As a person who graduated with a history major for my undergraduate degree, Saint Luke has always held a special place in my academic heart. Although Saint John’s Gospel starts with a beautiful and theological exposition, nothing truly compares to the how “the beloved physician” starts his Gospel!
Know your Audience
Luke dedicates his gospel to a person named Theophilus. Scholars hold that this name may be referring to a singular person or a general audience. The reason for believing the latter possibility is because the Greek word Theophilus translates to “lover of God”. Regardless of Luke’s intention, I found it interesting and significant that he adds this dedication. Along with the dedication, Luke gives us the purpose of his writing his account. Here is the exact text of his dedication to Theophilus:
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received (Luke 1:1-4).
From the onset of his Gospel Luke provides his sources. Relying on eyewitness testimonies, Luke is likely a second-generation Christian who had some contact with the original Twelve Apostles.
Additionally, Luke seems to take careful time to sift through these sources utilizing both his reason and gift of the Holy Spirit which inspired him. Luke says, “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past (1:3 Revised Standard Edition). What this means is that Luke carefully examined his sources like any reasonable historian.
Lastly, Luke tells Theophilus (us- as lovers of God) the purpose of his writing. Chapter one verse four the evangelist wrote, “That you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” ( Revised Standard Edition). Interestingly enough, the Greek word katécheó translates to mean “informed” refers to teach. Katécheó forms the basis of the English word “catechize”. Catechesis was already happening between Jesus’ Ascension and the time of Luke!
St. Luke is unique among the gospels in that his writing is the only one that specifically details his sources and authorial aim. I firmly believe that one of the reasons for the Lucan text to be included in the New Testament canon was to appeal to people who rely first and foremost on reason. People like myself crave a rationale basis for various ideas. I love St. Luke’s gospel because of its faith-filled content and intellectual appeal. I hope to discuss Luke second work, the Acts of the Apostles—especially in celebration of this Easter season!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 6, 2017.
This is the third installment of my series Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D . Check out the first two in the related links section at the end of the article.
I am excited! The Gospel of John is probably my favorite gospel. Genesis’ creation story always fascinated me as well.
Today I am going to examine the direct connection the evangelist makes between the first book of the Bible and the first chapter in his gospel. I came across this revelation a few years ago while I was planning a lesson on John for my high school students. Here are three ways to show how John’s Gospel is the fulfillment of Genesis.
Presence of the Trinity
Both Genesis 1 and John 1 start with the phrase, “In the beginning” and both make reference to God being preexistent before the creation of the world. Not only is God referenced in both chapters, but the revelation of God as a commune of Persons is also present. The writers of Genesis in verse 2 state, “while a mighty wind swept over the waters”. Translated literally, this phrase refers to the spirit of God or the hinting at of the Holy Spirit—the Third Person of the Trinity.
Another foreshadowing of the Trinity occurs in Genesis 1:26 when God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The usages of the first person pronoun strongly hints at the Triune God fully revealed in the New Testament.Compare this with the first words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (1:1-3). I do not think it was a coincidence for John to invoke the first words of Genesis to begin his Gospel.
Count the Days
There are six days of creation within the first creation story of Genesis. Interestingly enough John starts his gospel using a similar chronology. The evangelist starts his gospel with the words, “In the beginning” so let’s make that day 1. When we get to 1:29 it states, “the next day”. This is day 2. Verses 35 and 43 also have the phrase “the next day” so those verses correspond to days 3 and 4.
Chapter 2 begins with the following words, “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples.”
Notice he says on the third day which in contextually reading with John 1 the wedding at Cana occurs at the 7th day of the week. In other words, John is mirroring the chronology of Genesis 1 to begin his gospel.
Wine Leads to Rest
Perhaps the greatest two words parents hear at the end of a long week both at work and home is rest and wine. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, placed Jesus’ first miracle at the end of the New Creation week. The first miracle was not the curing of a blind man or healing or a leper. It was multiplication of alcohol at a wedding. It seems like a trivial use of God’s power!
At first it seems so, but a deeper look at John’s connection with the creation story and the history of the Catholic Church tells otherwise. First of all, it is Mary who intercedes on behalf of the wedding couple to her Son to perform the miracle. While the first woman [Eve] fell into sin, Mary conceived free from sin was instrumental in the miracle of Jesus’ public ministry.
Secondly, the resting of God on the 7th day of the initial creation week is a sort of celebration and similarly the wedding at Cana on the 7th day of the new creation week is celebratory in nature as well.
Finally, the Catholic Church’s liturgy is a combination of the Old Testament “resting on the Sabbath” when we rest in the pews and contemplate God’s word in the readings and homily along with the celebration akin to the Wedding at Cana banquet when we arise for Communion to eat at the Eucharistic feast.
My view of the relationship of the Old and New Testament transformed after I learned about the connections between Genesis and the Gospel of John. I hope that in reading this post you gain a greater interest for the Holy Scriptures.
The Bible relates the definitive and most crucial aspects of the story of salvation. It’s essentially the greatest story ever told, taken down by human authors in their own unique voices, who were moved by the Holy Spirit every step of the way. This written Word of God is one of the masterpieces of the spiritual life, meant to be reflected upon on a regular basis. Just as Christ, the Word of God incarnate, feeds our souls with his Body and Blood, so the written Word of God also nourishes the soul.
One of the many beautiful elements to Sacred Scripture is typology, the presence of paralleled persons, things, or events found in the Old Testament and their fulfilling counterparts in the New Testament. In such a relationship, the element found in the Old Testament is called a type, and its New Testament counterpart is referred to as the anti-type.
Marian and Christological Foreshadowing in the Old Testament
For instance, one of the most commonly known relations of typology is that which is seen between Adam and Eve and their fulfilling counterparts Jesus and Mary. We will often hear of Jesus being referred to as “the new Adam” and Mary as “the new Eve.” As Adam was our first parent, father of all of humanity’s descendants, so Christ becomes Son of Man, the God-Man, whose function is to reverse the Original Sin of Adam and restore an opportunity for life with God in heaven.
Furthermore, as Eve was “mother of all the living,” so Mary mothers the God-Man, Christ who takes us as his adopted siblings, bringing us into his family and into his divine life. The Immaculate Mother, similar to how Jesus reverses the sin of Adam, reverses the sin of Eve. The shared sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was rooted in pride. As the serpent said, the forbidden fruit would make them like God himself. The man and his wife were desirous of more power, though they had already been given dominion over God’s creation.
Both Mary and Jesus renounce this manifestation of pride, submitting themselves to lives of humility. Born into poverty, Christ permitted himself to be put to death in the most humiliating, degrading way imaginable. Mary, for her part, submitted her will to God’s at the Annunciation delivered by the Archangel Gabriel and throughout her whole life. And, as the prayer “Ave Maris Stella” illustrates in one of its stanzas, the Virgin Mother’s very glory comes in doing the opposite of what Eve did in Original Sin:
O! by Gabriel’s Ave,
Uttered long ago,
Eva’s name reversing,
Established peace below.
A Trove of Typology in the Fall
If you know where to look, there is a plethora of other types to be found in the early developments in Genesis. Consider the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and its fruit. It is through outright disobedience to God, through consuming the fruit of this tree, that Adam and Eve fall into sin. However, it is through another tree, millennia later, that redemption is brought about.
Jesus— the New Man
Christ, the new Adam, is obedient to God the Father, even unto death. Sin came into the world through a tree, and Christ brings salvation into the world through a tree, namely the Cross. Adam and Eve bring about the Fall, allowing physical and spiritual death to enter the human condition. Christ is raised high on the Cross, dies, and resurrects himself. Adam fell, and Christ rose. In the Old Testament, the fruit on the tree in Eden brought on death. In the New Testament, Christ gave himself, the “fruit” hanging on the tree, as the food of life.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day’” (John 6: 53, 54).
Adam, Eve, the tree, and the forbidden fruit are the types, and Jesus, Mary, the Cross, and the Eucharist are their anti-types, respectively. Later on in Genesis, we are introduced to Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, who is sold by his brothers into slavery. Joseph of the Old Testament is actually a type to St. Joseph, Terror of Demons, in the New.
Typology in Joseph of Egypt
Jacob’s son Joseph receives messages in dreams from the Lord. Likewise, God’s angelic messenger instructs Joseph of Nazareth in his dreams. Jacob’s beloved son ends up going to Egypt, eventually drawing his whole clan there; Joseph of Nazareth leads his family into Egypt. In both timelines, Egypt serves as a refuge from danger, at least initially.
Joseph of Egypt is given dominion over the land; he is second only to Pharaoh. And Joseph of Nazareth serves as head of the Holy Family. He is the foster-father of the Christ Child, given dominion over Jesus by the highest paternal authority: God.
Offering of Isaac—Foreshadowing of the Crucifixion
Another key incident filled with types is the sacrificial offering of Isaac on the part of Abraham. Abraham is the protagonist of this part of the story. But when it comes to typological symbolism, we are going to want to pay attention to Isaac.
Isaac and his father Abraham ascend Mount Moriah. Isaac is carrying the wood for the burnt offering. Once they reach the place where Abraham intends to carry out the sacrifice, he binds his beloved and only-begotten son, offering him up to God. Inevitably, an angel of the Lord comes and tells Abraham to refrain from harming Isaac in any way. It was a test, and Abraham had passed with flying colors. The substitute sacrifice is a ram found trapped by its horns tangled among a thicket.
Isaac is a Type of Christ
If we analyze this, it easy to see Isaac as one of the types to the (then) futuristic Jesus. Jesus, as Isaac’s anti-type, also carries the wood of his own sacrifice; he too ascends a mount. He himself is meant as the sacrifice. Moreover, just as Isaac was to Abraham, so Jesus is to his Heavenly Father: a beloved son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3: 16).
The ram, of course, also bears some significance. And we can speculate that the ram is another type to Christ. Instead of man being sacrificed for his own sins, Christ is substituted. God provides the sacrifice; he himself is the offering. He is the Lamb of God.
Before we leave the Isaac sacrifice narrative, let’s not forget about Mount Moriah. Apart from the sheer symbolism around the ascent of two mounts, it is worthwhile noting that it is here where the Temple of Jerusalem was constructed. Even more astounding, is the fact that both sacrifices share great proximity with one another. It is believed that both incidents occurred on the same mountain.
The Significance of Typology
As we have only briefly seen, there are numerous types in the Old Testament which prefigure Christ and his redemptive work of guiding us to eternal life. It is important to remember that typology isn’t some element added by Old Testament writers to add literary merit. They were influenced and prompted to include what they did via God’s subtle direction.
If anything, typology should lead to a deeper appreciation for God’s awesome co-creative work with humanity. In seeing that many of the writings of the Old Testament predate those of the New by a span of centuries, that there was no way for the human authors to be aware of the significance of various key elements they included in their works, we ought to be humbled in the face of the God who dwells outside of time. It should increase our faith.
In all areas of Catholicism, we see an abundance of rich symbolism. Typology, like everything in our religion, has the purpose of drawing our attention to the center of it all: Jesus Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End!
John Tuttle is a Catholic man who loves discovering and preserving truth and beauty. His work has been featured by Those Catholic Men, Love Thy Nerd, Movie Babble, Publishous, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Journal: Reflections on Faith & Culture, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the web publication Of Intellect and Interest. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Possessing both a Bachelor of Arts in history and a continued passion for the subject, I constantly remind myself to view persons and events in a large historical context. According to the English poet John Donne in his poem No Man is an Island,
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
No person lives in isolation free from the influences of others humans and world events. Viewing connections between the Old and New Testaments is no different. Events and characters throughout the history and religious development of Judaism forged the way for the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. series, I have portrayed that contextual reading is not merely a preferred, but an essential component to understanding and unlocking the fullness of Jesus’ gospel message. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.106 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129).
Today I wish to share the relationship between the famous Old Testament prophet Elijah and how he is a predecessor and prefiguring of John the Baptist.
Elijah and John the Baptist both faced wicked monarchs in their respective times. The Old Testament prophets vehemently opposed the evil ways of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. In 1 Kings 21, Elijah was able to get the king to repent of and humble himself before the Lord.
Similarly, John the Baptist squared off against an evil ruler as well—King Herod. Standing up to the king, John was loud in Herod’s lusting after and seeking to marry his brother’s ex-wife Herodias. The prophet’s continual condemnation of Herod’s evil led to John’s beheading.
Both prophets spent enormous amounts of time praying and fasting in the desert. According to 1 Kings 19:1-14, Elijah flees to the desert to escape the wrath of Queen Jezebel after he destroyed the prophets of the idol Ba’al. The prophet spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. His period of fasting culminated with his famous encounter with God in the stillness and quite voice.
Fast forward to the New Testament and John the Baptist lives in a similar manner. Matthew 3 tells of John preaching in the desert of Judea—clothed in camel hides and eating locusts. His speech against false worship is similar is tone to Elijah. The Baptist chastised the Pharisees and Sadducees by saying,
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.f 10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
Harbinger of Greatness
As profound and mighty prophets both Elijah and John the Baptist were in their own regard, they ultimately paved the way for someone greater to follow—Elisha and Jesus respectively. Elisha’s superiority is exemplified in providing greater miracles and ultimately being a foreshadowing of Jesus himself. The successor of Elijah, healed lepers, multiplied food, and resurrected the widow’s son. All of these miracles are things Jesus performed—simply on a grander manner.
The liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church places the feast day of John the Baptist on June 24th. It is interesting to note that this placement is close to the summer solstice and the time of the year where the day slowly starts to grew less and less. Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, occurs after the winter solstice. During the darkest periods of the year, there exists hope on December 25th as the daylight is increasing. John the Baptist tells us his role in salvation history. The prophet states, “He must increase while I must decrease!” (John 3:30).
John also defers to Jesus in Mark 1:7-8 when he says, “And this is what he proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.'”
Let’s close with an excerpt from a sermon by St. Augustine for the Feast of St. John the Baptist. I found it while praying the Liturgy of the Hours. For more information on this amazing ancient public prayer of the Catholic Church please feel free to visit http://www.divineoffice.org.
(Sermo 293,1-3: PL 38, 1327-1328)
The Church observes the birth of John as a hallowed event. We have no such commemoration for any other fathers; but it is significant that we celebrate the birthdays of John and of Jesus. This day cannot be passed by. And even if my explanation does not match the dignity of the feast, you may still meditate on it with great depth and profit. John was born of a woman too old for childbirth; Christ was born of a youthful virgin. The news of John’s birth was met with incredulity, and his father was struck dumb. Christ’s birth was believed, and he was conceived through faith. Such is the topic, as I have presented it, for our inquiry and discussion. But as I said before, if I lack either the time or the ability to study the implications of so profound a mystery, the Spirit who speaks within you even when I am not here will teach you better; it is the Spirit whom you contemplate with devotion, whom you have welcomed into your hearts, whose temples you have become. John, then, appears as the boundary between the two testaments, the old and the new. That he is a sort of boundary the Lord himself bears witness, when he speaks of “the law and the prophets up until John the Baptist.” Thus he represents times past and is the herald of the new era to come. As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother’s womb. For when yet unborn, he leapt in his mother’s womb at the arrival of blessed Mary. In that womb he had already been designated a prophet, even before he was born; it was revealed that he was to be Christ’s precursor, before they ever saw one another. These are divine happenings, going beyond the limits of our human frailty. Eventually he is born, he receives his name, his father’s tongue is loosened. See how these events reflect reality. Zechariah is silent and loses his voice until John, the precursor of the Lord, is born and restores his voice. The silence of Zechariah is nothing but the age of prophecy lying hidden, obscured, as it were, and concealed before the preaching of Christ. At John’s arrival Zechariah’s voice is released, and it becomes clear at the coming of the one who was foretold. The release of Zechariah’s voice at the birth of John is a parallel to the rending of the veil at Christ’s crucifixion. If John were announcing his own coming, Zechariah’s lips would not have been opened. The tongue is loosened because a voice is born.
When John was preaching the Lord’s coming he was asked, “Who are you?” And he replied: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The voice is John, but the Lord “in the beginning was the Word.” John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.
Thank you God for the strong and passionate witnesses to the truth in the persons of Elijah and John the Baptist!
From a young age, I always saw the world through a scientific lens. I needed to understand how the world works. When I attended college, that way of thinking applied to research papers and ensuring I had logical and concise arguments to articulate my interpretation of a particular historical event.
When I read the Gospel of John there is a logical flow to his account of the Gospel events. His entire gospel is masterfully written and laden with tons of symbolism. As a cradle Catholic, I heard John 6 [Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse] preached frequently during the Mass. It took years of analyzing this chapter and critically viewing it before I realized the genius and truth contained in Christ’s message. Inevitability my close reading of John 6 led me to this conclusion– the evangelist truly believed that Jesus was the literal bread of life that gives humanity eternal life! I give three strong pieces of evidence for this case:
Jesus as a Good Teacher
I think most people would agree with me that Jesus’ followers considered him a good teacher. Jesus could relate to an array of people: rich, poor, fisherman, tax collectors, sinners, and strangers alike. Secondly, Jesus taught using a plethora of means including: sermons, parables, and miracles to name a few. A quality in any good teacher is consistency in content along with the ability to clarify their subject content should disputes arise. In the bread of life discourse in John 6, Jesus presented both his teaching consistently and clearly. Within a span of 24 verses [John 6:35-59] Jesus mentions point blank at least 6 times he is the bread of life. In verse 35, Jesus states, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Verses 38, 48, 53-58 also support the Nazarene’s intrepid claim.
It’s all Greek to Me
There are a variety of Greek words for the English verb “to eat”. Jesus says in John 6:54, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.” The Greek word that the Evangelist uses in this verse is trōgō. Trōgō translates as “chew” or “gnaw”. Why would John use such a fleshy and literal word for eat in this context? This translation only makes sense if we accept that Jesus literally meant that he is the bread of life. John even goes on to use trōgō in verses 56, 57, and 58– a grand total of four times!
Loss of Followers
The evangelist writes in John 6:66 that many people who followed Jesus from the start of his ministry left him never to return. They were scandalized by the teaching of Jesus as the bread of life. I thought long and hard on this point. Why would many of Jesus’ followers leave him if he only spoke symbolically that he was the bread of life?
Well, if Jesus truly did intend for his claim that he is the “bread of life” to be interpreted figuratively, I doubt many followers would have left him that day. I mean think about it! People tend to become disenchanted with a leader when his or her message becomes too scandalous to bear. I doubt a man speaking figuratively, and poetically, would gather such scandal. Jesus repeatedly claimed “I am the bread of life”. He never qualified that assertion to be taken figuratively. Such difficult news may have been too much for these fair weather followers to swallow.
Most Holy Eucharist
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is a non-negotiable belief. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint John knew of the importance of this sacrament and he stressed it frequently in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Through my Catholic faith, I accept Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life. I ponder this question of Jesus frequently: Will you also go away? I ultimately hope that my answer is consistent with Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).
According to Christian pastor Rick Warren, “The Bible also tells one story with consistency. It was written over a 1,500-year time span, on three continents, and by 40 authors people from every walk of life, like kings, shepherds, fishermen, and tax collectors. Yet the Bible tells one story from beginning to end: God’s love and salvation for man and how he came into this world through Jesus Christ” I used to teach high school Old and New Testament. Among the various difficulties students had with understanding the Bible this obstacle stood out—why it is so difficult to read!
As a cradle Catholic, I was used to hearing the Old and New Testament readings every week. I took for granted that gift that my parents gave me—the ability to attend Sunday liturgy frequently. Those students that struggled admitted they did not attend Sunday worship weekly.
In order to teach my students, I needed to educate how the Catholic Church did. How exactly does the Catholic Church illuminate the meaning of the Bible to the average believer? Simply, put there the usage of contextual reading. Every Sunday Catholic Mass contains a First Reading, Second Reading, and a Gospel reading. Most of the First readings come from the Old Testament (the big exception is the Easter Season). The second reading usually is a letter of St. Paul, and the Gospel reading rotates between the three Synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) with John scattered throughout.
Because I flipped to the New Testament as I taught the Old Testament course and vice versa, my students questioned that method. I whimiscally retorted, “I ensure you I do not have Bible ADD. I just want to show how the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament and how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testaments!” Coining the phrase “Bible ADD” helped my students remember the importance of always looking to the Scriptures as a whole.
It has been almost two years since I last had an addition to the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D series. My plan moving forward is have this be a weekly feature in my blog. Today’s topic will look at the connections between the Old Testament prophet Jonah and Jesus. First I want to briefly review the three main criteria Catholics interpret Scripture.
Criteria to Read the Bible
The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides the following criteria to read the Bible:
Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79 (CCC 112)
The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80
2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (“. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church”81) (CCC 113).
3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation (CCC 114).
According to the Catechism, “The Church, as early as apostolic times,104 and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” Old Testament figures such as Jonah, read in the context of the New Testament, were seen as foreshadowing Jesus Christ.
Jonah as Type of Christ-like Figure
In Matthew 12:40 Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,* so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale represented a type of burial. His emergence from the whale (Jonah 2:11) marked a turning point in the prophet’s ministry—a spiritual renewal.
Another way Jonah prefigured Jesus relates to the number forty. St. Augustine in The City of God chapter 44 links the forty days of Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites with Jesus’ forty days of preaching after his resurrection.
A third way the book of Jonah foreshadows God’s plan of salvation for all peoples. According to Stephen Beale in 9 Ways Jonah Prefigured Jesus, “Most of the prophets we encounter in the Old Testament are sent to convert Israel back to God. Jonah is one of the few sent to Gentiles (the Assyrians of Nineveh). In this, he foreshadows Christ’s own mission to Gentiles” (https://catholicexchange.com/9-ways-jonah-prefigured-jesus). Jesus urged his disciples to “Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,20i teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (cf Matthew 28:19-20).
The Catechism teaches, “Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.”108 Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.” While the original interpretation of Jonah is still meant to be an Old Testament prophet, a spiritual reading shows him to be a preparatory Christ-like figure. Reading the Bible takes discipline, patience, and faith. I will continue this series next week by examining how Old Testament women foreshadowed Mary. For your convenience I have included links to all previous installments of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D series in the related resources section. Thank you for following me on this journey through salvation history!
Christianity in the 21st seems to get more difficult as each day passes. Unfavorable Supreme Court decisions, hostile media reporting, and hypocrisy within the Catholic Church on the sexual abuse scandal makes the desire to follow the teachings of Christ quite tough.
Jesus even promised that the way to Heaven would not be easy. In Matthew 19:24 he declared, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
On average, camels grow to the shoulder height of 6 feet high and the length of about 9-10 feet. Typically, the khaki-colored creatures weigh well over 1,000 pounds. The eye of a needle is quite small, just slightly greater than the width of the thread that goes through it. Certainly, Jesus’ example was only hyperbolic when it comes to entering Heaven! Right?!
The late Catholic nun Mother Angelica quipped, “Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few – it is the obligation, the call, and the will of God for every Christian.” Holy individuals make it appear easy to live the holy life. However, when we try it ourselves it is quite different. Not to downplay that difficult road toward Heaven, because it truly is difficult, I have learned that in some ways holiness need not be as cumbersome as we may make it to be. I wish to share three tried and true steps to grow in holiness.
According to St. Josemaria Escriva, “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you have already begun.” Praying is plainly described as talking with God. Relationship involves dialogue: speaking and listening. Prayer involves a two-way conversation.
If you are unsure what to say to God, maybe begin your prayer simply in silence–waiting for God start. Some people feel more comfortable petitioning God for help. That is also a great way to start prayer. Just be sure to allow time and be open to God’s reply as well.
Learn from Scriptures and Saintly Writings
Another easy step to increase holiness is to open up a Bible or read a spiritual work by a saint. The key to this step is not the length of time, but instead the frequency and consistency by which you acquaint yourself with spiritual writings. Schedules are busy with work and family obligations taking up a large chunk of the day.
Begin with small and reasonable goals with how much time to spend on spiritual reading. Maybe your daily routine allows for an hour, maybe it only allows for a few minutes. Start will just reading for 5 minutes a day. You will be surprised how much your week will improve with insight from those holy men and women!
The third thing to incorporate into a daily routine is sacrifice. True love involves giving yourself for the other. It involves sacrifice and reduction of selfish tendencies. Authentic change and orienting your life towards holiness will not happen overnight. In fact, it will take time and likely a lot of time. Be prepared to grow in holiness for the rest of your life!
Because of the long term commitment, I say let’s start small with manageable tiny sacrifices. It may simply involve refraining from a sarcastic comment when your spouse, friend, or neighbor annoy you. St. Josemaria Escriva, “Don’t say, ‘That person bothers me.’ Think: ‘That person sanctifies me.'” That would be a small, but still sacrificial moment. Once you have the daily routine of sacrifice for your loved ones day pat then you may focus on larger sacrifices.
Starting, or perhaps restarting, your spiritual journey need not be impossible. Developing a daily habit of prayer, frequent spiritual reading, and looking for the good of the other [and the Ultimate Other] through small sacrifices will help your increase your virtue and transform your life.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” –Matthew 11:28-30
“So be holy just as your heavenly Father is be holy.” –Matthew 5:48