  
Hosea 2:20 [2:22] I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord

Verse 15 spoke of the wife's response to the acts of God's love. Verse 16 treats more fully of that response, and verses 17-20 treats of what God will do for her as a result of it. 

you will call me “my husband,” and no longer will you call me “my Baal”- Mother Israel's confusion and ignorance about where her blessings and gifts come from will be ended, reversing the situation of Hos 2:8.. By attributing the gifts to the Baals who do not exist, they were in effect treating God as a Baal rather than a husband. The names and memories of the Baals will be brought to an end when God renews the covenant with them (vss 17-18 [19-20]). The land will not be given over to scavenging beasts, one of the covenant curses (vs 18 [20]). Warfare, one of the covenant curses, will also be abolished, thus the people will lie down in security (vs 18 [20]). They will come to know God as the source of their blessings (vs 20 [22]).



Saturday, July 05, 2014

My Notes on Jeremiah 1:1-10 for Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The Superscription:  Jeremiah 1:1-3

Jer 1:1  Words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who are in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin,
Jer 1:2  unto whom the word of Jehovah hath been in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign,
Jer 1:3  and it is in the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, king of Judah, till the completion of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah, king of Judah, till the removal of Jerusalem in the fifth month. 

Notes on Jer 1:1 

Jeremiah. The meaning of the name is uncertain, however some scholars speculate that it means "one raised up by the Lord."  If this is the case it calls to mind the prophecy of Moses in Deut 18:15-18: "The Lord thy God will raise up for you a prophet...I (God) will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their brothers, and will put my words into his mouth."  The ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy is found in our Lord (see Acts 3:19-23), whom many mistook for Jeremiah, raised from the dead (Matt 16:14). 

Hilkiah. The name of Jeremiah's father.  A high priest with this name found the book of the Law in the temple during repairs undertaken by the reform of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:4 ff).  Some have speculated that this was Jeremiah's father, however, the fact that the prophet's father is referred to in general terms as "(one" of the priests that were in Anathoth" rather than high priest militates against this. 

Anathoth. A priestly town in the region of the Tribe of Benjamin (Josh 21:18; 1 Ch 6:45).  According to Isaiah 10:30 it was just a few miles north of Jerusalem.  Just as our Lord's own townspeople opposed him (Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30), so too, the people of Anathoth opposed Jeremiah (Jer 11:21-23). 

Notes on Jer 1:2

Commenting on verse 1 the Protestant commentator Albert Barnes writes:
The usual title of the prophetic books is “the Word of the Lord,” but the two books of Amos and Jeremiah are called the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely the words of those prophets, probably because they contain not merely prophecies, but also the record of much which belongs to the personal history of the writers. This title might therefore be translated the “life of Jeremiah” or “acts of Jeremiah,” though some understand by it a collection of the prophecies of Jeremiah.

But this explanation fails to account for what is said in 1:9 And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth. Also, can one really describe Amos as "the record of much which belongs the personal history of" Amos?  

In the days of Josiah, king of Judah...in the thirteenth year of his reign. Jeremiah describes himself a youth in 1:6, suggesting a date of birth circa 650-645 B.C.  The thirteenth year of Josiah's reign was circa 626.  Josiah was one of the greatest kings of the Davidic line.  He instituted a widespread reform of the covenant (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Ch 33-34). 

Notes on Jer 1:3 

till the removal of Jerusalem in the fifth month. A reference to the Babylonian exile of 587 B.C.  In fact, Jeremiah's ministry lasted beyond this time.  For an explanation see footnote 2 of the NAB. 

The Call of Jeremiah (part 1) 1:4-10

Jer 1:4  And there is a word of Jehovah unto me, saying,
Jer 1:5  `Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.'
Jer 1:6  And I say, `Ah, Lord Jehovah! lo, I have not known--to speak, for I am a youth.'
Jer 1:7  And Jehovah saith unto me, `Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest.
Jer 1:8  Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, --an affirmation of Jehovah.'
Jer 1:9  And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth.
Jer 1:10  I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant.
 

Notes on Jer 1:4 

And there is a word of Jehovah unto me.  A stock prophetic phrase found throughout the prophetic books. 

Notes on Jer 1:5 

`Before I form thee in the belly, I have known thee; and before thou comest forth from the womb I have separated thee, a prophet to nations I have made thee.' Note the contrast in tenses: "Before I form thee...", "before thou comest forth."  Using the present tense of future events is typical of prophetic literature.  It commuicates the idea that what is being prophecied will come to pass (except when a prophecy is conditional, i.e., wont come to apss if the people repent).  Here, the contrast in tenses seems to emphasize the certainty of God's foreknowledge of the prophet.  St Paul tells us that God chose him before his birth to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles (i.e., poeple of the nations) in Gal 1:15:16. See also Luke 1:13-17. 

Notes on Jer 1:6 

And I say, `Ah, Lord Jehovah! lo, I have not known (how) to speak, for I am a youth.' This reminds one of Moses' initial response to his call in Exodus 4:10.  There Moses claimed to be a poor speaker, here Jeremiah appeals to his youth or inexperience in speaking to men concerning important subjects. 

Notes on Jer 1:7 

Do not say, I am a youth, for to all to whom I send thee thou goest, and all that I command thee thou speakest. His youth and inexperience are irrelevant where God's power is concerned.  The authority of the word, and, consequently the authority of the one preaching it, comes from the source of the word and the mission, namely God. 

Notes on Jer 1:8 

Be not afraid of their faces, for with thee am I to deliver thee, --an affirmation of Jehovah.' "Face" is Hebrew idiom for presence: "Be not afraid in their presence."  "With thee I am" is not merely a statement of the divine presence.  The promise of the divine presence when given in the context of a mission is a promise and guarrantee of divine help and power in the performance of that mission.  See God's promise to deliver St Paul in Acts 26:17. 

Notes on Jer 1:9 

And Jehovah putteth forth His hand, and striketh against my mouth, and Jehovah saith unto me, `Lo, I have put my words in thy mouth. God's striking the mouth of the prophet calls to mind the fact that the angel touched Isaiah's lips with an ember in Isaiah 6:7.  the words "I have put my words into thy mouth" recalls the commissioning of Moses in Exodus 4:10-17.

Words and themes found in verse 7-9 are typical of prophetic call narratives (see Ezek 3:1-10; Matt 28:18-20; ect). 

Notes on Jer 1:10 

I have set thee this day over the nations, and over kingdoms, to root up, and to pull down, and to waste, and to destroy, and to build, and to plant.  Jeremiah's mission is for both Jew and Gentile; and his message is one of both weal and woe.  See Jer 18:7-9; 25:15-38; Jer 30-31,  Jer 46-51; ect.

My Notes on Psalm 85 (With Introduction by Fr. Boylan)

I’ve prefaced my notes on this psalm with a brief introduction by Father Patrick Boylan. 

ISRAEL’S COMFORT IN SORROW 

THIS psalm is a liturgical composition dating from the post-Exilic period. It reflects the griefs and hopes of the post-Exilic community in Israel. The decree of their liberation from Babylon had filled the Exiles with joy, but their homecoming had been full of disappointment. Instead of joy and peace, unsettlement and sadness prevailed throughout the land, and men were wondering why the Lord had brought them back from Babylon only to the disillusionment of Juda. We find in the psalm the same spirit which breathes in the beginning of the books of Aggaeus (Haggai) and Zachary (Zechariah). If the Lord had great designs for Israel when He used Cyrus to set the Exiles free, why does He not begin to accomplish them? Has the divine anger which handed over Jerusalem and its people to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) not been appeased by the sufferings of the Exile? Is that anger about to burst forth against His unhappy people once more? Is there no hope that the old greatness of Israel will be restored? Surely the wonders of the past, and, above all, the grace of liberation from captivity will not end in the destruction of Israel!

The poem falls easily into three parts. In the first (Ps 85:1-3) the graces and mercies of the liberation from the Exile are recalled. We can imagine this part of the psalm as sung by a portion of the people gathered together for worship, by a choir, or by the priests.

The second part of the psalm is (Ps 85:4-7). Here another choir implores the Lord to complete the mercies which the Liberation had begun. Surely He will not be again angry with His people as He had been before the Exile. Surely His wrath will not blaze forth unto the destruction of Israel again! It is time for the Lord to show His gracious favour again, that Israel may live and praise Him.

In the third section (Ps 85:8-13) a soloist sings a prophetic message of comfort for Israel. As if listening to the words of Yahweh the prophet sings. His song is an oracle of hope. Help from the Lord is at hand. The words of Yahweh are words of peace—of rest and of security. The Peace and the Glory of the Lord will soon be seen again in Israel. A wonderful picture of the Lord’s benignant rule is drawn in familiar Messianic colours. Justice, Truth, Graciousness, Peace, as Yahweh’s ministering Angels, will rule everywhere in the land. The earth will be fruitful beyond all hope. Wherever the Lord walks abroad in the land Justice goes before Him and Peace follows in His train. The hope that painted a picture like this at a time of deepest political depression could spring only from the unshakeable conviction that God was on the side of Israel.

The structure of this poem should be compared with that of Ps 124—where the prophetic portion is wanting, and also with that of 93 and 79. 

(Ps 85:1) Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Exile, which consists of both the loss of one’s land and captivity in a foreign nation befell the people as a result of their sins; this in accord with the covenant they entered into with God. If you shall beget sons and grandsons, and abide in the land, and being deceived, make to yourselves any similitude (idol), committing evil before the Lord your God, to provoke him to wrath: I call this day heaven and earth to witness, that you shall quickly perish out of the land, which, when you have passed over the Jordan, you shall possess. You shall not dwell therein long, but the Lord will destroy you, And scatter you among all nations, and you shall remain a few among the nations, to which the Lord shall lead you. And there you shall serve gods, that were framed with men’s hands: wood and stone, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell (Deut 4:25-28).  The purpose of this punishment was medicinal, oriented towards moving the people to repent and once again enjoy God’s blessings: And when thou shalt seek there the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him: yet so, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and all the affliction of thy soul. After all the things aforesaid shall find thee, in the latter time thou shalt return to the Lord thy God, and shalt hear his voice. Because the Lord thy God is a merciful God: he will not leave thee, nor altogether destroy thee, nor forget the covenant, by which he swore to thy fathers (Deut 4:29-31).
Thou hast blessed thy land. By the return of the exiles. Devastation of the land by an invading army and the removal of peoples into exile was another result of covenant infidelity: Thou shalt cast much seed into the ground, and gather little: because the locusts shall consume all. Thou shalt plant a vineyard, and dig it, and shalt not drink the wine, nor gather any thing thereof: because it shall be wasted with worms. Thou shalt have olive trees in all thy borders, and shalt not be anointed with the oil: for the olives shall fall off and perish. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, and shalt not enjoy them: because they shall be led into captivity. The blast shall consume all the trees and the fruits of thy ground…The Lord will bring upon thee a nation from afar, and from the uttermost ends of the earth, like an eagle that flyeth swiftly, whose tongue thou canst not understand, A most insolent nation, that will shew no regard to the ancients, nor have pity on the infant, And will devour the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruits of thy land: until thou be destroyed, and will leave thee no wheat, nor wine, nor oil, nor herds of oxen, nor flocks of sheep: until he destroy thee. And consume thee in all thy cities, and thy strong and high wall be brought down, wherein thou trustedst in all thy land. Thou shalt be besieged within thy gates in all thy land which the Lord thy God will give thee (Deut 28:38-42, 49-52. See also Isa 1:7-8; 5:8-10, 17; 6:11-13 24:1-13; Jer 5:4-8).  This situation of exile and devastation of the land will be ended when the people return to their God in repentance (Deut 30:1-13). In the context of this psalm these things (sin, invasion, exile, return, bestowal of God’s blessings) have already happened. 

Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. Turned away (Heb. שׁבת, Gr. απεστρεψας) is a sort of leitmotif in this psalm as will become clear. This is the same word used in Deut 30:1-3 to express repentance which will lead God to turn around the fortunes of his people: Now when all these things shall be come upon thee, the blessing or the curse, which I have set forth before thee, and thou shalt be touched with repentance of thy heart among all the nations, into which the Lord thy God shall have scattered thee, And shalt return to him, and obey his commandments, as I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul: The Lord thy God will bring back again thy captivity, and will have mercy on thee, and gather thee again out of all the nations, into which he scattered thee before.  (see also Ps 14:7; 53:6; 126:4; Jer 30:18; where the NAB translates as “restore”. Also see Jer 29:14; 30:3; 33:26 where the NAB translates as “change your lot”). 

(Ps 85:2) Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people: thou hast covered all their sins.  

Thou hast forgiven is literally “Thou hast turned away”, using the same word as in the previous verse (Heb. שׁבת, Gr. απεστρεψας). Father Stuhlmueller rightly notes that although the blessings in this psalm begin by mentioning the land, it is the forgiveness of sins which is the requisite of the return and the other gifts. 

(Ps 85:3) Thou hast mitigated all thy anger: thou hast turned away from the wrath of thy indignation. 

Thou hast Mitigated all thy anger. The Hebrew reads Thou hast taken away, employing the word  אספת, “to gather for any purpose”. God has gathered up his anger in order to remove it. The Greek text has κατεπαυσας, “to colonize,” “to settle down, desist”).  God has settled down his anger and allowed his people to once again settle down in the land. 

Thou hast turned away from the wrath. Once again the leitmotif  turned away appears. 

Of thy indignation. Indignation translates the Greek θυμου, meaning “hard breath.” The Hebrew word is אפך׃, “nose, nostril.”  A man’s breathing becomes heavy and his nostrils flare when he is angry. These words are often used to express God’s anger. 

(Ps 85:4) Convert us, O God our saviour: and turn off thy anger from us.
Convert us. The Hebrew is שׁובנו, a cognate of שׁבת used in verse 2. The Greek is επιστρεψον, which is formed by the root στρέφω; the Greek απεστρεψας in verse 2 is likewise taken from this root. Once again we have the leitmotif of turning back.  This leitmotif occurs again in the second part of the verse, at least in the Greek version: Turn (αποστρεψον) off thy anger from us.

This and the following verses may appear to contradict the state of things indicated in verses 2-4, but the historical context of the psalm is important. The people have indeed returned from captivity and are once again in the promised land (vs 2). Their sins have been forgiven and God’s anger abated, however, they are again in danger of breaking the covenant. The devastated land, the task of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple weighed heavy upon them, and some were losing heart. They began to put themselves first and God second. The time period here is the age of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They are once again experiencing punishment for lack of fidelity to the covenant (see Haggai 1:2-11).  By recalling the past favors of God (vss 2-4) they establish a basis for their appeal. 

(Ps 85:5) Wilt thou be angry with us for ever: or wilt thou extend thy wrath from generation to generation?

Father Boylan: “Surely the wrath which had brought on the Exile, and which for a little time had seemed to be ended, will not be maintained for ever”. (see Ps 77:7-10; Isa   The thought of God’s perpetual wrath towards his people is unthinkable as his past actions in their favor (vss 2-4) indicate, thus the psalm continues: 

(Ps 85:6) Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life: and thy people shall rejoice in thee.
Again note the reference to turning. 

(Ps 85:7) Shew us, O Lord, thy mercy; and grant us thy salvation.

The Psalmists confidence in God (vs 7) based as it is on His way of acting (vss 2-4) forms the basis for this petition. 

Thy mercy. Hebrew, חסדך; Greek, ελεος. See The Concept of “Mercy” In The Old Testament, an excerpt from Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical (Rich In Mercy). 

(85:8) I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me: for he will speak peace unto his people: And unto his saints: and unto them that are converted to the heart. 

I will hear what the Lord God will speak in (to) me is a pledge of fidelity. See Habakkuk 2:1-2. 

For he will speak peace. In biblical usage peace is a total state of well being and can be used as synonymous with life (2 Sam 18:29). This peace will manifest itself in salvation and glory (vs 10); mercy and truth, justice and peace (vs 11); 

Unto them that are converted to (in) the heart. This reflects the Greek Septuagint; the Hebrew reads: But let them not turn again to folly. The RSV follows the Greek. Note once again the leitmotif of turning (the basic meaning of convert). 

(Ps 85:9) Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him: that glory may dwell in our land.

The Greek word translated as near would perhaps be better translated as near at hand, for the basic meaning of  εγγυς is “to squeeze with the hand”. (See Mark 1:15; Matt 3:2). 

That glory may dwell in our land. The divine presence (Ex 24:16) that once tented, encamped, dwelt in the desert tabernacle (Ex 40:35) and the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kings 8:10-13). 

(Ps 85:10) Mercy and truth have met each other: justice and peace have kissed. 

Mercy, truth, justice, peace are gifts of God’s peace and are here personified as divine agents

The absence of these things were declared crimes in Israel by the Prophet Hosea (Hos 4:1-2), and their absence had been detrimental to the land in accord with the covenant punishments mentioned at the beginning of my notes (Hos 4:3). See also Isaiah 59:1-15. 

(Ps 85:11) Truth is sprung out of the earth: and justice hath looked down from heaven. 

Truth is sprung out of the earth. The earth or land upon which the psalmist was certain God’s glory would dwell (vs 10). The land which was once ravaged by God and then blessed (see vs 2 and the notes on it). 

Justice hath looked down from heaven. The gifts of God, manifestations of peace between him and his people, encompass both heaven and earth which had themselves been personified as witnesses to the covenant (Deut 32:1; see also Deut 4:25-26).

Human sin causes ruptures both human and cosmic (Adam and Eve~Gen 3; The generation of Noah~Gen 7:11; the generation of Hosea~Hos 4:1-3; the crucifixion of Christ Matt 27:45-54). But the disharmony introduced by sin is not irreversible (Hos 2:21-23; Isa 32:15-18). 

(Ps 85:12) For the Lord will give goodness: and our earth shall yield her fruit. 

Goodness could here mean blessings both temporal and spiritual. Our earth shall yield her fruit could be taken solely as a reference to agricultural blessings, however, given the close connection in the OT between faithfulness/unfaithfulness and fertility/lack of fertility the words can be taken as a metaphor for spiritual blessing. 

(Ps 85:13) Justice shall walk before him: and ,shall set his steps in the way.

As a herald goes before a king so will justice go before the Lord, guiding his steps in the way (I.e., God will follow the way [path, road] of justice (righteousness).