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Chapter five “The Lord’s Prayer”

The chapter entitled “The Lord’s prayer” is part of the first volume in Doubleday’s first edition of the three-part work, entitled Jesus of Nazareth (May 2007), by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Bishop emeritus of the city of Rome. The time frame for this volume (I) includes Jesus’ public ministry, beginning with Christ’s baptism of the Jordan up to and including the Transfiguration of the Lord. This book too advanced to be considered an introduction to the New Testament studies, nor would one study Jesus of Nazareth without someone prior knowledge of Christology. That said any reader might gain spiritual fruit from this theological literary vineyard. My comments here are based on a cursory reading of a review in Booklist:

The passage discussed in each chapter are interpreted within the prophetic context fo the continuous document that contains them, the Bible. The meanings of Jesus’s words, deeds, and person are always educed with the aid and understanding of the religious thought and practice of the preceding Hebrew Scriptures. (Olson, Ray Copyright © American Library Association. All right reserved).[i]

Benedict’s approaches the Lord’s prayer from the Matthean perspective: Jesus’ audience already know how to pray; it needs to experience prayer daily, integrally. Jesus, the new Rabbi, calls the Israel of old to new ways of approaching Yahweh in prayer; now they have permission to call God “Father,” “Abba.” Thus  the Pope is our 21st-century rabbi/philosopher who tells us to approach God heart, mind, and soul.

There are two ideas that are constant through the Chapter. One the importance of being in a constant communication with God through prayer. Following the example of Jesus, and that the result of prayer is, as he writes “overcomes all boundaries, and make us one family” (Ratzinger p.141). Ratzinger shows the Our Father to be a progressive prayer, with a structure, an introduction, and seven petitions. This structure gives readers, the idea that the author would like to let us know that this prayer comes from Jesus who is in constant communication with the Father. We the readers who desire to pray, have to let Christ pray in and through us, this means that the act of prayer comes from the individual and leads to the communal., to daily experience: I am not alone in this Journey a journey that leads us “Our Father/ not simply my Father, who is in Heaven.

Forever a teacher, forever a pastor, Benedicts provides two things here: a chapter of instruction; a chapter of inspiration. The author’s attitude/tone in Jesus of Nazareth is scholarly and pastoral: he desires, more than anything else, that his students, readers, parishioners grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Our author hails from the Post-Vatican II Church of a more open, yet more scholarly approach to scripture and spirituality, honed from his association with thinkers like Karl Rahner and Has Kung.  

 

[i] https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Nazareth-Baptism-Jordan-Transfiguration/

Jesus of Nazareth Chapter 2: the Temptation in the Desert

In chapter 2 of Pope Benedict XIV’s Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict talks of the temptations that Jesus face and how they correspond with our own faith. He tells us how at the heart of it all, the concept of placing God as secondary in our lives is the central point of these and all temptations. He then goes on, telling how in the first temptation, the turning of stone into bread, is done in both the multiplication of loaves and the Last Supper because of the belief of the people who pined for God. He then discusses the importance of proper Scriptural interpretation via the second temptation, telling how misinterpretation of the Scripture misinterprets who God is, thus pushing him aside. Finally, by way of the last temptation, we see how all that the devil offers, no matter how glamorous it may be, it will fade away, as all earthly things do, and that the only thing that will last is the heavenly kingdom. I found it to be a fantastic read. Never before had I considered the premises that the temptations Jesus encountered could have so much meaning globally; rather, I had seen them being each person’s own struggle with faith. Yet, Pope Benedict XVI show they are both at the same. If you have the chance, I recommend that you read it too.

Imprisoned but still ministering

In chapter 12 we begin with an explanation of what a life in chains was like for Paul in Rome.  We are told of a life that is much more like what might imagined for a guest in bondage than a criminal locked into a dungeon and forgotten.  People regularly came and went, discussions were had about how and what the young church should be doing, and letters were sent giving directions and guidance.  During his confinement he was chained to one guard during the day and two at night.  The author asserts that these guards might have even been an aid to spreading the faith throughout Rome. 

               Through his letters Paul extorts the various communities to show unity, especially in Paul’s absence.  He asks them to greet all fellow Christians with respect, and to show courtesy and respect even when they feel someone has slighted them.  He also addresses’ questions on the nature of Christ and the angels, affirming that Christ is above the angels since they proceeded from him in the creation of the world.  Throughout his confinement he repeats his message of unity calling for all who follow Christ to act as one family regardless of where they came from – physically or spiritually.  The most important thing for Paul is that the communities maintain their faith in the morality and teachings of Christ Jesus.

               I appreciated the explanation of the bondage that Paul was placed under.  In my mind I’ve always imagined something more akin to a dungeon with visitors speaking through a barred window than what we are presented with here.  The description of the guards who are basically forcibly catechized by being chained to Paul also gives me a new understanding of the way the Gospel spread throughout the empire.  It was interesting to read through the chapter, reading summaries of Paul’s letters, about how the challenges faced by the Christians in the 30 or 40 years after Christ’s death are often the same as those faced today – don’t try to add to the faith with elemental spirits and treat each other nice.  The only thing I found a little confusing was the opening paragraph.  I’m guessing that Mr. Callewaert was trying to set the scene but it seemed to be less relevant than most of the other material.  I also felt that he spent too much effort trying to dismiss the importance of the Roman writers of the time.  If you didn’t believe that Paul was greater than those writers, then you aren’t likely to have ever picked up this book in the first place.  

               Finally, I would definitely recommend this book to my family and parishioners based on this chapter.  It’s not a heavy duty examination of the details of Paul’s letters, pick up a bible and read the letters for yourself and your likely to get a deeper understanding of what Paul was saying.  A heavy duty examination is often less accessible and a brief examination like this can ignite the spark of curiosity that leads people to want to examine the full message.

Voyage to Rome Crossing and Shipwreck

A reading of chapter 11, Voyage to Rome, Crossing and Shipwreck, provides a wealth of historical detail surrounding St. Paul’s voyage to Rome. St. Paul appealed to Caesar, a right he enjoyed as a Roman citizen, not against Rome, but rather to defend himself against the Jews’ stubborn insistence that he (Paul) was guilty and needed to be punished.

This chapter begins with prisoner Saint Paul being brought to Rome by ship to defend himself. Since it was late September and the autumn storms were fast approaching, they had pulled into a port called “Fair Heavens.” The weather was always a concern, they held a council meeting on whether to stay in the port or try to sail onward.

Saint Paul who had traveled extensively and had been shipwrecked numerous times, recommended that they stay in port; otherwise, there would be injury to lives and damage to the ship. However, the Captain decided to move forward with their journey.

Since their destination was only a few hours away, they proceeded with their journey. A storm pursued which resulted in the crew throwing both cargo and rigging overboard. Everyone on the ship, 266 people, felt they were all going to die. Everyone was exhausted since many days had passed since they had left the port.

At that point, Saint Paul rose and addressed everyone on the ship stating, “I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Exactly as Saint Paul stated is what occurred.

They landed on the island of Malta, where Saint Paul healed many of their infirmities. This chapter ends with Saint Paul being brought to Rome and presenting his cause before many. Following his explanation to the people of Rome, some became believers and some did not. Saint Paul was permitted to stay in Rome for two years, in lodging that he rented, and he was permitted to proclaim Christ’s teachings to all of the many who came to him.

These passages relate important events in the history of Christianity and the spread of the Word of God. The historical details are rich in excitement and seem to provide wonderful material for a film depicting the importance of the early Christian period. I would recommend this chapter as beneficial reading and very  important information for the young adult and, certainly, anyone interested in, or perusing higher studies on the life and times of St. Paul. 

Chapter 10 – Paul’s Arrest Defense and Journey to Caesarea

Chapter 10 – Paul’s Arrest Defense and Journey to Caesarea

 

SUMMARY

This chapter begins with Paul arriving in Jerusalem, and immediately meets with James. James presents an issue to Paul regarding the Pharisees questioning Paul’s adherence to the law. For Paul was teaching his followers that they did not need to follow some aspects of the law of Moses. James also proposes a solution. Paul would submit himself and 4 Nazarites for purification in the temple, and as an act of charity Paul would also pay the Nazarites expenses. All this was all meant to show that Paul does observe and follow the law.

However James’s plan did not work. In fact those who saw Paul in the temple now accused him of teaching against the law and also of defiling the temple by bringing a Greek pagan into the temple. Paul had not done this but it was an accusation that stuck, and a plan that worked for Paul’s accusers, who planed to lynch him and stone him to death.

However Paul skilled in the art of rhetoric because of his Greek heritage, offered his own defense first by speaking in Greek to the local Tribune who allowed Paul to speak to the people. Then Paul spoke in Hebrew to the people, at first the crowd was silent as he told them of his heritage as a Pharisee, but later the crowd became agitated when he spoke of leading the gentiles to Christ.

At this pint Paul is brought before the local Tribune again, but this time Paul declares that he is a Roman citizen. Because of his citizenship they can not punish him, but instead the Tribune orders that Sanhedrin meet to learn exactly what charges Paul was accused of. The next morning a group of Jews plotted to kill Paul, but the plot is discovered by Paul’s nephew and the Tribune wanting to make sure a Roman citizen was not lynched on his watch, immediately transports Paul to Caesarea where he will be brought to Felix the local governor.

Paul testified before Felix, but Felix wanted to wait for the Tribune to come to Ceasaera before proceeding with this case. While Paul waits he was granted freedom and given a roman guard as an escort. Ironically this arrangement continued for some time, and gave Paul immunity form further harassment by the Pharisees and allowed him to continue working and evangelizing.
Some time later Felix was called back to Rome and a new Governor was appointed Festus. When talking with Festus Paul requested an appeal of his case before Caesar. The chapter ends with this request be granted, but before Paul left he was brought before King Agrippa where he talked again and Agrippa quipped that in a little more time Paul would make a Christian of him.

While reading this chapter a though kept reoccurring that this was presented in a way that in some respects parallels how the Pharisees harasses and tried to trap Jesus and kill Jesus by what he said and did.

I do like this book and its narrative style. The narrative follows the journey of Paul as described in the Acts of the Apostles but tells the story in a more colorful and enjoyable way. I would truly like to read this book in a more leisurely at a latter time. It also includes more background information. For instance the description of how Herod had transformed the village of Strato’s Tower into the city called Caesarea

I would also recommend this book to others especially if they where looking for a text to bring more light to the book of Acts. Also I think it may be a good book to use in group bible study of Acts. The extra insights of Paul’s journey I think may help generate a lively discussion of Paul’s his skill as an evangelist.  

Chapter 9, The Ascent to Jerusalem, Kathy Ross

        Chapter 9- The Ascent to Jerusalem

       During Paul’s missionary travels, he wrote two important letters, one to his beloved people of Galatia and the other to the Romans, a people unfamiliar to him. In Galatia, the Judaizers were doubting the teachings of Christ. Major disputes were erupting regarding dietary laws and circumcision. The Galatians questioned the teaching of Paul as the true Gospel. Paul’s response was highly emotional, “For in Christ Jesus…faith working through love” ( Gal 5:6). Paul lists fifteen faults of the Galatians and insists on his own authority by divine revelation. Paul exhorts God’s people to “love their neighbor as themselves” and ends this letter, to the Galatians, with a blessing.  The Letter to the Romans is Paul’s longest letter, as a sort of final will and testament. Two themes were relayed. The first addressed the stormy relationship between the Judaizing Christians and the Gentile Christians, and the second sought to obtain financial help for a missionary trip to Spain. Paul stressed the great importance of salvation for all through the “freedom of Christianity,” through Jesus Christ. “The gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Gal 1:16). In the second part of this letter, the moral piece, Paul focused on “a life based on love.” (pg. 137) With his words, Paul found a way to unite the disagreeing parties. All are one in the Body of Christ. Paul’s letters were building the universal beliefs of Christ’s Church, trusting that each church area would financially support other distant churches in Christ’s Name. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself” (Romans 14:7). The inclusive nature of the church, as determined by Jesus, welcomed all of the faithful. 

               In both letters, Paul’s words were strong and persuasive. His intent could not be mistaken. When problems arose, Paul’s responses presented a clear direction for the people in Galatia and Rome. Although all discussion or dissension needed to be heard, Paul assured all of the faithful that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Paul’s words encouraged the faithful to “Bear one another’s burdens, so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). His words could not be mistaken as a gentle reprimand for poor choices or flagrant sin. There was no doubting the strength of Paul’s words. The fulfillment of the Old Testament came through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. People needed to hear and then choose to live as Christ instructed. These communications helped the faithful by illuminating their misperceptions and strengthening their faith. The Letters of Saint Paul gave clarity and purpose to the people. 

            Historically, the travels of Saint Paul are interesting. He journeyed by boat and on foot, avoiding places of danger and plots to have him assassinated. Paul hoped  to arrive in Jerusalem by the Pentecost celebration. He travelled from Asia to Assos, the Isle Lesbos, Isle of Chios, Samos, Miletus, Island of Cos, Rhodes, Port of Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea Maritima, and then Jerusalem. Certainly, Saint Paul was a man with a mission. His zeal for spreading the Word of the Lord was enthusiastic and heartfelt. Paul’s words should be read by all. His later life portrayed his great love of Jesus.  Nothing “else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

The World of St. Paul- Joseph M. Callewaert- Chapter 8- The Third Missionary Journey

Summary of Chapter 8, The Third Missionary Journey – Ephesus

The World of Saint Paul by Joseph M. Callewaert

 

In this chapter Callewaert writes about Paul’s third missionary journey which was to the city of Ephesus.  He begins by describing the type of city Ephesus was and gives the reader an overview of the people who lived there, before and during Paul’s visit.  From Callewaert’s description, we see that Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the region and became “the most opulent and lavish city in Asia.”  

 

The people in Ephesus were accustomed to lives of vice, so much so, that the virtuous philosopher, Hermodorus, was banished from the city. Of note is the Ephesians’ worship of the pagan god, Diana, to which a beautiful temple was built. The temple’s high priest was known to incite men to do immoral and degrading debauchery through dances performed by priestesses. This is the type of opulent and decadent city to which Paul traveled in AD 54 to preach the good news.

 

We read that in Ephesus Paul found only a few believers whom he baptized in the name of Jesus. He cured the sick and drove out evil spirits and during this time the people, both Jews and Greeks began to believe in Jesus and convert.

 

Callewaert describes significant events of Paul’s journey in this chapter. He relates that Paul’s stay in Ephesus brought major trouble when a silversmith incited a riot against him because he lost business making pagan items. During his stay in Ephesus Paul received a letter from Timothy regarding the bad state of affairs of the church in Corinth. To handle the problems Paul assessed the situation and decided to send Titus with two letters: one that addressed the immoralities and the quarreling that crept into the Corinthian community and answered the questions they had about marriage and pagan cults and the second letter which clarifies the relations between Judaism and Christianity and lays the blame for Corinth’s problems on agitators, most likely Jews from outside the community. He also tells of his own suffering, almost to death, for the cause of Christ.  We see how the church in the first century was connected and unified when Callewaert writes that despite all that is going on, Paul finds time to organize a collection for the church in Jerusalem.  

 

This chapter is interesting and informs the inspired reader of the city of Ephesus, it’s citizens, and a number of obstacles Paul had to overcome. Those who are called to evangelize can benefit from reading Callewaert’s depiction of the adversity and difficulties Paul encountered to in order to preach the good news and spread the Word of God.

Chapter 7, The World of St Paul: The Second Missionary Journey II

Paul entered Athens in 50 AD and spent a few weeks bring the message of Christ to the people.  As a child Paul studied the classics and was extremely familiar with the Greek language and culture.  Therefore, it must have been difficult to enter the pagan land with all its statues and art which were dedicated to various ‘gods’.  In spite of this, Paul traveled through the city and taught about the resurrection of Jesus. 

 

The irony in the chapter is that Paul was approached by the stoics because they had heard he was preaching about “strange gods’.  Preaching about ‘other gods’ than the gods of the Greeks is what led to the condemnation of Protagoras, Socrates and others.  Paul was led up the 16 steps of the Aeropagus to face a tribunal because of his preaching.

 

He addressed them as had many other philosophers – “Men of Athens”.  However, Paul was quite ingenious in his defense.  He appealed to their sense of “religion” by noting that on his journey through the city he noticed that they had an altar dedicated to an “unknown god”.  It was this opportunity that he seized to continue his preaching about God.  The Athenians, for all their intellect, could not grasp what Paul was teaching and ultimately rejected him. All was not lost, however, as the Church took root upon the conversion of Dionysius, Demaris and others with them.

 

Paul only spent a short time in Athens before moving on to Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea Maritima, Jerusalem and Antioch.  Each place he preached in the Synagogues.

 

I recommend this chapter, especially the first half, because it offers a contrast of the pagan world of Athens to the various Church’s that Paul was establishing throughout his missionary journey.  The key point that Callewaert makes is that the Athenians, for all their wisdom, become fools for rejecting God and embracing Nero

Paul’s Journey Continues…. Callewaert Chapter 6 –

This chapter was easy to read. There were times where it was easy to imagine yourself there in the scene with Paul as details are being described.  The author did an excellent job of synergizing the information and putting it together into what seem to be a seamless story about a part of Paul’s life.  In Paul’s travels which we see in the Acts becomes alive with information added and explanations why those locations were significant to people of that time and included cultural, mythology, history, science and sprinkled us with information about situations that happened in that location in a previous time or a future time. Map of the travels of Paul helped me picture the scenes along with details given by Callewaert

At the same time, this book was written to make Paul accessible to Catholics and Christians who do not really know who Paul is. A lot of assumptions were made about readers and that they would know who people named in this book. “Famous Theodore was bishop for 36 years” was one of few distracting tidbits that had me as reader, go how is this relevant to this chapter?  It is obvious that Callewaert wanted to give as much information he could in a single book which made it hard to follow the timelines  about a location Paul and Silas was and jumped from one point to time to another point such as this location will be the spot of a battle in 273 and also was a location of a battle in 333 B.C. can make one ‘s head spin trying to remember what is going on with Paul.  

The ability to weave various stories from few different books of bible into Paul’s life was impressive whenever it was from Acts, 2 Tim, or Revelations. Chapter 6 begins with Acts 15:36 where Paul and Barnabas decide to part ways and go separately. This scene seems to play out more vividly in the book like a soap opera due to the fact that it was made explicit that Barnabas was never mentioned again in the New Testament and that Tradition tells us he is buried in Salamis.

This chapter also gave us insights into how Paul used prayer. It began with wanting to visit brethren to see how they were doing. When Paul learned about Timothy, he did not want to offend other believers so Timothy was circumcised then Paul laid his hands on him and ordained Timothy. Both men preached together and telling others to pray for their enemies. They kept Sabbath and used prayer buildings. They would sometimes pray near flowing waters because of Jewish ritual purifications when synagogues were not available. They sang hymns to God when they were in prison. When traveling by boat, Callewaert is certain that Paul used that time for prayer and contemplation.

As we read this chapter, we cannot forget that we are Paul in today’s world as indicated in the story with girl who could predict the future and kept following Paul and telling others that he works for Most High God. Paul then cast out the evil spirit out of her which led to the people in town to arrest Paul. While in jail, Paul kept his faith and when presented with an opportunity to escape he still saved the life of someone who was keeping him in jail and baptized this person as well.  

This was a well written chapter that made the scenes visible and made a lot of assumptions about the reader’s knowledge such as understanding church history tidbits and idioms.

The Journey that Changed the World (Callewart – Chapter 5)

What a momentous event in the history of the Church. We are all called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth and here we see Paul, Barnabas, and John-Mark sailing from Antioch to put that call into action. They start by visiting Cyprus with its colorful mix of shrines and temples…mostly not “G”rated. In Cyprus, a roman seeking more than his religion offered him, invites them to his home. When a theosophist magician opposes the meeting, Paul calls on the hand of the Lord and blinds him. The Roman gets the picture and quickly embraces the faith. Christianity soon replaces the cult of Venus in Cyprus. John-Mark leaves them at this point and Paul and Barnabas press on to Antioch of Pisidia. Here they are welcomed into synagogues in their capacities as Rabbi and Levite as guests of honor. After the religious service, they are asked if they have anything to say. Paul seizes the moment and offers the first sermon that we have by him on record. The people hear what Paul has to say with some interest… asking him to come back and speak again the following week. The Jews soon come to their senses and “revile” Paul. At this, Paul chastises them for rejecting the word of God, which had to be spoken to them first. Since the Jews don’t want to hear it, they will turn to the gentiles. And so we have a historic moment… the beginning of the systematic proclamation of Christianity to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas shake the dust from their sandals and go to Iconium where they are well received by Jews and Greeks. Eventually they wear out their welcome and leave before the Jews and pagans stone them. Their work would bear fruit as Iconium would serve for many centuries as an important center for Christianity. In Lystra, their next stop, Paul heals a paralytic and the people assume Barnabas is Zeus and Paul is Hermes. The priest of Zeus hears that Zeus is in town and brings bulls to sacrifice to him. Paul and Barnabas tear their garments and insist they are men and not Gods. As if on cue….Jews from cities they had previously visited arrive and persuade the people to stone them. Paul is actually stoned this time and left for dead. When people come to pay last respects, he miraculously stands up, goes back to the city, and the journey continues. Following a final and productive stop in Derbe, they retrace their route back to Antioch where they rest after their perilous 680 mile journey.

Paul and Barnabas are soon called to Jerusalem to share in the debate about whether of not gentiles need to follow the Law of Moses. They share stories of their journey with those gathered in what would be the first council of the Christian Church. Their testimony helps the early Church discern a solution to their first great crisis. The chapter ends with an affirming story of how Peter and Paul deal with a follow-on incident when Peter visited Antioch. The issue of circumcision comes up and Peter wavers in his actions until Paul gives him some aggressive counseling on the matter. The author affirms that the apostles, although they have their arguments (some heated) demonstrate great “spiritual solidarity” in what they say and do.

I have never read an account of the first missionary journey like this and that is a shame. I actually think too few Catholics spend enough time understanding what the apostles did for us in the early church. This was an incredible journey, filled with miracles and near death experiences. These were not Gods, but men like us. As for the text, I think the author offers too much historical detail to make this suitable for a bible study or a casual read. His detailed accounts of history, while interesting, distract from the story of the mission. Historical heavy handedness aside, the elements related to Paul and Barnabas and the relevant regional facts do give a comprehensive and moving account of this mission that changed the world forever.