Radio. Armchair Exegesis. Rantlet.

September 24, 2007

The foxhole radio project was a mixed success. Having cobbled together all of the necessary junk, I stuck in the earpiece and heard…something. Not a radio broadcast, but something which sounded like it might have been one. I messed around with it for two consecutive evenings and didn’t seem to make much headway. I’ll probably try it a few more times and then retire it. I’ve a mind to try out a crystal kit at some point, but we’ll have to see.

We very much liked The Prestige, and have discussed it on and off for the past couple of days. Jonathan Strange is finally starting to pick up some steam, finally, about halfway through.

So.

Were any other Catholics out there confused by the Gospel proclamation of this past Sunday? Luke 16:1-18? I ended up cracking two commentaries to make sense of it. My assumption was that the steward was having debtors rewrite their promissory notes without his cut attached, but this wasn’t quite so. According to the NJBC, stewards were empowered to make binding contracts on behalf of their masters. He was, in essence, sticking it to his master by reducing (or eliminating) the usurious interest. He was playing a bit fast and loose with something that did not really belong to him ion the first place. And in the end, his master praised him for acting prudently.

Of the three explanations listed, the last one seemed to ring true: the payoff for listeners was precisely the reaction of the master, who did not avenge himself on his servant. It’s the sort of justice that can be expected in the Kingdom of God, and it would have completely baffled the listeners, and especially “The Pharisees, who loved money”.

My second point of confusion was in verse 9: “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth…”

Do what? This, I think, comes from a shortcoming in the translation. The DRV has it as “And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity…” Which is to say all money/mammon/riches, and not wealth gained dishonestly, which is the message I infer from the NAB text used in the American liturgy. In brief:

We live in a world of iniquity. Therefore
Money and riches that are of this world are iniquitous. QED.

Making a friend of these riches means doing what Christians are supposed to do, viz, to share them via almsgiving. Our priests are usually pretty good homilists, but we seem to be on the cusp of a capital campaign, so that’s where Father spent most of his time, up and including an brief chat from Sister M. on the state of the campaign thus far. That the place for these sort of announcements is most decidedly not in the middle of the act of Christian worship ought to go without saying, but that’s another rant for another time.

I may combine that rant with another one I have about the use of Marty Haugen’s “We Remember” as the Communion Antiphon. I take it as further proof that Gather: Comprehensive was selected for our use so that all Catholics have an opportunity to suffer for their faith.

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4 Responses to “Radio. Armchair Exegesis. Rantlet.”

  1. josephmcbee Says:

    I know I said I wouldn’t comment on all of your entries, but I have to say something on this one. I too have always struggled with that passage of Scripture. A few weeks ago I spent three whole days meditating on it during my morning devotions, and still came away confused. So I really appreciate the exegetical work you did on it. Also, I wanted to share the NIV translation of verse 9, which has a slightly different emphasis on it. It reads; “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I am still a little perplexed though. Maybe this is just one of those passages we won’t completely comprehend this side of heaven.

  2. fosco Says:

    Actually, the NIV translation looks pretty good. The NAB, which is the approved text of Scripture used in the US, has struck many as…banal at best and downright confusing at its worst. It’s unfortunate, and eventually drove me to seek out a Douay-Rheims translation, which is quite a bit closer to the KJV in terms of language. Much of it is challenging, but I’m of the opinion that challenge is quite all right. Much of the poetic majesty (IMHO) of the Word has been lost in an attempt towards greater accessibility. This is a laudable goal, but I think people are a bit smarter than otherwise usually credited. And besides, “lex orandi, lex credendi”. As we pray, so we believe. Fill your head with mediocrity, and mediocrity is what you will produce.

    On the other hand, I’m also aware that I end towards snobbishness in issues regarding language, and have to remind myself that precision in language and text is one thing, but vanity in this area is another matter.

    I’m not sure how familiar you are with the readings (OT, Psalm, Letter, Gospel) in the Catholic lectionary, but they tend to be grouped together either by message or applicability to the particular liturgical season. In any event, the readings for last Sunday are here:

    http://www.usccb.org/nab/092307.shtml

    …and definitely seem to converge towards a message of justice, especially as regards the poor and the right use of wealth.

  3. josephmcbee Says:

    Thanks so much for the link. I am going to check that often. I have always loved the way the Catholics do their daily readings like that.

    I cut my spiritual teeth as a young Christian on the NIV translation and have stuck with it over the years. I tried using other versions such as the New Century Version and the New Living Translation, but found that they gave up power in exchange for accessibility. In my very humble opinion, the NIV offers me both in most cases.

    It is also interesting to me that the Catholic church was reading about and discussing God’s heart towards the poor this past Sunday. God did the same thing in my life personally, as my recent blog entry reveals.

  4. fosco Says:

    I think I read someplace that if the Protestants gave us serious scriptural scholarship, the return gift was the lectionary.

    If I’m not mistaken, several other traditions base their readings on it (with adjustments allowing for the Deuterocanonical books), to the effect that the same word is proclaimed everywhere (or at least, in more places than just Saint So-and-so’s down the street).


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