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March 9th, 2011

Holy Land, Holy People

Holy Land Holy People

The Land becomes holy because the Holy One stepped in the Land.

As strange as it may seem, the expression “the Holy Land” occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible (Zech. 2:16), twice in the deuterocanonical books (Wis. 12:3; 2 Macc. 1:7), and not in the New Testament. Today this expression is a most convenient one when referring to the territory of the ancient Israelite kingdoms and the locus of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Referring to this geographical space as “the Holy Land” avoids the complications that arise with two names that have contemporary political overtones: Israel and Palestine. Still, what do we mean when we use the expression “the holy Land”? A good place to begin in developing an answer to that question is with Zechariah, the prophet who coined the phrase.

Though Zechariah was responsible for the expression “the Holy Land,” an almost identical phrase occurs in Exodus 3:5. When Moses approaches the burning bush, God instructs him, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is “holy ground.” (The difference between the two expressions in Hebrew is a matter of a single letter).

The story of the burning bush assumes that God’s holiness is transmitted to the ground surrounding the spot where Moses experiences God’s presence. The ground is called “holy” because God is there. Perhaps Zechariah had this story in mind when he called the land of Israel “holy.”

In 70 A.D. the Romans conquered Israel and destroyed the Holy Temple and changed the name Israel to Palestine. The word Palestine comes from the word Philistines who were a nomadic tribe from Southern and Central Europe.

Zechariah’s prophetic ministry took place during a very difficult time for Jerusalem. Many of its people had returned from exile in Babylon several years earlier, but they were still disheartened, believing that God was not concerned with them or their problems. While many people rebuilt their homes, the city’s walls were still in ruins and – what was worse – the reconstruction of the temple all but ceased because of the economic and political problems of Jerusalem’s small population.

Two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were able to lift the people’s spirits. The Jerusalemites took up work on the temple again and looked forward to a better future. Certainly part of Zechariah’s success was his way with words.

“See, I am coming to dwell among you says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be his people, and He will dwell among you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will possess Judah as his portion of the holy land, and he will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 2:14-16).

Zechariah had his choice of two Hebrew words for “land”. He chose adama to its synonym rets, which has political and social connotations. The prophet wanted the people of Jerusalem to know that the very soil they walked on was holy because God chose to dwell with them in their city and that holiness was extending out to the rest of Judah from Jerusalem. The effect of the prophet’s words was electrifying. The people of Jerusalem enthusiastically took up the project of reconstructing the temple.

Within the space of four years, work on the temple was complete. Though the structure was not as magnificent as Solomon’s temple, divine services could be resumed. Just as important, the building itself was a visible, tangible proof of God’s presence in their land and in their lives.

Though the expression “the Holy Land” occurs only this once in the (Tanach) Hebrew Bible, the idea of a holy land became very important in both early Judaism and early Christianity. Both Jews and Christians expressed their belief in the holiness of the land in concrete and specific ways. For example, the catacombs found at Beth Shearim, not far from Jerusalem, show that from the Late Roman through the Byzantine periods (3rd – 7th centuries AD), Jews who lived outside of Palestine wished to be buried in “the holy land” so they arranged to have their remains sent to Beth Shearim to await the resurrection of the dead.

Christians built churches to commemorate events in Jesus’ life and made pilgrimages to “the Holy Land.” All this happened because Zechariah wanted his dispirited contemporaries to believe that they walked on soil made sacred by the presence of God in Jerusalem – that they lived in “the Holy Land”.

People who come to “the Holy Land” and only visit shrines or historical sites do not experience the totality of this land’s holiness. No pilgrimage is complete unless pilgrims come away with a greater knowledge and appreciation of the living religion of “the Holy Land” : Pilgrims ought to listen to learn from the people who welcome them to “the Holy Land,” who opens its shrines and historical sites to them, who serve them in many ways while they are on pilgrimage.

The prophet Zechariah coined the phrase “the holy land”. He did so to encourage the people who no longer believed that God was concerned for them – that God had abandoned them – that God was absent. The prophet wanted his people to recognize that the very soil, which provided their food, on which they built their homes, on which they walked every day, was literally charged with the presence of God. How could they go about even the most mundane of their daily activities without recognizing the real presence of God among them?

Pilgrims to the Holy land speak about their experience of God’s presence as they looked out over the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes, or as they walked the Via Dolorosa, or as they knelt to kiss the metal star that marks the place of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.

But too many pilgrims miss the opportunity for another experience of the divine presence – a presence revealed in the faces and through the words of believers who call the Holy Land home.

– – – written by Capt. Mervin John Lobo

March 8th, 2011

Story : Don’t We All Need Help?

Need Help

I was parked in front of the mall wiping off my car. I had just come from the car wash and was waiting for my wife to get out of work.

Coming my way from across the parking lot was what society would consider a bum. From the looks of him, he had no car, no home, no clean clothes, and no money. There are times when you feel generous but there are other times that you just don’t want to be bothered. This was one of those “don’t want to be bothered times.”

“I hope he doesn’t ask me for any money,” I thought. He didn’t. He came and sat on the curb in front of the bus stop but he didn’t look like he could have enough money to even ride the bus. After a few minutes he spoke. “That’s a very pretty car,” he said. He was ragged but he had an air of dignity around him. His scraggly blond beard keep more than his face warm. I said, “thanks,” and continued wiping off my car.

He sat there quietly as I worked. The expected plea for money never came. As the silence between us widened something inside said, “ask him if he needs any help.” I was sure that he would say “yes” but I held true to the inner voice. “Do you need any help?” I asked.

He answered in three simple but profound words that I shall never forget. We often look for wisdom in great men and women. We expect it from those of higher learning and accomplishments. I expected nothing but an outstretched grimy hand. He spoke the three words that shook me. “Don’t we all?” he said.

I was feeling high and mighty, successful and important, above a bum in the street, until those three words hit me like a twelve gauge shotgun. Don’t we all?

I needed help. Maybe not for bus fare or a place to sleep, but I needed help. I reached in my wallet and gave him not only enough for bus fare, but enough to get a warm meal and shelter for the day. Those three little words still ring true.

No matter how much you have, no matter how much you have accomplished, you need help too. No matter how little you have, no matter how loaded you are with problems, even without money or a place to sleep, you can give help. Even if it’s just a compliment, you can give that.

You never know when you may see someone that appears to have it all. They are waiting on you to give them what they don’t have. A different perspective on life, a glimpse at something beautiful, a respite from daily chaos, that only you through a torn world can see.

Maybe the man was just a homeless stranger wandering the streets. Maybe he was more than that. Maybe he was sent by a power that is great and wise, to minister to a soul too comfortable in themselves. Maybe God looked down, called an Angel, dressed him like a bum, then said, “go minister to that man cleaning the car, that man needs help.” Don’t we all?

March 7th, 2011

Introduction To Apologetics

Apologetics Logo

Apologetics is a reasoned defense of something or someone. There are three types of Apologetics: Natural, Christian, and Catholic.

Hear the following talk to know more about Apologetics.

Introduction to Apologetics

The word “apologetics” comes from the Greek word “apologia,” pronounced, “ap-ol-og-ee’-ah.” It means, “a verbal defense.” It is used eight times in the New Testament: Acts 22:1; 25:16; 1 Cor. 9:3; 2 Cor. 7:11; Phil. 1;7,17; 2 Tim. 4:16, and 1 Pet. 3:15. But it is the last verse that is most commonly associated with Christian apologetics.

Christian apologetics is the branch of theology that deals with answering any and all critics who oppose or question the validity of Christianity.   It can include studying such subjects as biblical manuscript transmission, philosophy, biology, mathematics, evolution, logic, history, etc.   But it can also consist of simply giving an answer to a question about Jesus or a Bible passage.

Why Catholic Apologetics?

1 Peter 3:15 The Truth,
1 Timothy 2:4,
John 8:32,
John 18:37,
CCC #819

There comes a time when we, as Catholics, have to be able to defend and explain certain teachings of our Catholic Faith.- Bishop David Foley

Rules for Apologetics

1. Do not be afraid. (Luke 5:10)
2. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out and get back to you.”
3. Always look at an attack on your faith as an opportunity.
4. Never get frustrated.
5. Stay focused.
6. Know who you are talking to.

Catholic Apologetic Examples

Baptism is not just symbolic.
Ezekiel 36:25-27
Acts 2:38
Acts 22:16
1 Corinthians 12:13
Romans 6:3-4
John 3:5
1 Peter 3:20-21

Confession to a Priest
1 John 1:9
James 5:16
Leviticus 5:5-6
John 20:22-23
Matthew 9:6-8
John 17:18

Repetitive prayer (of the Rosary)
Matthew 26:44
Revelation 4:6-8

Presented by : The Bible Christian Society

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