The Bible Teaches By Word-Plays Series
Contributed by W Pat Cunningham on Jul 7, 2012 (message contributor)
Summary: There are many forms of the Word of God, by which God teaches us of His intention to bring us into eternal union with Jesus, the Bridegroom.
Monday of 14th Week in Course
The Word of God is changeless. First, the content of the Word of God is always the same–Love poured out for human beings, for us all. Second, the person of the Word of God is always the same, Jesus Christ, the enfleshment of the Father’s loving kindness, of the Father’s will to save us from our selfishness and self-deception.
That being said, the written story of God’s loving kindness, which we call Scripture, comes in manifold modalities. First, the story is told in poetry and prose. Those are different modalities, and each has many forms of expression. For instance, there is a famous fable in Numbers that features a talking donkey. The point of the story is that the prophet Balaam was so self-centered, so unable to hear God speaking to him, that God had to talk to him through his beast of burden. Was there really a donkey that spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. God could have caused that biological miracle to happen; it doesn’t matter whether the story is of a physical talking donkey or an allegorical talking donkey.
The Bible is also full of wonderful plays on words, what we call puns. Not all of them are jokes. Take Jezreel, for instance, a name Hosea uses for the people of Israel. It’s a sonic play on Israel. The word in Hebrew has two meanings: early in Hosea, it means to scatter, and is used to predict the scattering of Israel through the nations, an exile that was brought on by their running after the various gods of the land, the Baals. But here God is prophesying that Israel/Jezreel would return to the true God, to her true husband, and forsake the Baals. God is using the language of courtship and marriage here to describe the loving and eternal relationship that He intended for human beings all along. God would be the husband; Israel would be the bride. With the coming of Christ, that loving marriage would be sealed between Jesus, the bridegroom, and the Church, His bride. The dowry the bridegroom would bring–something the Baals promised but never gave–would be a fertile land and an end to violence and war. So Jesus is called Prince of Peace. The Resurrection of the body, to which we all aspire, is the promise fulfilled, the overthrow of death. Jesus raised at least three humans from the grave, but I think the one we consider today is the most personal, the most touching. Mark and Luke give us a bit more detail than Matthew. The leader was the synagogue leader–probably in Capernaum, center of Jesus’s activity–named Jairus. So the death of his daughter was a catastrophe for the whole Jewish community. Jesus raised her within minutes of her death, and diagnosed that her sickness had left her so weak that she immediately needed food. One of my mentors, Bro. Martin McMurtrey, wrote a short poem distinguishing this resuscitation from the other two:
Lazarus came from winding sheets
As if reluctantly and only after loud call.
The son of the widow of Naim must have been dazed
By the mob keening to a lonely mother and an empty bier.
But the daughter of Jairus–did she ever know
Or did she think afterlife but a moment
Interruption of a child’s dream
When He took her gently by
The hand to waken her,
And then commanded
Food be brought?
(Martin McMurtrey, SM)
What is the prayer that best mirrors the eternal love-song of the bride for Jesus, the bridegroom, the one who raises us from death? The Holy Father writes: Among the forms of prayer which emphasize sacred Scripture, the Liturgy of the Hours has an undoubted place. The Synod Fathers called it “a privileged form of hearing the word of God, inasmuch as it brings the faithful into contact with Scripture and the living Tradition of the Church”. Above all, we should reflect on the profound theological and ecclesial dignity of this prayer. “In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church, exercising the priestly office of her Head, offers ‘incessantly’ (1 Th 5:17) to God the sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name (cf. Heb 13:15). This prayer is ‘the voice of a bride speaking to her bridegroom, it is the very prayer that Christ himself, together with his Body, addressed to the Father’”. The Second Vatican Council stated in this regard that “all who take part in this prayer not only fulfil a duty of the Church, but also share in the high honor of the spouse of Christ; for by celebrating the praises of God, they stand before his throne in the name of the Church, their Mother The Liturgy of the Hours, as the public prayer of the Church, sets forth the Christian ideal of the sanctification of the entire day, marked by the rhythm of hearing the word of God and praying the Psalms; in this way every activity can find its point of reference in the praise offered to God.