Daily Devotion for March 14, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
This ethereal Ave Maria is from the opera Otello, by Verdi. Sung by the great Renee Fleming. The words “pray for us in the hour of our death” (Nell'ora della morte) are terribly poignant, as she is about to be murdered by Othello for adultery, even though she is innocent.
Prega per chi adorando a te si prostra,
Prega per chi sotto l'oltraggio piega
Ave Maria . . .
Music by Giuseppe Verdi (1887)
Lyrics by the Angel Gabriel, Luke the Evangelist, Girolamo Savonarola, and Arrigo Boito
Morning Prayer of George Washington
Almighty God, and most merciful father, who commanded the children of Israel to offer a daily sacrifice to thee, that thereby they might glorify and praise thee for thy protection both night and day; receive, O Lord, my morning sacrifice which I now offer up to thee. I yield thee humble and hearty thanks that thou has preserved me from the danger of the night past, and brought me to the light of the day, and the comforts thereof, a day which is consecrated to thine own service and for thine own honor.
Let my heart, therefore, Gracious God, be so affected with the glory and majesty of it, that I may not do my own works, but wait on thee, and discharge those weighty duties thou require of me.
And since thou art a God of pure eyes, and will be sanctified in all who draw near to thee, who does not regard the sacrifice of fools, nor hear sinners who tread in thy courts: Pardon, I beseech thee, my sins, remove them from thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of thy son Jesus Christ, that when I come into thy temple, and compass thine altar, my prayers may come before thee as incense.
And as thou would hear me calling upon thee in my prayers, so give me grace to hear thee calling on me in thy word, that it may be wisdom, righteousness, reconciliation and peace to the saving of the soul in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Grant that I may hear it with reverence, receive it with meekness, mingle it with faith, and that it may accomplish in me, Gracious God, the good work for which thou have sent it.
Bless my family, kindred, friends and country, be our God & guide this day and for ever for his sake, who lay down in the Grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord,
[Give me grace to hear your call in your Word.]
For Open Eyes
Lord Jesus, light of the world, open my eyes to notice the magnificence of creation. Open my eyes that I may always value and appreciate all who are part of my life. Open my eyes that I may be quick to notice when people are going through difficulties. Open my eyes so that I share your vision and see truly and deeply, outside of myself.
Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine — to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever,
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.
~ C. S. Lewis
Matthew 22:23-33 (J.B. Phillips NT)
Jesus exposes the ignorance of the Sadducees
On the same day some Sadducees (who deny that there is any resurrection) approached Jesus with this question: “Master, Moses said if a man should die without any children, his brother should marry his widow and raise up a family for him. Now, we have a case of seven brothers. The first one married and died, and since he had no family he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened with the second and the third, right up to the seventh. Last of all the woman herself died. Now in this ‘resurrection’, whose wife will she be of these seven men—for she belonged to all of them?”
“You are very wide of the mark,” replied Jesus to them, “for you are ignorant of both the scriptures and the power of God. For in the resurrection there is no such thing as marrying or being given in marriage — men live like the angels in Heaven.
And as for the matter of the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you ever read what was once said to you by God himself, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? God is not God of the dead but of living men!” When the crowds heard this they were astounded at his teaching.
Notes on the Scripture
This passage, unfortunately, makes little sense without understanding some background material.
The Pharisees believed in resurrection of the body. They thought that good Jews would rise again exactly as they died. If you had a wart on your nose when you died, it would be there when you arose. Scribes had long discussions on matters such as whether or not you would be wearing the same clothes. Because they believed that the resurrection would occur in the Holy Land, they developed a theory that there were great tunnels under the earth, and that Jews who died in say, Egypt, would roll through the tunnels until they came to rest under Palestine.
So — the Sadducees' question was not as foolish as it sounded; it exposed a gaping hole in the Pharisees' beliefs. The mistake was assuming Jesus shared the Pharisees' beliefs.
The first part of Jesus' answer clears up the Sadducees' mistaken assumption. Marriage is a union of the flesh. (E.g. Ephesians 5:31) It will not exist after we are resurrected, because God will give us a different form. (Note: We do not fear about not being reunited with a spouse or other family member in heaven. If they are there, we will be able to know them and love them with a pure and powerful love that is only foreshadowed by an earthly marriage.)
As to the second issue, whether resurrection will occur at all, the Sadducees did not recognize any Scripture except the Pentateuch. So the Pharisees had spent centuries trying to convince them of the resurrection through the most inane citations to the Pentateuch one could image. They were legalists and as apt to argue tiny points to the point of infinity, much like Medieval Christian theologians arguing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
But Jesus treats these arguments the way Alexander the Great treated the Gordian Knot. He just obliterates it with one swipe of the “sword” of his tongue. First he cites Scripture they recognize and believe, the words God spoke to Moses from the burning bush:
These patriarchsNote: It is entirely possible, under Christian theology, that Abraham has already ascended to heaven. See Romans 4; Luke 16:19-31. were long dead at the time God spoke to Moses. So, Jesus tells them, God would not say that he “is” the God of a dead man. If people simple ceased to exist at death, God would have used different words.
His brilliant argument falls flat to our ears for this reason: The Hebrew — an ancient language even in Jesus' day — cannot be translated into English accurately. We use tenses and prepositions with different nuances and understanding. We simply have to trust that Jesus understood the language and that, if God wanted to indicate that He had been the God of someone who was dead, He would have used a different verb tense and/or preposition.