Scripture: Lectionary 445, Sept.18th, I Timothy 3:14-16. Psalm 111:1-2,3-4,5-6. Luke 7:31-35:
Scripture normally is expressed in a spiritual sense and through our faith teaches us the words of God while it is expressed in ordinary human words. Today we see in Timothy another dimension of Scripture where it “borrows” from a non Pauline song or piece of literature where we see an early creed or hymn used in the church to which Paul is addressing while instructing Timothy. In our second reading from the Gospel we find a parable or image of children misbehaving in the market place as they play a nasty game with each other. There is evidence of a similar example of child’s play in such works as Aesop’s Fables or in Herodotus. Common wisdom sayings are found in Proverbs and thus are blessed by the biblical author or redactor. These expressions of culture and creed help us understand a situation in the religious realm while making us more aware of the biblical instruction conveyed in the liturgical celebration of the word of God. A good reader of the Bible is also a good reader of secular literature.
In our selection from Paul to Timothy we realize there are other letters or epistles of Paul that contain sacred hymns or creeds not written by Paul but used by the house churches already established. The Pastoral epistles of Timothy and Titus reflect a later stage in the church’s growth where structure is seen even in an administrative way and also in the liturgical celebrations. These hymns or creed are totally focused on Jesus; they are what are called Christocentric hymns found also in Philippians 2:5-11, in Ephesians 5:9 and in Colossians 3:16. Paul again uses the word “mystery” to introduce the poetic creedal statement about Jesus. We have seen that the expression “mysterium fidei” or mystery of faith is used in every Eucharist at the consecration. In Paul it leads us into the mystery of our believing in Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word of God. “He (Jesus) was manifested in the flesh (he became human through the Virgin Mary) and is preached to the Gentiles after his being glorified through his resurrection or as the hymn expressed it: “taken up into glory.”
In the Gospel Jesus uses the similitude or parable of children playing a game while not being united in the game but playing in a nasty way with one another. I am sure each of us can recall a similar childish play in our very early stages of life where we make a fool of someone or they ridicule us. Play becomes a “fight game.” Jesus and John the Baptist are made to be seen as a drunkard and party person while the latter, the Baptist, is called a madman. You cannot win for either of the two with such rejections of these two holy persons. Jesus and the Baptist were the persons who were rejected and ridiculed or spurned. There is no wisdom in such a response on the part of the one “playing such games.”
True wisdom may be seen in Sirach chapter 24 and in Proverbs chapter 8 where they are used in the liturgy to speak of Jesus and of Mary his Mother. The bible is very human in the many facets of life, culture, and language that are quickly read or heard in the Church’s liturgy. Today we have a prime example of this in both readings. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.