— The Lord’s Day —

Sunday Week XXVI

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“But [δὲ (de)] from the beginning of creation...”

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

Many lexicons of biblical and classical Greek state that δὲ (de) is among the most common particle used to join clauses together by continuing or amplifying the point of one clause with the following clause. δὲ (de) is also used to join clauses together by contrasting the point of one clause with the following clause. In English, this is apparent in the use of and or but. When and is used, the reader knows clearly that elements are joined together either to continue or to intensify the thought. When but is used, the reader knows clearly that a contrast is presented often times negating the first premise or clause in light of the second. In Greek, especially Biblical Greek, δὲ (de) functions both in continuing and contrasting a premise. So how does one determine a proper reading of δὲ (de)? The simple yet challenging answer: context.

The Sunday proclamation of God’s holy Word presents a challenge. When the Gospel and other Scripture Texts are proclaimed, we listen to a particular episode or event. In the case of the Gospels, the episode often narrates a word of deed of Jesus during His Public Ministry. Jesus’ particular action or word gives an insight or instruction for living as His disciple in the Kingdom of God. Generally, the episode proclaimed offers a ‘self-contained’ message that we can take away and use to respond more fully to Jesus’ call, “come, follow Me.” However, it is imperative that at all times one approach Sacred Scripture recognizing “the content and unity of the whole of Scripture.” (Dei Verbum, 12, paragraph 3). As valid as the message is for the particular episode, that episode is connected to a much larger life reality — and — that larger life reality is the Person, Jesus. Even before analyzing and researching the historic background information (what biblical scholars call the sitz im Leben), we start with the fact that these are the saving words of Jesus: Son of God, Son of Mary given to us as a gift for our salvation.

The Evangelist Saint Mark records Jesus’ pronouncements in a section that a number of scholars consider the core of the Marcan Gospel (cf previous blog entry). It begins (8:22) and ends (10:52) with accounts of Jesus restoring sight to the blind. Between the ‘bookends’ of restored sight are lessons on discipleship, healings, Jesus’ Transfiguration, parables and 3 predictions of His passion and death. Essentially, all words and deeds in this section (and indeed the whole of the Gospel and Christian living) MUST be seen and lived in the context of the sacrifice of Jesus’ passion and death. To put matters bluntly, as the Evangelist Mark is wont to do, all the words and deeds of Jesus MUST be viewed through the lens of His self-surrendering, self-sacrificing and love-defining death on the Cross. Jesus, the crucified King, is the context for all that unfolds in Christian living and specifically in this section of the Marcan Gospel.

With that context in place, Jesus is drawn into His day’s debate on marriage. Contrary to what our contemporary culture holds as Jesus’ silence on the matter of marriage and related dimensions on life, He does speak and speaks clearly on the matter: “But from the beginning of creation …” These are His words in response to the controversy of His day AND our day. His but [δὲ (de)] is a response of contrast. The vision of humanity articulated in Genesis 1:26-31 and 2:4-25 as far as Jesus is concerned is the foundation upon which life unfolds. With the Fall (Genesis 3), ‘all changed, changed utterly …’ and what was born was a terrible ugliness of a tendency to selfishness (concupiscence) and an axial disruption of the beauty of living in relationship with the Divine Persons Who desired nothing more than a life of love with humanity.

In the debates of His day, Jesus more than implies that the Pharisees and others have lost sight - have become blinded to humanity’s original constitution; an affect and effect of Original Sin. Jesus’ work ultimately will contrast humanity’s approach to life and thus result in not just restoring humanity to the original harmony of the Garden but will re-create humanity as children of His Father. To accomplish this, His selfless, surrendering, sacrificial love manifested in His passion and death is vital to the meaning of marriage, love and life. His Cross is vital for humanity and therefore must be embraced because the Cross, minimally, is the lesson in what it means to be selfless. When the Cross is removed from life, whether casually or deliberately, humanity will then attempt to redefine reality based on mere feeling, emotion, ignorance, ease, convenience or misguided desire. The theology and anthropology of Genesis chapters 1 through 11, which presently are weak and anemic because of generations looking improperly at Genesis as ‘just a story,’ offers humanity way of living that — in Jesus the Christ — offers a remedy for the inclination to sin and a restoration of proper relational living with the Divine Persons: God Who is love.

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