The Readings for the 17th Thursday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Bl. Stanley Rother, Priest & Martyr
Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven… brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.
SCRIBES GET A BAD rap in the New Testament: basically lawyers, although their function might compare to a hybrid of our modern law professors and higher-tier court justices. Yes, they also copied sacred and royal documents, but they were very good at saying when something was kosher or not. They often sided with the Pharisees in the time of Jesus, but needn’t always do so. And, in today’s passage, we learn of a new type of scribe: one who is schooled in the Kingdom. And we know that’s a good thing. So, essentially, there’s a way in which the disciple of Jesus (one who is schooled in the Kingdom) must be as knowledgable as the scribes of the old teaching. There’s a way to be a follower of Messiah and be conbsidered a Scribe.
I’ve been reading A Rabbi Talks with Jesus by Jacob Neusner. To be honest, I’ve been struggling with it. The Rabbi assumes that for Jesus to be a faithful Jew he must be on the same path as Rabbi Neusner. To go someplace else (as Jesus does) is ok but… The “but” being, while that’s good for you, Jesus, it means you’re no longer a Jew. While I can see that that’s really the only way for a modern Jew to make sense of the Jewish/Christian conversation (and it’s really how many Christians read the conversation too) I don’t think we can look at the history that way. Jeremiah points us in a better direction:
Whenever the object of clay which he – the Potter – was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.Jeremiah 18:4-6
At least in the Apostolic period (and maybe the Subapostolic period, too) there was a sense of, if you will, two rabbinic houses. Those Gentiles and Jews who followed Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah as compared to those Jews (and maybe some Gentiles) who did not do so. Paul and the other Apostles could teach in the synagogues. The Empire initially treated these “little Christs” as some sort of Also-Jews. There were some rabbis and scribes on both sides. The Messianic side insisted God was remaking Israel like a potter. The non-Messianic side said this was road apples and wanted to stick with the old tried and true ways of doing things.
Jesus says every scribe schooled in the kingdom knows how to weave the old and the new together as needed. Those scribes who rejected the Good News were stuck with the old things alone.
If the entire Bible is read as pointing toward Jesus, then everything points to Jesus. But for 2,000 years there have been folks who reject that reading.
Today is the memorial of my Patron, Bl. Stanley Rother. He is a Martyr for the faith. He was born in Oklahoma and died in Guatemala on this day in 1981. Stan was raised under the “old Mass” but he actually had trouble with Latin. When the new Mass was promulgated he translated the new missal as well as the New Testament into the native language of the Tz’utujil. He worked with the poor to teach them the faith as well as farming skills! He was accused (by Americans writing to the US Embassy and the Guatemalan gov’t) of being a radical preaching anti-government propaganda even from the pulpit. Yet Stan saw the Gospel as requiring the evangelist to be with his people, or – as Pope Francis now says – the shepherd must smell like the sheep.
This is weaving the Old and the New together.
We cannot ask “What would Jesus do” when it comes to our globalized culture of death, capitalism, climate destruction, injustice, and self-medication. He did not face this in his time. But we can, in faith, work like Blessed Stanley Rother did, to bring the Gospel to bear, weaving the old and the new. We believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son. We carry his spirit with us in our lives through the sacraments and God’s Grace.
As God remakes things, like a MASH repitching the tent up the road, we can let God do his work through us. And by Faith we can be thrown in a new shape. Our scribes can bring out the old and the new together.
But like Stan that won’t make everyone happy. We will have to die.
Blessed Stanley our brother,
you poured out your life in service and spilled your blood as a witness
to the faithfulness of God’s love.
Those you loved so deeply and served so completely
knew you to be their pastor and their priest,
interceding for them as their open door to the presence of Christ.
Pray for us now and intercede on our behalf,
as we ask you to walk with us on our journey through life,
that the redeeming presence of Jesus,
might touch us now and restore us to wholeness and peace.
I ask in time of need
[state your need]
that your prayer accompany us; may the mercy of Christ,
echoed in your ministry and your martyrdom,
renew us and bring us the graces necessary to heal our brokenness,
illumine our darkness, and restore the losses in our lives,
that we may be, finally, one with you in praising God forever in heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.