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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 11-26-23

The Daily Office and Mass readings assigned from the Hebrew and Apocryphal scriptures of late have been challenging, given the recent escalation of violence in the seventy-five-year history of the state of Israel and Palestine. The lessons from Nehemiah and Ezra tell the story of the return of the Hebrew people from exile in Babylon, the re-establishment of Jerusalem as the center of their national and religious life, and the re-settlement of the people into the adjacent lands. The First Book of Maccabees speaks of the bitter armed resistance of a faithful Hebrew remnant against the occupying forces of the Greek empire in the mid-second century BCE that succeeded Alexander the Great’s conquest of the entire region. And, of course, the term Zion, and the psalmist’s thirst for vengeance shows up throughout the Psalter. While I don’t read these ancient biblical texts as definitive modern-day property deeds, political position papers, or expositions of military strategy and tactics, they do inform how I go about thinking of the deadly and decidedly complex struggle among the peoples of the Holy Land today.


We’ve also been reading from the Revelation to St. John, the last book of the Christian scriptures, with its pitched cosmic and earthly battles between good and evil, the resulting slaughter of the righteous and the unrighteous, and the eventual rise to glory, with the Lamb that was slain, of the faithful martyred who held steadfast through the great ordeals.


The Rule of St. Benedict prohibits before-bedtime reading of the Heptateuch, the first seven books of the Hebrew scriptures, as they’re filled with stories of violent battles – and no small amount of sex – because such tales could cause anxiety and sleeplessness for the monks under his care. I’ve lain awake at night thinking about the terrors in the world: Gaza, Ukraine, Haiti, the Tenderloin in our own city. Perhaps you have, too.


Our collect for last week claims that our Blessed Lord “caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning” (BCP 236). Somehow, as we sit in relative safety amid the world’s warring madness, may God give us the grace “to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life” in our Savior Jesus Christ – and find a way to turn this hope of everlasting life into lives worth living well and in peace right now.


God’s blessings and peace,


Dan+

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