PSALM 146 by TONINO VICARI

Introduction

As part of Book Five of the Psalms, Psalm 146 and is a Hallelujah Psalm and shows a great deal of exuberance. The Psalm praises the Lord for creating the sky, earth and sea and all the creatures that exist in creation. Praise the Lord, too, for giving justice to the oppressed, food to the hungry, freedom to the imprisoned, and sight to the blind, not to mention a few other items, such as protecting strangers and supporting widows and orphans.  Scholars believe that Psalm is from Israel’s post-exilic period. To indicate psalm’s historical setting, as referenced by its location to 147.

Application to the Ancient Israelites

The theme of the Psalm, is to no put your trust in any form government, those that ruled Israel and those that ruled the Jews during the exile. The Jewish liturgical tradition formerly used this hymn as a morning song of praise; it culminates in the proclamation of God’s sovereignty over human history. Indeed, the Psalm ends with the declaration: “The Lord will reign forever”

Structure

Ps. 146:1–2 The whole congregation receives the invitation, Praise the Lord, and then each member applies it to himself (Praise the Lord, O my soul).

 Ps. 146:3–4 It is useless to put one’s trust in princes, who are mortals. Governments and armies have their proper place, but their merely human power is not ultimately decisive in the world that God rules.

 Ps. 146:5–9 Yahweh, the God of Jacob, is the one who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them (words from Ex. 20:11). Verses7–9 of Psalm 146 list groups of weak people (oppressedhungry, prisonersthe blindbowed down, sojournerswidowfatherless), probably God’s own faithful.

 Ps. 146:10 Because the Lord will reign forever (Ex. 15:18Ps. 29:10), God’s people should praise him now.

 Application for the Church

Jesus states in the Gospel of Mathew: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matthew 11:4-6). The allusion to Psalm 146 signals that, in Christ, God is doing a new thing: healing the people and setting them free. The Magnificat is related to the psalm. The connection between God’s deeds praised here in Psalm 146 and God’s deeds praised by the teenaged Mary of Nazareth can been seen. But the Magnificat appears to notch things up a level. In the Magnificat, God is praised not only for lifting up the lowly and satisfying the hungry, but also for putting down the mighty and sending the rich away empty-handed. Meanwhile, Psalm 146:5-10 appears content to thank God for bringing the wicked “to ruin” regardless of socioeconomic rank. The Catechism references Psalm 146 when it states:

CCC 150 Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.

God is the Creator of heaven and earth who faithfully keeps the covenant that binds him to his people; it is He who brings justice to the oppressed, provides food to sustain the hungry and sets prisoners free. It is He who opens the eyes of the blind, who picks up those who have fallen, who loves the just, protects the foreigner, supports the orphan and the widow. It is he who muddles the ways of the unjust and who reigns sovereign over all beings and over all ages.

Pope John Paul stated in his audience commentary on the Psalm that there are 12 theological assertions in the Psalm which reflect the perfection of Divine Action. He states that the Lord is not a Sovereign remote from his creatures but is involved in their history as the One who metes out justice and ranks himself on the side of the lowliest, of the victims, the oppressed, the unfortunate. He goes on to say that man therefor has two “radical choices” between two contrasting possibilities: on one side there is the temptation to “trust in princes” adopting their criteria inspired by wickedness, selfishness and pride whose goal is despair or to trust in God. And in highlighting these choices he states that the Psalm reminds the reader that the Psalm indicates the frailty of man. The higher choice the Psalmist suggest is to trust the Lord:

Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God” 

This is the path of trust in God, eternal and faithful. The amen, which is the Hebrew word for faith, precisely means being based on the steadfast solidity of the Lord, on his eternity, on his infinite power. Above all, however, it means sharing his choices, on which the profession of faith and praise described above has shed light. The pope goes on to remind us that we must live in consistency with the divine will, offer food to the hungry, visit prisoners, sustain and comfort the sick, protect and welcome foreigners, devote ourselves to the poor and the lowly. In practice this corresponds exactly to the spirit of the Beatitudes; it means opting for that proposal of love which saves us already in this life and will later become the object of our examination at the last judgment, which will seal history. Then we will be judged on our decision to serve Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the prisoner. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25: 40): this is what the Lord will say at that time.

This election cycle highlights our need to “not trust in princes.” With our recent president, as well as with the current cast of characters that are vying for the position of “leader of the free world” and that is grossly misapplied blasphemous title that tends toward idolatry, whomever gets elected this fall will un-doubtable be a failure to many people. As the Psalm indicates the very problems with America currently, and there are many, is the very fact that this country has completely misplaced its trust for a long time now. The euphoric frenzy that young people feel for this or that candidate promising this or that free thing, imagine for a second if that enthusiasm and worship, yes I did say worship, was actually directed toward the person that could save them, Jesus Christ. If we could get young people as excited about God as they are about the candidate du jour, we might be living in a very different country, a very different world. The words and lessons of Psalm 146 are more imperative, more gravely necessary today than at any time, if you doubt this for a moment turn your television, to any channel, for 5 minutes if you can, and see what has become of America and the World. Saul, David, Solomon, though godly men, let down both God and the people of Israel. Anyone for even the faintest knowledge of history can see clearly, that every prince and president has failed its people in some fashion, and some worse than others. And so the words of Psalm 146 have proven to be true as history has taught us over and again. So when we talk with students, parishioners, friend, family or strangers and they ask your opinion about this leader or that leader, Democrat candidate or Republican, lets gently, lovingly remind them the lesson that Psalm 146 teaches us;

I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.

 

MONASTIC LIFE by TONINO VICARI

•    Healey, "Eastern Monasticism," Christian Spirituality, 27-64;
•    Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses. The Classics of Western Spirituality,  29-33; 55 - 63; 68-74; 81-85; 94-97; 111-120; 133-137.

The challenge in this series of readings appears to be the struggle against human nature and the pursuit of spiritual perfection which, due to the imperfection of the human condition is unattainable. However God’s Grace is that which supply’s us with the power to overcome temptation. As in the life of Anthony the Great, one of the first pioneers of the monastic life, he describes the Christian life of asceticism as a spiritual climbing of a ladder. A clear insight that was gained by the reading is that the monastic life leads to greater fruits and ultimately like all types of spirituality leads to service of others and the spreading of Christ’s love and the spreading of the Gospel. One of the end results of Anthony’s monastic life was his ability to heal others. This in turn was used to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, and not to Glorify Anthony himself to ultimately glorify God from whom the graces flow. The end result was not only a strong personal relationship with God but a relationship to the greater community. We see this also in the development of monastic life from the individual founders to the development of communities. Just as the Trinity is a family, so too does monasticism later reflect this in the community of brothers or sisters that become “family”. This too is inherent in the name of the members of the communities as “brothers and sister” to reflect the family nature of monastic life.

The notion of unattainable perfection however is also to be tempered by the notion that we are to “attain as much perfection as possible” (Nyssa 31). So we are not to eschew the life of the pursuit of spiritual perfection just because it is not fully realizable within the flesh but we are to imitate Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit as a lifelong struggle. And so the apparent theme within the articles is that while it is important to retreat for a time into the wilderness to commune with God and suppress the evils of human nature to more fully allow the Holy Spirit to take over one’s life, the ultimate objective is that the individual returns back to the community with greater spiritual strength in order to complete the work that God as set forth for them to accomplish. This is true in the life of Moses as after his banishment, encounter with God and conversion, he was sent back to Egypt and Pharaoh to complete the work of liberating the ancient Israelites from slavery. Jesus Christ as well sets forth this model for us to follow when after his baptism he retreats into the desert to be tempted by the devil and ultimately overcome temptation, does the being, fully, his ministry to the Jews and the rest of the world. Retreat and monastic life is not an end in itself but rather a preparation period by which we are strengthened to take the Gospel message back into the “World”.

INTRODUCTION TO THEOLOGY by TONINO VICARI

  1. What are three important images or symbols of the Church found either in Scripture, Vatican II or the Catechism of the Catholic Church? How doe these images help us to understand the nature and mission of the church? Explain.

 

Some of the images of the church include the:

Body of Christ

The most interest aspect o the analogy of the church as the body of Christ is that first, the body is a living breathing, growing and dynamic organism. IT is something that is alive and active, has impact on the world, moves in the world and leaves the world not as it was found prior to the “body’s” movement through the world. Another interesting aspect of the body is that functional of the parts of the body.  My question is however, are the members of the body in the sense of the scriptural description

1 Corinthians 12-31 

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire[e] the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

The deeper question is are we an entire arm, hand or ear, or are we in fact a smaller specialized element? As the church grows, I would say that we as its members function more as specialized cell as apposed to an entire arm, leg or ear. We do not do the work of the heart to pump the blood through the body alone, rather we work in unison and in communion with our brothers and sisters as members of the same organ that do the work the Lord asks of us on this earth. We are specialized but not solitary in our work.

Building or Edifice

As an architect, I understand the church as a building or edifice as well. The church is as I understand a large structure with solid walls and foundations which are rock solid, deep, and built on the solid and eternal Truth and Word which is the Scriptures and Traditions as footings.

Jesus is the cornerstone, the first stone that is placed in the construction of an edifice. God’s eternal troughs, that not only the first stone but the most important, giving form and direction to the rest of the building. The church is the building in that, as it is built upon solid foundations, it will last till the end of time, when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. This edifice that is the church will not decay, as the Holy Spirit of God provides the proper maintenance, repairing, sanctifying, cleaning, protecting, and growing the edifice through time.  Another aspect of this image or analogy is that a building provides shelter and protection from the elements. In the case of the “building” of the church, it provides moral and sacramental refuge from the immorality and spiritual dangers, deceptions and storms that are found in the world. It provides protection for the eternal soul from the buffets of changing popular opinions and relentless storms against morality. Yet another relationship that the analogy of the Church as building provides for us is the in the physical sense in the community a landmark, center point and anchor. The church building is a symbol in the community and a constant reminder to the faithful of God’s presence and love for the mystical body of Christ which is the church composed of human souls.

Bride of Christ

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her. He has joined her to with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body. (CCC 796,239).

Another symbol of the church is the bride of Christ. This yet another meaningful image in that we can see the bond between Christ and his church through the love and dedication that they have for each other. There is faithfulness in the relationship and a dedication that will last through eternity. Just as a priest is a priest forever, a human husband and wife are married forever; the supernatural and mystical marriage of Christ to his bride will last for all eternity. The fruit of this marriage is the continuing increasing membership in the church. Each year at Easter, the church bears new children for God through the sacraments of initiation and RCIA. The children that are brought into the world and into the church through the sacraments of baptism, first communion, and confirmation are also the fruit of the church and the families which compose the church.

4. What are the four “marks” of the Catholic Church mention in the Profession of Faith (commonly known as the Nicene Creed)? What is the meaning of each of these marks and how these marks are realized and expressed in the life of the Catholic Church? Explain.

The four marks of the Church are:

One

John 17:11

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.

“The Sacred mystery of the Church’s Unity” (CCC 813) the reason oneness of the church comes from the ones of the source. It is described that as the trinity is three persons but one being, so the church shares this sacred oneness with the God the spouse of the church. And it is because this unity within the founder and because of the founder, that the church is one. This is manifest in several ways. One of the most striking ways is in the ways is the unity of the mass. The mass more or less is celebrated similarly through out the world. Most importantly, the unity of the sacraments from Church to Church, in that one can attend mass at any parish and expect to find the general structure of the mass including the readings and the Eucharist to be key elements that hey can find consistently.

Holy

          The church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect (LG48-3)

The Church is holy as we understand it to be because of the sanctification she receives through her role as the Bride of Christ. Since he has given his life for her and constantly draws her to him, the church through the Holy Spirit is in the process of sanctification. This is process and as we can see, through the lives of the saints, or the members of the church and the lives of Canonized saints, the manifestation of this holiness. The holiness that we can see manifest in the church includes the sacrifice in the daily lives of the religious and those dedicated to the church’s work. As well in family life, we see the manifestation and the sacrifice, on a daily basis of devoted catholic families to each other. Spouse to spouse and parents to children we see the outpouring of love an sacrifice that are signs of God’s love in the church its constituent units which are the religious priests and nuns and the families which comprise the Church. The church also received her holiness through Mary, the mother of God, who is “all holy” (CCC 867). The church by being holy, emits light through the world:

 

Matthew 5:14-16

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

This call of holiness from God to his church to shine in a dark world is both clear and a challenge. This means as Catholics, we must be on guard against sin at all times. We most be both contentious and consistent, on our guard. As we profess to be Christian, there are those that are constantly watching us observing the first inconsistency in our behavior to disprove in their minds, the strength of our faith and the dedication to our call. And so, in following Gods command we must remember to be light at all times, both day and night, not a flashing light or a light that is turned on and off at our whim, but a light that shines bright at all times, like a lighthouse that guides others away from the rocks, but also a light in the window, that guides lost souls home to Catholic Church and to Jesus.

Catholic

Catholic as described by the catechism means “in keeping with the whole.” This is clearly manifest in through the teachings of the church and its dealing with the reformation. In particular, the church has remained true to the teachings of Christ and what was passed down. This is in particularly clear in terms of the consistent celebration of the Eucharist, just as Christ commanded us

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

The concept of universality is also found in the definition of the word “catholic.” This becomes clearly manifest in the presence of the church “universally” throughout the world. There are catholic churches in almost every corner of the globe, and the teaching is known almost universally by everyone. This universality is achieved by the help of God in direct obedience to his command to

Matthew 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . .

 

 

This is commandment for the church to do its best job to baptize the entire world. The church’s presence exists on every habitable continent on the globe, and the work of following God’s command continues to this day.

 

 

Apostolic

Mark 3:13-18

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

The Catechism describes the apostolic nature of the church as being as follows. The church was founded by the Apostles and it is manifest in three ways.

1.      She was founded by the apostles and rests on this foundation.

2.      She has been entrusted with the “good deposits” of the apostolic teaching.

3.      She is guided by the Apostles successors through the offices of the religious in the pastoral office of the church.

One of the most direct transmissions of Apostolic Succession is through the Bishops, who have received the full sacrament of the priesthood. Peter and his office as the pope have received the position as first of the apostles. This Apostolic Succession is one of the key reasons why only those in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Church’s have a true Eucharist, as other churches have broken this necessary apostolic succession.

8. What is the missionary mandate of the church? How is the church called to practice this missionary mandate?

 

The missionary mandate of the church is essential to its role. Jesus commanded us to:

 

Matthew 28:19 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

 

 

This is the ultimate mission of the church that the Spirit of God leads us to love him in future. This missionary mandate has been carried out in a number of ways through the history of the Church. Some of the most interesting ways God has worked through the church throughout history range greatly and include the traditional methods of missionary through the apostles and saints traveling to far off lands to evangelize. This would include Father Xavier, who traveled to many eastern countries to spread the Gospel. Some of the locations in which he visited include China, India and Japan. The missions of the church have redefined the face of the globe, creating new identities in the world. Not only have the spread the faith, but they have given a new identity to many places in the United States and in the world. Places such as Los Angles, San Francisco, San Diego, all exist today because of the Spanish missions in these areas of the country.  Not only have the missions and the missionary work spread the Gospel and given salvation to many, they have also ended many of the horrendous religious practices that were found in the new world such as human sacrifices performed by many of the native American tribes found in what is now Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula such as the Maya. This is a grace to not only their souls, but to the souls of many who would have suffered under the tortures of this type of culture.

 

Some other amazing examples of missionary work through miraculous means include the work of the Venerable Mary of Agreda, a nun who spent 46 in the convent of Agreda in Spain. Through the miraculous bi-locations, she was able to be transported to the new world through the power of God to preach to the Native Americans Mystic and visionary, she was given to ecstasies and trances. She had the gift of bilocation; in some of her trances she said she was teaching Christianity to people in foreign lands. A vision of her, known as the "Lady in Blue" was simultaneously reported teaching the native Tiguas and Caddoes in the areas of what are now New Mexico and Texas.

 

Some contemporary forms of the missionary work in the church include what many devout Catholics are doing in terms of utilizing the Media to spread the word of God and the message of the Catholic Church. One example is a priest in the Netherlands Fr. Roderick Vonhögen who is utilizing new forms of technology such as podcasting, which allows him to reach a large audience of younger people, who are involved in the digital age and computers. Essentially, podcasting is a form of broadcasting radio/video like shows which contain Catholic teaching. Each segment consists of about 45 minutes of mixed media teaching, through spoken word, music and testimonies. There are a number of these podcasts which include a wide range of Catholic Content. These range from such podcasts as the Saint Cast, which discusses saints of the Catholic Church and their lives in history as well as the Cardinal Arinze podcasts, which are interviews of the Cardinal by the Apostolate for Family Consecration and a layman by the name of Jerry Coniker. A group of these individuals even go a far as calling themselves; “Disciples with Microphones” (http://www.discipleswithmicrophones.org/). The most fascinating aspect of this type of missionary and evangelization work is that it allows the religious and lay leaders and members of the church to reach so many more people through their works as apposed to the traditional method of needing to be in one place at a time. One of the drawbacks of this form of evangelization is that you need to be somewhat savvy to use the technology to access the information.